Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


At The Side Of The Road

Century Napa Valley, Napa, California, USA

January 19, 2016



This essay, At The Side Of The Road, is the eleventh in a group of twelve on Parents: I am indebted to my father Asher Manfred Platt and to my mother Andee Platt and to my daughter Alexandra Lindsey Platt who inspired this conversation.



On Saturday January 9, 2016 my daughter Alexandra left. She moved to Washington DC from Santa Barbara, California where she's been living for the past eight years, to accept a long overdue and well-deserved promotion in the company with whom she works.

When she left, I got  something about my father Asher Manfred. To be sure, it was also the same thing I got about my mother Andee. But given I'm a father myself now, it was particularly a "get"  about my father.

It was something which has always been glaringly obvious, but which has escaped me for fully forty five years - that is, until now.



Laurence Leaves



My travels (which have been extensive) started shortly after I completed my first of two stints at college. It was January of 1971 in Cape Town, South Africa where I grew up. It was a different era then - both in the annals of South Africa and of the world. And one of the things which was radically different then was how we viewed hitch-hiking  and its associated risks. Standing at the side of the road with a backpack, sticking your thumb out, and accepting rides from who knows who, going who knows where, may seem like an incredibly dangerous occupation these days. But back then, it was not only not dangerous: it was quite accepted, a rite de passage.

I was twenty years old: bold, bullet-proof, and fearless - naïve too maybe, but you couldn't have convinced me of that. And I was setting out to hitch-hike nearly fifteen hundred miles along South Africa's south to north east coast - the fabled Garden Route. I asked my father and mother to drive me out of town to the N2  main highway going east to north along the coast (we called it the National Road  in those days) and drop me off there, from where I would begin my journey.

They did. They dropped me off, and I walked about a half a mile down the road with my backpack without looking back, stood at the side of the road, stuck my thumb out at the passing cars ... and waited for one to stop and give me a ride. And after I had been standing there for about three quarters of an hour, I looked back and noticed my parents were still sitting there  in their car (it was a black Zephyr 6  sedan, license plate number "CA 62624") at the side of the road, watching me.

I wondered why they were still there. I wondered why they hadn't gone home yet.



Alexandra Leaves



When Alexandra left for Washington DC, it was the culmination of and the completion of many things. Although I could probably get myself to visit her in Washington DC by plane faster than I could drive from Napa Valley to Santa Barbara when she lived there, I experienced the eightfold increase in distance between us (from three hundred and fifty miles to two thousand eight hundred miles) as a decisive break in the rich, ever-developing process of our relationship which started when she was born, and went on to include everything I did from then on to provide for her and for my other children, her brothers Christian and Joshua: their home (our house), private schooling, down payments on their first cars, college funds for all three, and hopefully there was also some time left over to impart to them a bit of what it takes to be decent human beings.

Now, Washington DC seems like a long, long  way away, doesn't it? and will she be alright? and will she be safe?  and will she have everything she needs? and will she be protected? and I just want to be near her so I can take care of her, and Oh God I miss her so much already  ... you know, it's an endless stream ie it's a barrage  of automatic  concerns which, in spite of myself, I know I'll have to let go of.



That Was Me



I'm experiencing that je ne sais quois  bittersweet feeling which is equal parts sadness and equal parts celebrated accomplishment, triggered by my darling Alexandra leaving me, gone away to live her own life. And what comes to mind out of the blue  (having not thought about this particular incident in decades)  is my father and my mother sitting at the side of the road, watching me  leave them.

It's true. That was it: I did  leave them. When I hitch-hiked away from them that day, my childhood with them and everything they had invested in it and provided for me, was over - I was hardly ever back with them after that. That was me leaving them.

And now Alexandra has left me. It's perfect. It's the circle of Life.



Completing The Past



Here's the thing: Alexandra leaving me, is actually a victory. It's a victory for her, having grabbed the horns of her future in both hands, and wrestled it into submission. And I celebrate  her victory with her. Well Done, my gorgeous Girly Girl! 

Back then, it was a victory for me too, taking off that day, hitch-hiking by myself along the Garden Route. I'm clear that was the day my created life  started - even though I may not have articulated it in quite those terms in those days.

That's the sweet  component of the bittersweet  experience of saying goodbye to a child you've raised. But what I didn't  get about my parents back then, was the bitter  component of their experience. It was more than that actually. It was I didn't realize there was  a bitter component ... until I experienced it myself when my own child left me. And when I got that (it took me forty five years to get it - but I did get get it), something very profound in my relationship with my father and my mother finally clicked into place: I saw (at a completely new level) how much they love me, how much I love them, and how much I appreciate what they did for me.

In the quietness of this realization, I saw how like them I am. I apologized (like a prayer) to them for (inadvertently, it would seem - if not innocently) how inconsiderate it was of me to ride rough-shod over their losing me, totally crass and insensitive to their loss, all in the name of the start of my  big adventure.

It's complete now. It's rich. It's full. And it's both bitter and  it's sweet. But with all that said, it's undeniably complete  - although less of this completion than it would seem, is mine personally or Alexandra's or my father's or my mother's.

Rather it's just the completion inherent in and intrinsic to the circle of Life turning (and turning out)  as it always does, from all parents to their children - ongoingly and always and forever.



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