The Summer of Goodbye

It's been so long, this year. I don't even remember who the first goodbye was for. If I could guess, I'd say it was my friend Pol, although that goodbye was easier than some of the others.

The second goodbye was my cousin's daughter. At age 15, two weeks before her 16th birthday, Carly was full of spirit until the last, fighting the brain tumor that eventually took her from all of us. That was a difficult goodbye; the funeral home, all the friends from dance, cheerleading, high school and middle school taking over the funeral home for two straight days. The funeral itself wasn't much better; a priest who had baptized her only 15 years before, talking about how much she loved everyone, and how full of joy she was. It was meant to comfort her parents and older sister; all it did was make me angry, pointing out what we'd all miss about the vivacious young lady with the sense of humor a mile wide and a mile deep. As the bells tolled, as her body was taken away for cremation, it shook us to the core.

The third goodbye was unexpected. My friend's father died unexpectedly, out of state at a tournament for a game he loved. There was the horrible wait for the body to be brought back to our home state, waiting for the funeral home to be organized, waiting for my friend to break down and let her friends, her husband help her through everything she had to face. It didn't help that her mom had died just over a year previous. It didn't help that they laid her father out in the same room where her mother had been. Everything hurt about that. Some traditions were upheld; her mother was buried in her favorite t-shirt, and her father was buried in a new shirt he'd gotten the day he died.

The third goodbye... was the most painful. A miscarriage, so early in the pregnancy that it'd only been discovered a month previous. It didn't help that it was the same night my friend's father died. My baby sister, hurting in a state so far away that we could only sit back and wait to welcome she and her infant son to our home two weeks later.

And now, there's at least one more goodbye, at least for me. Saying goodbye to friends and family, packing and leaving for a different climate. My husband and I, our two cats, and whatever will fit in the vehicle we're set to buy. We'll be saying to our friends through a variety of means; visiting them at the renaissance festival (hopefully our favorite theme weekend, but we'll see), probably one last party before our year and a half sojourn to a land of desert oases, Indian reservations and a whole lot less water than I've spent my life around.

It may not be a forever goodbye, but it's still hard to stomach. The bile rises in my throat at the prospect, the words of my friend echoing in my mind: "Are you really going to abandon me?" The looks on my stepchildren's faces when we talked to them about this crazy idea helps with that; those teenagers are absolutely amazing to me, and the thought of leaving them behind for the time we're gone hurts... hurts more than anything. But we have to do it, because if we don't, nothing will change for the better for us.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim

Because it was grassy and wanted wear,

Though as for that the passing there,

Had really worn them about the same.

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost, 1920