How are you at goodbyes? Are you the type of person who hugs — absolutely, for sure, without a doubt? Are you free with your affection, are you already reaching in for an extra squeeze?
I am terrible at goodbyes.
You…when you say goodbye, do you remember to say everything you’d wanted to say? Do you say I love you, I’ll miss you, I’ll keep in touch?
I had it all lined up, ready to go, and then I wimped out. I wimped out because what I really needed to say was I’m sorry, and I couldn’t get it out. I couldn’t get it out from behind the boulder in my throat.
Have you had a goodbye like this? I’m assuming you have. I’m assuming you don’t need me to describe the trying-not-to-cry part, and the hurrying-away-before-you-did part.
I hate crying. I hate the welling up and the swallowing hard and the everything-else that inevitably follows. I don’t feel better when I cry. I feel hot and humiliated and horrified. And young. And like I really need a tissue but I don’t have one and I’m probably just going to use my sleeve here, in a second. I feel completely and utterly without defense, when I cry.
This is a horrible way to feel. Why would anyone want to feel this way! It is best, I have found, to go feel this way where you can be sure you will not be caught.
This morning I said goodbye to someone who is more like me than I want him to be. He called me Hanny, when I came down the stairs. For the first time in a long time. I called him Daddy, in return. It was the best we could do.
How do we forgive ourselves for all the things we did not say?
I will worry about you in the winter. Will you take yourself to breakfast, sometimes? Bring the paper. Sip your coffee — slower than you usually would. Treat yourself to something you wouldn’t have at home. Tip extra, afterwards. Extra extra. Trust me.
If you can’t quite work up the enthusiasm to eat alone, go get a coffee that didn’t come from a k-cup. Will you do that, for me? And when you get back to the house, turn on the heat and go pull a cinnamon roll from the freezer. There’s a whole batch, in the back, but I made it so you can take out one at a time. Pick one, and warm it up in the oven. Warm everything up in the oven.
And so many other things, besides. Small things. Stupid things.
I will think of you when I buy your vegetables. Your vegetables, which do not include Brussels sprouts or Bok choy. Your vegetables, which include broccoli, green beans, peas, and zucchini.
I will think of you in most-of-the-way microwaved potatoes and in bacon-cheddar burgers, from the grocery store down the street. I will think of you with ketchup on the side, always. I will think of you in tall white socks. In boat shoes. (Maybe you’ll have stopped wearing them together, by the time I see you again?) I will think of you in circular drives and in big old barns and in shiny sports cars. In boats. I will think of you in boats, Dad. Every time I see a boat.
Sitting here, staring out at the harbor he loves so much, I know when I’ll really think of him. I’ll think of him whenever I have to let somebody go. My dad taught me that when people want to go away, you should let them. Let them go places. Let them travel, let them explore, let them adventure. Without you, if that’s what they want. If that’s what they need. Let them go for the morning or the afternoon or the weekend or even the month. Three months. Let them go. Letting go is love too.