18 years & five months

Django lives with me for 18 years and five months, in a myriad of settings, alongside a dubious host of characters, and then, one day, before getting in a truck and driving away, he sits me down in front of his piano.

“I have a song for you,” he tells me. “It’s called The Farewell.”

Though I don’t know it yet, these are the words that will shape the next several years of my life. These are the words that will send me to the highest peaks of mountains and submerge me in earth’s coldest waters. These are the words that will act not only as my and Django’s grand finale, but will explode my heart to such a degree that I’ll be never quite be able to make it orderly again.

They will teach me that life is exquisite not just despite its brevity, but because of it. Which in turn will teach me to live even larger and to love even more bravely.

“I have a song for you,” he tells me. “It’s called The Farewell.”

The words, while thoughtful and piercing, are simultaneously even more direct than those he used at his orientation earlier in the summer, when I fell in love with his cute college town and threw down the idea of buying a cottage on the lake there, for vacations.

“Delilah. You are not following me to college,” he declared.

I laughed, as did the new friend he’d made, though I suspect we were laughing for two different reasons.

“I wasn’t suggesting that!” I cried, all innocence.

But who can really be sure? The kid knows me probably better than anyone else in the world, and even I wouldn’t put it past me to innocuously float the idea, just to see where it landed.

“I have a song for you,” he tells me. “It’s called The Farewell.”

Raising a child is absurdly beautiful in its torment. Unlike any reasonable relationship, success is measured by how easily and far one of you will confidently drift away, without ever looking back.

“Did your mother cry her eyes out when you left for college?” I asked Lovey’s boyfriend, who is a year older than Django, trying to prepare myself.

“No,” he answered. “But she doesn’t like me all that much.”

I was mildly horrified, but I guess he was being funny, as he got a good laugh from Django and Lovey on that one.

Equally humorous, apparently, was Django’s follow-up comment.

“Delilah cries even when I go out with my friends for a couple of hours,” he said.

Laughter all around.

Ha ha ha. In addition to being heartbroken at her son’s imminent departure, Delilah is now also the butt of all crying jokes. Hilarious.

“I have a song for you,” he tells me. “It’s called The Farewell.”

For the past several weeks, I have been watching Django say goodbye to all of his friends, many of whom he’s known since kindergarten. In the spring, I watched them graduate, and celebrate the end of high school. And that was fun. But this, this watching the kids separate, is different. It’s not fun at all.

It is a reality that is enormous in its significance. It is, boiled down to its most basics, the end of my son’s childhood.

“It’s so sad, because we’re not going to be friends anymore,” he says, initially, trying to understand it.

Then later it becomes, “I know we’ll still be friends, it’s just that we’re not going to be the main part of each other’s lives anymore.”

“That is sad,” I agree, biting my lip and holding back tears.

“I have a song for you,” he tells me. “It’s called The Farewell.”

I start crying before the first note is even played, and Django sighs and swivels on his bench in order to reprimand me. “Don’t be so gloomy, Delilah,” he warns, and then he unfurls a piece of music that would make even Marcus Aurelius cry.

Once upon a time, I made a boy. Me. A stupid, useless girl with questionable ethics who had nothing in her corner but a tendency towards rage, very bad taste in men, and a vital fear of . . . well, everything.

I made a boy and fell so deeply in love with him that for the first time in all of my many years, I wanted to do well. I wanted to do well, because I had someone whose life I wanted to be exceptional. And that desire never diminished, only grew stronger over time.

It seems rare to me that a child saves a woman’s life in the way that Django saved mine, but perhaps that just shows how very little I yet know about relationships.

“I have a song for you,” he tells me. “It’s called The Farewell.”

I made a boy and that boy grew into a profound and brilliant young man.

There are so many things I have done wrong in this life. Practically all of them. But this one? This one I so clearly did right.

As Django plays the piano on this, his last day in my home, I am as in awe of him as I was on the night he was born. And somehow, right there, listening to him play, I have the experience of the music piercing my heart, but in a good way. As if light and air are being let in, and the sadness I’ve been holding is being freed. And in its freedom, it floats away on the melody, like the seeds of a dandelion being blown on the wind, or the smoke after birthday candles are blown out by a child.

And it comes to me, all at once. As I watch my son’s lovely, fast-moving fingers, it comes to me: This, this beautiful person, for the past eighteen years, this has been my life’s work, and today is the culmination of that. It comes to me as if I were Michelangelo, and Django the Sistine Chapel. It comes to me. I have completed a masterpiece.

“I have a song for you,” he tells me. “It’s called The Farewell.”

My heart spills open like sunshine across a field of daisies. None of the stupid break-ups or even the deaths I’ve experienced have ever hurt as exquisitely as surrendering my boy to the world. It is huge, this life, devastating in its beauty, and if you’re lucky, it’s flowered with someone you love so much that you will make it amazing.

And I? I can’t even begin to express how wildly lucky I have been.


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