I write this from my almost empty studio attached to my almost empty house, a house I have lived in for 14 years, longer than any other. The air is scented with cardboard and our voices echo if we yell to each other. I packed stupidly and have dresses to wear and a pair of nice pants but almost no t-shirts.
Yesterday I said goodbye to my daughter, after a week together hanging out here, reading books, driving around the island to say goodbye, picking blackberries and making a blackberry crisp, and mostly just hugging and laughing.
I slept with her the last night. I kept waking up to look at her, thinking, “Last night together in this house, last night together in this house.”
In the morning, her dad, my ex, who lived in this house with us for seven years, came with a U-Haul from Seattle to pick up the furniture of ours, and my mom’s, that Lilly wanted.
True to form, I hadn’t thought ahead to what this moment might look like – all of us saying goodbye to each other, to the house, to the final threads of our shared life here. I guess I thought, “That was over a long time ago.” But goodbyes bring up the past, that’s for certain.
There we were, crying in the driveway, the day bright around us, with a stunned, “It’s really happening” stare and me starting to panic, berating myself for not planning something – some ritual or at least enough time to sit down and talk before they needed to catch the ferry.
But luckily, I’ve been practicing, in meditation and in this very long passage of transition I’ve been in, and I relaxed my body a tiny bit and reminded myself my deepest wish was to experience my life without hiding or running away.
I tried to notice the sounds, the colors, the way it felt to hug Lilly, the fullness of my sorry. Yes, I still wanted to stop time so I could figure out how to say a goodbye that would feel complete, so I could feel everything I was feeling fully, but I couldn’t.
I couldn’t stop her from driving away, waving from the cab of the big truck. I couldn’t do much of anything but tear up and hug her, again and again.
And earlier that weekend, saying goodbye to our neighbors, it was the same. All I could do was sit still and look into their faces, and at their kids I’ve watched grow up, and feel into the connection and the long stretch of time now behind us, and into the wacky vastness that is this experience of being human.
Saying goodbye, it turns out, is just like every other moment in life: startlingly fast and too huge to do more than take tiny bites of. Impossible to get right or to hold onto, or even to fully understand.
It used to be, when it was time to say goodbye, I would disappear or quip, “I just don’t say goodbye.” When the younger me quoted Love Story, “Love is never having to say goodbye.” Oh my, Jennifer, you were a drama queen. So adorable.
But now, leaving is powerful medicine that I’m doing my best to open to. I’m trying to let it open me, dissolve the places I hold back, the stories I hide about people not liking me, me not belonging, and most of all, to remind me that every moment is a goodbye of sorts.
Maybe saying goodbye is just life on steroids.
I went upstairs and curled up in Lilly’s bed. Her sheets smelled like her, that Lilly smell I love. I sniffed and sobbed. After awhile, Bob found me and held me, and I tried to tell him how weird it is, this raising your kids, this leaving a home, this leaving a town where you have a memory planted at every corner, wrapped around trees and bends in the road, punctuated, over and over, by the sound of ferry horns blasting.
I tried to tell him how bizarre and incomprehensibly sweet this whole business of being human is, but I couldn’t, and he knew anyway.