Thursday, April 5, 2012

Saying Goodbye

We hadn't lived here very long before I figured out something important.  Most of my friends are women I meet at church.  Most of them live here because their husbands are going to graduate school at the University.  Most of them will only be here for two, three, and when I'm lucky four years.  Most of them I will eventually have to say goodbye to.

Saying goodbye isn't really something new for me.  It has been my experience in life that people come, and people go - but most often it is me and my family that do the going.  When I made the realization that almost all of the friends I made here would be leaving, it felt strange to me that I would be the one remaining, while they went off to find their new adventures.

We have lived here for two years now, and I have already had to say a few goodbyes.  And it seems I just keep hearing about this friend and that friend whose husband just got a job there, and off they go too.  I tell you people, I am not used to being the one left behind.

A few nights ago I lay in bed, unable to sleep and I thought about goodbyes.  Some people say, "I am no good at saying goodbye" or "I hate goodbyes", and I wonder why they say this.  Do they think that there is someone out there who loves saying goodbye?  Is there such a person who wakes up, giddy at the thought of saying "So long, farewell, have a good life?" and 'boy, these tears running down my cheeks feel so good, and I'm elated at how much I'm going to miss this dear friend'?  I think not.

I thought about the goodbyes that I never really got to say.  You know how sometimes you know someone is leaving, but you keep thinking that you will have an opportunity to see them one more time, and then... you wake up one morning and realize that the last time you had seen them was, really, the last time you were going to see them, and why didn't you give them one more hug? Why didn't you make it meaningful?

I remembered one goodbye I never got to say.  It was in Maine, the summer of 2005, the summer I stepped outside of myself and tried something new.  Two of my best friends and I had moved up to Maine to work, and while there we made friends with a group of fun-loving guys who were also there, just for the summer, to work.  One night, sitting around talking, the topic of first kisses came up and everyone shared their story.  Well, I had none to share.  I was a few weeks from being 22 and the people in the room who didn't know me couldn't believe it.  I didn't see why they should be so surprised.  Yet, there it was.  And then suddenly, for various reasons, I decided to step outside myself and see what happened.  One night our group went to sit on a rock wall overlooking the ocean.  We listened to the waves and smelled the delicious Maine air and probably thought deep, profound, wise thoughts.  On the walk home I carefully engineered my position such that I was walking, and at a safe distance from the rest of the group, with the carefully selected Spencer.  I don't know what we talked about.  But as some point, the person who took over inside me when I stepped aside took a deep breath and said, "I have a favor to ask you.  Do you think that on the Fourth of July you could kiss me?"

I don't really remember how the rest of that conversation went, either, but I do know that at the end of it he had agreed, and we had an agreement.  I think at the time that I had asked him that I had maybe ten days? a week? until the fourth of July, and at first that seemed like forever.  Surely that will never really come, and I will never actually have to face that moment.  Then, suddenly, there we were, all of our group on blankets watching the fireworks.  Maybe they would never end, I thought.  Maybe the sky will go on forever lighting up in explosive flowers.  All too soon though I found myself, again part of a group, walking back to the barn where we lived.  Spencer kept looking at his watch, and then at me, and I have no idea what he was thinking.  I pushed it until five minutes to midnight, and then the person that took over inside me when I stepped outside myself took another deep breath, and went and had her first kiss.

The days of summer came and went, and it was...well, a story for another time probably.  But eventually the days added up until we had spent them all and it was time to go home.  And I never got to say goodbye.  Or, more importantly to me now perhaps, thank you.

There are two reasons Devin and I are married today.  One, because in the summer of 2005 I stepped outside myself and decided to change the course my life was on, and two because a guy named Spencer, even if he thought I was mostly crazy, showed me a few things I needed to learn.

I think it is because of that unsaid goodbye and thank you that it bothers me now whenever I don't get a chance to say a real goodbye.  And so, in particular to Megan Sayer, I'm sorry I never got to see you one more time. I really thought I would. And I really thought I would return your baking sheet.  Do you want me to mail it to you?  I mean, if you don't have your baking sheet how are you going to keep making cookies? Goodness knows, the world needs your cookies.


  1. I dread goodbyes. I am already getting sad over those who will leave this summer (I know I am leaving, but that's temporary, I mean those leaving permanently). And if you want me to take Megan's baking sheet to her this summer, I could. :)

  2. It is just so cruel that we aren't neighbors, Amy. I miss your lovely head. I mean, I miss all of you. I spoke metaphorically...or something.

  3. Touching. That's a good first kiss story, and in large part because you had waited 22 years for it.