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Being eighty years old now I have experienced multitudes of goodbyes. Probably my goodbyes now number in the thousands, nearly all of them not only unremembered, but unrememberable. Here it is 10 o’clock in Dudley’s coffeeshop-bookstore and I have already politely departed from quite a few people. First was from my wife of over thirty years. A kiss at the door, and “I’ll be back for lunch”, Another kiss-at-a-distance as I get into the car, and a little mutual twittering of our fingers as she disappears through the closing door.

When driving the mile to downtown Bend I interact with, and depart from, a few other drivers, and walking from the parking lot, I meet a few pedestrians passing by and we exchange the slightly obligatory “good morning”. Bend has a small town feel and when you pass a single person you “must” acknowledge their presence. In fact we also acknowledge their dog’s presence. Like I said, Bend is a friendly town. But there is an implied mini-goodbye in every passing. However these greetings followed by a “Have a nice day” are not really what is meant by “Goodbye” and there is no stress in the moving on.

My personal schedule this morning was a little hurried – I wanted to talk for an hour with my old-fart friends at the Looney Bean coffee shop and then go the long block over to Dudley’s and participate in this writing workshop – and here I am.

Now, here’s the goodbye problem … It was necessary to cut short my conversation with one group of friends to go visit with another one, and because that necessitated some goodbyes with three people in the first group to go be with a second group these first ones felt rejected. …. The goodbyes became strained. … I tried to assure these old friends that they weren’t being rejected … but they would have none of it. They were feeling rejected and now they were reflecting their feeling of rejection back at me. I was rejected! … and feeling rejected.

Sometimes it’s hard to say goodbye … and this was one of those times.

When I look over my life only a few of my goodbyes were known at the time to be last goodbyes. It’s only when someone is moving to a distant new hometown that  we expect a goodbye to be a final one, and those are sad. They are filled with heartfelt promises to stay in touch, even though everyone knows the contacts will probably grow tenuous and eventually vanish. … It’s a little death!

Ah yes … Then there’s the big death … ! That goodbye to our mother, that you both know is “the Big goodbye”, the permanent one.” Goodbye. I love you. I’ll see you soon … !”

It’s the same words, the same words we’ve said to each other many times before, but now they’re different.

It’s hard to say goodbye … when you know it’s final.

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