Years ago, after a few years had passed since my father died, my mother called to say she was going to start seeing other men and wanted me to know. In fact, she said, she had a date that weekend and thought I might know him. This is probably rarely a good sign in such situations, and this proved no exception. She said he was a coach from my high school. Some little voice in my head, as she spoke, said, "Well as long as it isn't the old football coach." It was the old football coach. The next day, as I began discussing a scene from Hamlet in my senior class, we came to the part where Hamlet holds up a medallion of his deceased father and bellows, holding along side it one of his uncle, "You would compare my father to this?" Here the personal and the pedagogical met. I sat down and said to the class, "This is getting too strange, guys." I then proceeded to discuss with them what was happening, at which point a rather profound and hilarious exchange took place during which the seniors whose parents had divorced concluded "that you just can't talk sense to them (parents) when they are like that. Last night, for example, my mom brought home this guy and I said, 'Oh mom, come on, are you serious?'"
Now, years later, the football coach having long since departed from our lives, I am teaching Siddhartha in my senior class, the classic story of the young man who demands of his parents the right to choose his own path. While I discuss this novel in class with my seniors, my own son, whom I respect so very much, stands, not unlike Siddhartha, waiting for our consent to join the Marines when he turns 18 in a few months. Like Siddhartha's father, I want to prevent him, tell him he cannot; and like Siddhartha's father, I realize my son has already gone mentally, begun following that path he has marked as his own.
In the background, as I write this, President Obama announces that he will increase the troops deployed to Afghanistan by 30,000 in 2010. My son will be among them, or so I assume. There is only hope and prayer, faith in him and all he has learned and will go on to do.
In the meantime, it makes the teaching all a little too real some days.