During animated class discussion of the play next day, TJ uncharacteristically broke his customary silence with a highly personal admission. “I never knew my father. He never knew me. I don’t even know if he is still alive. I don’t know my mother, either. All my life I have wondered who I am. This old play speaks to me.” There was a respectful silence until TJ broke it again. “Barack Obama was abandoned by his dad,” he said in a somber voice. “ I read his Dreams from My Father, about his search for him, in Africa. He did not like what he found. Sometimes, it is better to be ignorant than to know the truth. Don’t they say love is blind? It sure was for Oedipus.”
“Thank you, TJ,” said Dave. “That was very moving.” A murmur of approval ran around the room. Rebecca Cooper, sitting on the floor next to TJ, put her arm around him. He patted it and smiled at her.
In the weeks that followed, Dave saw the two of them together a great deal, always in earnest conversation, once hand-in-hand. He often wondered what became of them when they all went their separate ways at semester’s end. He himself left the school at the end of his secondment. Rebecca, it was said, became a violinist, moved to Stockholm and married a banker. She was to name her first child Thomas John. Dave ran into TJ on a cold winter’s day at a convenience store when he went in to pay at the counter for his gas. TJ recognized him at once. “Yes, I work here to pay my way through college,” he said. “I’m doing my master’s in social work. I used to work with addicts and juvenile offenders, but now I’m training for what they call ‘family re-integration’—it seems more encouraging. But I’ve never forgotten Oedipus, sir, or the way you taught it. ‘Know thyself’—it’s a life lesson, isn’t it?” His eyes eagerly sought confirmation.
“It certainly is. Getting to know yourself is a lifelong task. Some people never make the effort or see the point. But I’ve never forgotten your starring role in the cameo. It was powerful stuff.”
“Yes. It was,” he agreed with emphasis. “But your explanations made it all so possible.”
“You’re too kind. You were a wonderful class.…. By the way, is your grandmother still alive?”
“Sure is. Still spry at 88! And now my landlady!” He laughed. “Oh, don’t forget your change!”
“Thank you. All the best to you. I know you’ll do well. You always did. Remember me to her, won’t you? The little blue pot she gave me back then is in an honoured place at home.”
“Sure thing. And thank you for what you did for us, sir—for me and for Rebecca!”
Dave nodded, smiled, raised a hand diffidently in a farewell to hide eyes brimming with unexpected tears, and left the store. It was nothing, really, he told himself. I just did the job I was trained to do. But it’s a marvel when the legacy outweighs the effort expended…