The Many Different Ways to Say Goodbye

 goodbyeLast night, I lingered on the couch as a Disney Channel show unfolded on the TV in front of me. Was it Austin & Ally? Dog with a Blog? I don’t know. I wasn’t paying attention.

Occasionally, I’d mutter, “How about a show that I might like?” Modern Family reruns. Big Bang Theory reruns. American Ninja Warrior reruns.

I’m not picky.

To that came the reply, “Sorry, Mom.”

Despite what was on the TV, I was comfortable. My arms were wrapped around the 9-year-old kid, and the kid wasn’t pushing me away and saying things like, “Mooooom. Stop it.” Sure, there were many things I could have been doing. Work (too tired). Decluttering (same). Reading (same). Meditating (same). Usually when I feel as I did last night, I sit outside and listen to the birds. But, at that moment, outside seemed too far away.

So Austin & Ally or whatever it was it was.

Seinfeld?” I asked.

“What’s… what did you just say? Is that a show?” the child answered.

Now, I was feeling tired and old.

And suffering from attachment. I didn’t want my kid to leave.

Just the week before, we’d all been in Maine, and it was more fun than I can even begin to tell you about. It was the kind of trip that makes three people feel like just one. It was the trip families are made for.

But in fewer than 24 hours my husband and son would be getting into a minivan and they would be setting out on an epic journey across the country. It was to be a very long drive (not my thing) that would involve periodic stops at amusement parks (not my thing) and camping (not my thing) and the eating of camping food (not my thing). I’m guessing that, along the way, there would also be mosquitos. They are not anyone’s thing. Neither is traffic. Or humidity. Or sunblock, for that matter. Sure, people wear sunblock, but only out of necessity. You never hear anyone saying, “I just love this sunblock! You’ve really got to try it!”

This was not a trip I even remotely wanted to go on. And, at the same time, I could see the value of father and son going on it together. It was to be the kind of trip this child would remember for his lifetime.

And yet.

Usually, saying goodbye is easy for me. I’m an introvert. I love being alone. Give me a day with no phone calls, no emails, no texts, no noise, and no people and you give me this: heaven.

But this goodbye was different. Why? I don’t know that anymore than I know what I was pretending to watch on the TV last night. But I do know this: Not all goodbyes are the same. Some goodbyes are harder than others.

Some goodbyes are…

…see you laters. You lovingly hug. Maybe you even kiss. You say goodbye. And you go your separate ways feeling warm and wonderful. But you really mean “see you later” because, unless an anvil or a piano falls from the sky while you are walking the dog, that’s the truth. This isn’t a good bye. It’s an “I’m conditioned to hug the people I love whenever I walk out the door” thing. Still, if you are like me, you are proud of these goodbyes. They make you feel like a loving wife and mother and someone who isn’t clingy. In reality, this is just an illusion. If it were a true goodbye, the goodbye itself would go much differently.

…like yeah, whatever. That’s the goodbye I got this morning from the child who was excited to get into the car and onto the road to Cincinnati where, I’ve been told, there are roller coasters to be ridden.

…sticky and painful and full of sad clinging. Do I need to say more?

…hurried and emotionless and over so fast that, later in the day, you wonder, “Did I actually say Goodbye?” This is my usual. Please don’t judge me.

…stiff and obligatory, especially when you are saying Goodbye when you really mean Good Riddance!

… just plain awkward, like that moment when one of you comes in for a kiss on the cheek while the other tries to shake hands.

…full of anxiety, because the person you are parting from is dying or feeling dreadful or living on the streets and even the words “good bye” seem to only add to the suffering.

…regretful and halting. Usually these kinds of goodbyes arise when you are not sure if you will see one another again in this lifetime.

… delayed, because though you seriously want to leave, you don’t want to say Goodbye.

…just too dang long. Eight people are all saying goodbye. You say goodbye. Someone else says goodbye. You say goodbye to someone else. You accidentally say goodbye to the same person twice. Oh, the pain.

…lost in the shuffle of busyness and email and that thing in your hand that you affectionately call a smart phone.

…too late. In my opinion, these goodbyes hurt the most, but you are welcome to argue otherwise.

And yet, there are those times when our better self is the one who is saying good-bye. There’s no internal chatter that says, “I don’t want you to leave,” “would you just get out of my house already?” “I cannot wait to be alone” or even “I don’t know if I’m doing this right.”

No, our thoughts are on the other person, and how we want this person to be happy. So even if we reach out to hug someone who is holding out a hand to shake, or who is checking his phone for the traffic update, or who is pushing us away while he says, “Mo-ooom, stop it,” we still feel warm and peaceful and good.

And that’s because, our gesture came from a place of love.

And those kinds of goodbyes? They’re the best kind of all.

What are your favorite or least favorite types of goodbyes? How do you like to say it? Not like to say it? Your goodbye pet peeves? Tell me about it all and anything else on your mind in the comments. If you are reading by email, don’t forget to click through to the site to leave a comment.

2 comments… add one

  • Cathy August 11, 2014, 11:25 am

    I just had my baby girl 5 months ago.. This post really hit home with me. I can’t even say goodbye to her to go to the grocery store for 2 hours let alone for a week!
    Maybe it will get easier by the time she gets older :)

    • Alisa August 12, 2014, 3:24 pm

      Cathy– It does get easier, but also enjoy her now while she’s so cute and cuddly!


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