My old high school buddy Aaron reminded us, in the eulogy, of something his dad would always say in place of a traditional farewell. Mr. Squyres would tell friends, family, presumably even strangers, not to bother saying goodbye. “It’s not ‘Goodbye,’” he’d insist. “It’s ‘See you later.’”
And he’d do so through an infectious smile that communicated a sincere desire to actually see you again soon. I truly believe he felt that way, every time. (That he could convey as much to some of Aaron’s friends, surely suspecting what we’d been or would be up to, speaks to his innate buoyancy.)
Mr. Squyres’ unyielding optimism came to mind recently as we said goodbye — wait, make it, see you later — to our two boys heading back for the spring semester, one eight hours away and the other three.
Letting go is never easy (George Strait notwithstanding) and mastering the technique is becoming a process. The further along each of these young men progresses in his journey, the closer he gets to fulfilling God’s promise for his life, the more painful it is after another all-too-brief trip home to say, yet again, “See you later.” Even though we know it’s the right thing, a necessary thing; even though we know that letting go is part of its own process and a responsibility handed down through generations.
But like Razorback sports this century, it’s still a gut punch.
All of which, finally, brings us to the point (in this space, a true delicacy). This month’s Word of the Month, and the source of the lingering dull ache in my belly — the Greek storge.
C.S. Lewis readers and viewers of New York Life commercials may recognize storge as one of four primary terms used by the ancient Greeks for the concept of love. Storge refers to familial love or natural affection, such as that of a parent towards a child. Lewis called it the empathy bond. The others, as described by Lewis, are philia, the bond of friendship; agape, selfless, unconditional love (God’s divine love); and of course, eros, romantic love.
Of this affectionate love, Lewis wrote plainly, “Affection almost slinks or seeps through our lives. It lives with humble, un-dress, private things; soft slippers, old clothes, old jokes, the thump of a sleepy dog’s tail on the kitchen floor, the sound of a sewing-machine…”
Or the sounds of a son shooting hoops out back or bouncing down the stairs to answer the dinner bell… The muffled honk of a son’s car being locked and the front door opening after another shift at work, home just in time for supper. The sounds that assure you. In its subtle way, the passage from Lewis accurately describes an underrated yet significant component to the parent-child relationship — the familiar, the secure, the seemingly insignificant nuances that fill a home.
For us, home is quiet these days. Even the dogs. They feel the boys’ absence just as deeply, I’m convinced. The transition is a stark one. But it’s a good thing, I suppose, that the joint is less jumpin’. A good thing, but not an easy thing. The boys are healthy and happy, preparing for adventures that lie ahead, and that’s all that matters. Not the selfish musings of an aspiring old fogey pining for the days of makeshift forts and bedtime stories and straining to figure out where the years disappeared to.
Besides, like Mr. Squyres always said, we’ll just see ‘em later.