You Say Hello…

In my life “Good-byes” fall into four main categories — those I can’t avoid, those I instigate, those that are instigated by others, and those that happen slowly over time, kind of an “evolving door” rather than an exit.

The first “good-bye” I couldn’t avoid was the death of my grandmother Beall which happened when I was 10. I didn’t understand any of what was going on at the time, honestly. There was the adult world of grieving daughters — my mom and her sisters — and the quiet world of confused cousins, my peers. It was just strange. But it was my first experience with death. The second was to be my cat, Henry, who came home one day with a broke back and while I was at school, my parents had him put to sleep. It was right and completely different from my grandma’s death, not so much because it was just a cat, but because there was a clear injury. I’d gone out to the garage to let Henry in and found him like that. He tried to jump up into my arms as usual.

The next was my father’ death which resembled Henry’s death far more than it resembled my grandmother’s. I had the chance to say “Good-bye” to my dad one afternoon and from that I learned that, if you can, control that moment so you can hold within your heart a perfect memory, a perfect image.

After that, over the years, there was what anyone in this temporal existence expects. One death after another. One permanent good-bye followed by another. Grandmother, mom, aunts, dogs, dogs, dogs, friends. You can’t always say good-bye but after a certain time, “Good-bye” is part of every “hello.”

I’ve had to break up with some boyfriends, divorce some husbands, and end a few friendships intentionally. Those are hard good-byes. They can involve packing up some future-ex’ crap and putting it in a wheel-barrow in the front yard. They can involve difficult phone calls, “No, Sweet-cheeks, I really mean it. I’m tired of you calling me and venting about your horrible boyfriend and not doing anything about it. I’m not your sob-sister. I’m your friend. That guy treats you horribly. If you hadn’t told me all these stories about him over the years, it would be different. I feel used because you don’t do anything about it. I don’t want to hear from you anymore.” Ending friendships can involve “ghosting,” leading to numerous “Why don’t you call me back?” messages which you answer in your mind, “because you kicked my dog, you excrescence.”

And, of course, there’s being dumped. In my life that’s probably been no weirder than in anyone else’s.

Then, you know, people move away. People’s interests change. People’s lives evolve. A lot happens in our lives, and the silent “good-byes” often have no bad feelings. Maybe there are going to be thousands of miles between you or that our lives that — once similar and synchronous — are now wildly different.

I have a few friends with whom I’ve been connected for more than fifty years. The friendships have survived because someone has held on — loosely. Our lives have gone in their own ways over the decades, but the connection remained alive. Some of these friends are old boyfriends (now literally, senior citizens) which is actually kind of cool. Whatever the connection was back in the dim recesses of time, something more important than the feelings of being “in love” was born and endured. My best woman friend from the 70s is still my friend today. We never agreed on everything — in fact, we disagree on a lot of things — but we value the other deeply for certain ineffable qualities of being that we never discovered elsewhere.

“Good-bye” is inevitable and while I’m not sure that every good-by opens the door to someone new, it’s useful to believe it does.

24 thoughts on “You Say Hello…

  1. A very deep post. The goodbye that I couldn’t avoid was at the age of 2, when I lost my mother. I still think about how things would have been if that particular goodbye had never occured. God took that away from me, but in turn, He gave me the capacity to stand up on my feet and be quite mature for my age. I feel that Goodbyes, although terribly sad, make you a stronger person.

    • I agree. I’ve seen people who crumpled at good-bye and I don’t think that’s the point. My grandmother also lost her mom at a very young age and was able throughout her life to recover from loss with equanimity and humor. I wish I had the chance to know my dad into my adulthood, but I didn’t. Still, every day I encounter something I am because of him. In a way, I think we’re just lucky to know and be close to anyone, even if we lose them. ❤

  2. I love the way that you put this. you are spot on with the different kind of goodbyes in our lives. one of my personal favorite goodbyes, is nicknamed ‘the Irish goodbye’ where you make your appearance at some event or place where you feel you should attend and when you are ready to go, you simply slip away, without formal goodbyes, but having enjoyed your time there and having connected with those who expected you –

    • That’s a very cool explanation of a good-bye I also value. That’s close to my ideal “good-bye” to someone I know I’ll never see again. ❤

  3. So perfectly said, Martha. “Good-bye” is inevitable and while I’m not sure that every good-by opens the door to someone new, it’s useful to believe it does. I love that because, for some, it’s true. I have had friends who couldn’t say goodbye. I don’t know as I’m particularly good at it, but then when I’ve had to say goodbye it was for a damn good reason and nothing lamentable. I so agree about “friends” who dump on you then do nothing about it and your view of the individual is skewed then skewed again when they “friend” doesn’t do anything about the intolerable situation.

  4. So many good-byes in life but I’m fortunate to have just as many hellos. The saddest are the explainable – either you can’t (or don’t) have closure from either side. And I’m not talking about death but the friend that just disappears kind of like closing a book. It is done and there is nothing more to see or do… I don’t have but one of those in my life and it was in retrospect a bullet dodged!!

  5. I no longer have many remaining “old friends”. They are mostly dead and the remaining have drifted. Life moves on. My adopted family, the one I grew up with, is mostly dead too.

    My biofamily is a couple thousand miles distant. I doubt I’ll ever call any of them “friend”. There is just nothing in common to build from.

    My wife is about it these days.

    That’s a lot of goodbyes. I’m not good at “hello” either.

  6. My life has had many goodbyes. Some are painful, others not so much. It won’t be too many years before I say my final goodbye. Not soon I hope.

    • Me too but I’m not in a hurry. I was just thinking today, though, that I have my “interview suit” in my closet and it’s the kind of thing people would dress me up in when I die. I have to get rid of that thing. 😀

  7. I recently said the goodbye I should have said a couple of decades ago, family I have no contact with my family any more. Such a good thing for me. As for other goodbyes, my partners death was the hardest. Longest, we knew it was coming took to arrive, and being present with his family in our home was the hardest but beautiful goodbye. I have tried keeping in touch with people and have one person who I went to uni with in the 90s that I am in sort of touch with we caught up last year and it was lovely, our lives are so different. I am not great at saying goodbye, in fact I kind of imagine if I move from where I live I may not tell people I am going. But as I write this a I think oh well I would say goodbye to this neighbour and this one…the list has grown. It is not for the sadness, of leaving. It is more that lives go on, and I am getting older. Goodbyes that are the hardest for me are my dogs. As they are my world my constant companions. They are my hard goodbyes.

    • I agree about the dogs. When my first dog had to be put to sleep, the moment turned out to be a big lesson for me. My vet and my friend lifted the big dog onto the table, the vet said, “Put her head on your shoulder where it’s rested hundreds of times.” He put the catheter in her leg, then the injection. The last thing she felt were my arms around her. I decided I would ALWAYS be there if I could be there. Once I couldn’t be there, and it was for the dog who has meant the most to me out of my 20 some dogs. I haven’t gotten over that. It’s true that my dogs mean more to me than people do, in a way, or maybe just something different. I can’t say. ❤

  8. My dog Toby who died 18months ago died at home (with his sibling dogs) but I was not there, He had died when I returned home. He had had a good run and a swim at the beach, he had eaten a good meal. He lied down for a sleep and looked to me that he died in his sleep. It makes me cry to remember it now, but so much easier in so many ways than your first dog as loving and beautiful was that, I feel guilty I was not home, to be there with him. I did talk to him and I still am not sure why, about when he was ready to go or needed to go it was OK. He needed to do what was right for him. I loved him and thanked him for all he had been and done for us. I dont know what I knew I just felt something, and I had to talk to him. I still did not expect it. It was harder still for me in that he was the last living connection that was really close to me and my husband we raised him together. He was 12 1/2 a big dog. So a good life. He was my first real dog of my own too. He will hold a unique and special place as does your first dog. No one replaces any of them they are all unique and loved. but

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