Over time, I have come to perfect the saying of goodbye when parting ways with people who are close to me. It wasn’t always so easy, but I had no choice at a young age. Family for me became geographically divided from the time I was eight.
My two older sisters have almost nine and eleven years over me. When I was eight, both sisters left the homestead,Barbara, the oldest, got married, and my middle sister, Marsha, went to nursing school, living in a dorm about ten miles away. At about the same time that I remember Barb becoming pregnant, I also learned she and her husband, Fred, were leaving New York to head to Illinois. The joy of becoming a young aunt was overshadowed by the fact that I wouldn’t get to see the baby very much. I can remember the deep ache I felt in my heart at losing both my sister and her husband as well as this unborn niece or nephew.
I met Bethany in November of 1966 when she was four months old. She brought such joy into our quiet home because it was just my parents who were in their 50’s and 60’s and myself.I couldn’t get enough of this adorable little baby. But five days would have to be enough. I kept her black and white poloroid pictures by my bedside and cried for days with a deep heartache of missing her.
There would be repeated attachments and disentanglements over the years as a nephew was added to the mix and my middle sister moved to Arizona with her husband only seven months after our mom passed away. That left my sixteen year old self alone with my seventy year old dad who had congestive heart failure and emphysema. Visits and goodbyes were ever more difficult. My throat would lump up and tears would fall whenever we flew home after visits.
It wasn’t until I married, years later that goodbyes became second nature. They no longer hurt as much, though regret filled my heart as I was left wondering when I would see my grown niece and nephew again. Bethany’s three boys are
growing up quickly, and we really don’t know each other well because of the 3,000 mile distance.
Still, I have perfected goodbyes only because I hate them so much. There’s a shut off switch somewhere in my brain that will no longer allow for tears, wistfulness and what-ifs. It’s much easier that way.