I have had someone walking away from me only once, and he has never noticed the loss created by that distance. Leaving does not always entail the option of coming back. Maybe it is the irony of fortune that my father chose to leave and never return, and my mother has to leave in order to return. Perhaps it is also a subconscious reassurance to the child in me that, without fail, she comes back to me, as I shall, without fail, return to her when I leave.
This poem by Cecil Day-Lewis, written for his eldest son, captures that letting go.
It is eighteen years ago, almost to the day –
A sunny day with leaves just turning,
The touch-lines new-ruled – since I watched you play
Your first game of football, then, like a satellite
Wrenched from its orbit, go drifting away
Behind a scatter of boys. I can see
You walking away from me towards the school
With the pathos of a half-fledged thing set free
Into a wilderness, the gait of one
Who finds no path where the path should be.
That hesitant figure, eddying away
Like a winged seed loosened from its parent stem,
Has something I never quite grasp to convey
About nature’s give-and-take – the small, the scorching
Ordeals which fire one’s irresolute clay.
I have had worse partings, but none that so
Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly
Saying what God alone could perfectly show –
How selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go.