broadsideblog

You say goodbye, and I say hello

In aging, behavior, family, life, love, travel on April 13, 2012 at 12:58 am
F-82G 68FAWS Itazuke Nov1950

F-82G 68FAWS Itazuke Nov1950 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How many times a day do you say goodbye?

Or hello?

In a life we often envision and plan for and treat as forward-moving, consistent and linear, it’s really more often one of constantly interrupted relationships — with people, with places, with ideas, with fantasies, with hopes.

This struck me on a recent trip to San Francisco, a city I had not visited since 1998, when I stayed with a friend working in Silicon Valley on my way home from a vacation in New Zealand.

I lost touch with that friend, who I’m deeply fond of, shortly thereafter and always hoped to see him again.

To do so, I emailed and then called the ex-beau who was our mutual friend back in 1996. The boy who broke my heart! But he and I are now both happily re-married and he readily put me back in touch with C, my friend.

What a joy it was to hear his voice again and to catch up on all those lost years. Who knew that our “goodbye” would last so long? I figured it was forever.

I stayed out there with a friend who is in her 70s and whose husband is 83. I wondered, when I said goodbye to them, if that was our last.

I’ll soon be finishing up eight weeks of post-operative physical therapy, working with a group of men and women I’ve known since 2000, when I had my first knee arthroscopy. Within 11 months after that one, I was back, having needed surgery on the other knee. So much for “goodbye”!

I returned there in May 2008 after right shoulder repair, in December 2009 to avoid left shoulder surgery and in August 2010 while I was on crutches. Crazy! (I’m normally very healthy. I just seem to have lousy orthopedic luck.)

But it’s been a pleasure to be welcomed back so warmly by people I like, who’ve twisted me like a pretzel and whose skills have helped me regain strength, stamina and mobility. I’ve watched them date, marry, have kids, graduate college. Who knows how long this next “goodbye” will last?

I attended summer camp ages 8 to 16, for eight weeks at a time, and our end-of-summer leave-takings were truly epic, with much weeping. It wasn’t just faux teenage drama. Sharing a cabin/tent/canoe/sailboat created a much deeper intimacy than some of us had with school-mates, even our own families in some cases.

And, oh, the glorious excitement as that bus, after a three-hour drive north from Toronto, finally pulled into the camp’s long gravel driveway the next summer.

Hello! Hello!

Every time I leave Paris, I feel bereft and the last last time we arrived, I burst into tears of relief and joy that I had finally been able to afford to return.

And yet, the past 12 months have also taught me the powerful value of saying goodbye to several toxic relationships that were making me really unhappy, no matter what efforts I made. That wasted time and energy — reclaimed — has brought some lovely new people into my life, hello’s that have deeply enriched it.

Which do you say more often and why?

  1. Great post! Love that tune, too. One of my favorites!

  2. As a teacher, saying goodbye and hello are cyclical. There are many students I love who I have to say goodbye to. I hope we stay in contact, but I know most of them will move on with their lives. Fortunately, I have new students to meet, but then the cycle continues. I think I would like to be someone who is often saying “hello”. It’s much better than good bye (unless, as you say, it’s to toxic people– then we say “toodaloo!”).

    • That’s so true of teaching, isn’t it? I would find it hard to have students I like leave for good, but that’s normal, of course. I’ve stayed friends with one of my college students long since, and even attended her wedding.

  3. Can’t help but to sing the chorus of the song. Anyway, I hate saying goodbye so I say hello more often.

  4. Oh…good byes are so hard but over the years I have learned that there really are “six degrees of separation”. It may even be less if we consider virtual experiences and friends.
    As a nurse I said good bye many times in many different ways…some were dying but fortunately most were good byes that sent a person on their way with a new baby or the person was hopefully healthier than they had been when we first met.
    A few years ago I was in a restaurant bar in Chicago sitting next to someone “famous”…I had taken care of her mother who at the time was a cast member of the original “Hair” Broadway Musical. I nicely introduced myself as the nurse who took care of her and her mom when she was born in a NYC hospital…I was able to authenticate my claim with the names and places…she was so surprised and told me about her mom after so many years and also about her dad who was a musician and also in “Hair”.
    A very brief…reunion with Martha Plimpton…”Six Degrees of Separation”.
    Hello and goodbye as a newborn… hello and goodbye again….over 30 years later.

    • What an amazing story! Love this.

      I was very moved by the quality of my nursing care during my 3 days in the hospital in Feb; when I went by the ortho ward to drop off a thank-you note, one of the nurses came over to hug me. It meant a lot.

  5. Recently I said Goodbye to my country and my friends and Hello to a new world. Goodbyes linger, while Hellos are quick and breezy. While they are sad, they are more meaningful, more defining. With a first Hello though, you have all the excitement of potential. Saying goodbye forever, for example to a romantic partner or a grandparent, mourns the tragedy of lost potential.

    • Good for you! Those moments are rough…when I left Toronto for my 8-month fellowship in Paris I was a sobbing wreck. Best of luck wherever you’ve landed now.

      Your points are all so true. I think that’s why romantic breakups are so awful…you’re bidding goodbye to all those lost dreams and hopes for a future.

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