Portland, Oregon Airport Sheraton

Late night

Young man by himself

Sitting in the hot tub, lost in thought


I join him to sit neck-deep

in the warm bubbles

Ask him where he’s from

“Vancouver–20 minutes away.

I ship out tomorrow to South Dakota.”

I am taken aback

This baby-faced boy is off to the army.

Tells me it’s been his dream for 10 years.

But he looks sad as he says this,

says the hardest thing about all of it

was saying goodbye to his parents tonight


His eyes well up

And mine start to

Thinking of all the 18-year-old goodbyes

First Ellen, then David, and me next. Debby left after me.


A generation later–Ian, Sarah, Lucas..

Each departing the family cocoon

in his or her way–a job, a bus, college, the army…

A new beginning

A monumental ending

That moment of leaping into adulthood.


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