Adieu, America

“You don’t have to dislike a place to leave it.”

 — my wife

American soldiers on D-Day

Last weekend, we drove down to Seal Beach to say farewell to my wife’s aunt. Her parting gifts to me were a bottle of champagne, two sleeping pills for the flight, and a small pin with an American flag on it. She met her American husband in England not long before he shipped off for the D-Day landing on the beaches of Normandy.

I imagine it is always poignant to leave one’s home country. I liken my evolving relationship to my homeland to how I imagine a mother might regard her teenage son. I admire his idealism and energy, robustness and strength, the sense of freedom and possibility. I also notice with chagrin his sense of entitlement and invulnerability. I likewise find it hard to believe reports that he has become a bit of a schoolyard bully, taking advantage of others at times, and behaving recklessly in the hubris of youth.

I love my country, and will miss it. But I am glad for the opportunity to live in the Old World as well. More than politics, it is the people I will miss, and of course the vast open spaces, encompassing nearly every biome on Earth. I will be glad, though, for a more immediate sense of connection with the continuity of human history. London itself has been continuously inhabited for more than two millennia, emerging and reemerging, phoenix-like, from each collapse.

And so I say, “so long” for now to the beautiful and complicated place where I grew to become a man. I am not leaving my homeland due to political or religious persecution, or even necessarily to seek greater economic opportunity in another land. I am going because it is time to go have this adventure. And wherever I go, I will be an American.

A Father’s Farewell

My dad and me with our new train set on Christmas day

On Friday, I got up before dawn, as I often do. This time, however, it was not to write, but to listen. I walked two blocks to the clubhouse of a retirement home, where the local chapter of Toastmasters was in session. My father has asked very little of me in the six years we have lived across town from each other in the sleepy hamlet of Ojai, California. Today he wanted me to come hear him give a speech.

I came away both moved and proud, reflecting on our thirty-two years together. At my request, my father has posted the text of the speech, as well as an audio recording of him reading it, on his own website. In the speech, he mentions my losing a son, his almost losing me, and how our experience of the fragility of life has shaped us, and our relationship.

Needless to say, I will miss him when we leave.