The Long Goodbye

I’ve been told that I’m not very good at saying goodbye.  It’s true.

In my younger High School and College years, when I was ready to leave a party, I would tell people that I was going to the bathroom or something, then slip away for the night.  I found this easier than having to deal with the awkwardness of justifying why I was leaving so early, being pressured into staying a bit longer, or feeling like I had to set up the next get together before I left.

Even now, I don’t have the leaving thing figured out.  I tend to linger too long at the door, or talk  too long with people with my jacket in hand.  I can’t just shake hands, say thank-you and goodnight, then leave.

It seems there’s a sense of urgency to cover all the ground you didn’t get to during your visit, and let’s face it, it’s a point in the get together when you have the hosts undivided attention.

I wish I could do it like they do in the movies.  Grab my coat and hat, open the door with a wide wave, and announce to the entire party, “Goodnight everyone!  Until we meet again”.  Then I’d take a deep bow, turn and leave.  That would be a classy thing to do, but it’s not very realistic, and my hosts would probably take away the car keys and call me a cab.

I feel like I have to tie up all the loose ends before I go – to reconcile my relationship, ensuring our next encounter starts on a good footing.

There’s a direct correlation between the length of the exit and the closeness of the people I’m with.  When meeting strangers, a simple ‘nice to meet you’ and a handshake is just fine.

For most other farewells, I stumble over the words, and linger too long.

Saying goodbye to our son when he went off to school last year was excruciating for all of us.  We all went with him and got his new dorm room set up, picked up some last minute things at a store, took him out for lunch, then headed back to ‘tuck him in’.

Standing in the lobby of his residence building, we hugged, and choked down our goodbyes, barely able to speak.  Finally, standing with tears in our eyes, I looked at him one last time and weakly squeaked out ‘Go’, then gestured for him to head back to his room.

It was a very quiet and somber drive home.  I can’t imagine what it will be like next year as we send our daughter away to school – our baby.

I know I’ll be seeing them again, but it still breaks my heart.  How do you say ‘goodbye’ when it will be the last one?

As my father’s health is stolen away from him, we visit him in the hospital, sitting next to his bed.  We talk to him, hopeful that he can hear us and knows we’re there for him.   We hold his hand, and feel the strength in his grip, even though he can’t really open his eyes or talk to us.

Dad is not a huge man, but was every bit a ‘man’s man’ when we were growing up.  He ruled our household as most fathers did back in the ’60’s, with authority and control.

With four sons and no daughters, our home was testosterone soaked, and Mom would do her best to balance things emotionally.  Family hugs were not part of the landscape, but we didn’t lack in connectedness.

Dad was tough on us, but he was also the first one to do almost anything for us.  Any sport we wanted to try, he would do his best to scrape together enough money to buy us the equipment, then stand, often in the freezing cold to watch us play.

Our house was loud and busy.  I was in our old neighbourhood a couple of weeks ago, and drove by the house we grew up in.  It’s still standing proudly, and has weathered the storm of 50 years of life and of us – a testament to the builder.

So many memories, both good and bad, came flooding back to me.  Playing in the yard, or on the street with our friends or getting into trouble with them.  I wonder what became of all of them? We’ve long lost touch.

One of the things that stands out for me, was how Dad was able to instill in us a sense of loyalty, pride and duty to our family.  We tried our best to stand up for each other, and were the first to call each other out when one of us went off the rails.  Nothing was more important than taking care of each other and keeping our good name.  One bad deed reflected on all of us.

We still have that instinct, many years later.

We come together, the ‘Pulchinski Boys’, to check in on him when we can, hoping that Dad will be awake and talking.  Those hopes are fading, and we know it.  I think the reality is that we are now gathering at Dad’s bedside, not so much to visit him, but to be together for him.  To show him that what he instilled in us so many years ago, about the importance of family, has not been lost or forgotten.

When words often fail us, actions speak.  We all probably wish we had that elegant speech or comforting word that you see in the movies, but the reality is, our most admirable, loving thing is to simply be there for him.

The word ‘goodbye’ will have to come soon enough.  For now, simply being present, either in person or keeping in touch with each other is about as noble an act as can be expected.

Until that time comes, I will linger at the door, trying to cover all that ground that I could not say during the party, making it a very long goodbye, indeed.

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2 thoughts on “The Long Goodbye

  1. Howdy just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few of the pictures aren’t loading properly.
    I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same outcome.

    • Oh! Thanks for the head’s up. I have had it happen a couple of times in the past, but generally they load properly for me.

      I’ll see if saving them in a different format might fix the problem.

      Much appreciated!

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