Saturday, October 25, 2008

Obama's Goodbye to His Grandmother

Ten days from now, he may face the unimaginable--becoming the most powerful person in the world--but visiting his grandmother, Barack Obama was just like the rest of us in middle age and beyond, entering a world where the adults who nurtured us as children are gone.

"I want to give her a kiss and a hug," he said before heading for Hawaii and, in the midst of campaign clamor, his stay was as private as possible, pictures showing him for the first time in two years as a solitary figure.

Those images are a metaphor for the psychic isolation he will soon encounter. No matter how close a family and how loyal a staff a president has, there is an irreducible loneliness in the Oval Office, perhaps best expressed in the classic picture of John F. Kennedy, head bent and silhouetted in darkness during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

When the cheering and shouting of campaign crowds are gone, the President-elect has to start living in a world where he has to be the most grownup of all. It has been hard to remember that during the past eight years, but much of what happens to us from January on depends on it.

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