When we were little, we’d leave my grandma and grandpa’s house, and they’d stand in the doorway, waving goodbye, always smiling.
My whole childhood, it was my grandpa and grandma, waving goodbye to my mom and dad and us kids, all of us grinning like crazy.
But then my mom died, and then my grandpa died, too. I was left with the memory of the last time I’d waved goodbye to them.
And for the rest of the years, it was my dad, and my grandma. And for the rest of the years, waving goodbye wasn’t a time for smiling.
My dad didn’t like my grandma. She was mean to him for marrying my mom. So they didn’t visit each other anymore after my grandpa died, even though they lived very close. They’d waved goodbye to each other forever and pretended they didn’t care. But I saw them both at least every year.
Waving Goodbye To My Dad
Each time I visited my dad, he did the same thing my grandma and grandpa always had. He stood in the doorway and waved goodbye when I left. Sometimes he even did this when I went to visit my grandma for the day. We’d make a joke about it, but inside, I wasn’t smiling.
But my Dad wasn’t like my grandma; he was soft and couldn’t hide it. When I left to travel back home, he always cried when he was waving goodbye.
When I was a little girl, I’d found him near death twice, so for the rest of his life, I was afraid every time I waved goodbye, I’d never see him again. So even grown up, I always cried, too.
Some years ago, I went through all of his life things with him, helped him pack up, sell his home, and move into a new place. It was time, but when we pulled away from his house, my childhood home, it was so hard to wave goodbye to it, that we both cried.
I visited him for several years after that. He was happy in his new place, for the first time in all the years since my mom had died, and although I was sad when I waved goodbye, it was a little easier not to cry.
But then, the year after I’d broken my own back, he broke his, too. And he needed me. So I went up there five times, taking care of him, rescuing him, checking up on him. He was so sick that year, with one thing after another, that it took all I had in me to squelch my anguish, and wave goodbye each time I left. The time I had to leave him in the nursing home for rehab was nearly unbearable. But I had to go, and there was nothing for me to do, so I promised him I’d see him again, and my whole heart hoped hoped I was telling the truth.
I’d cry for days, even after I was home, filled with good reasons for being afraid I’d never see him again.
At the end of that year, he was doing better when I visited him. And when I left, he hugged me goodbye, and whispered in my ear “Thank you; you saved my life.” That time, we both cried so hard, we couldn’t even wave.
Almost two years ago now, my worst fear came true, in the midst of so many other of my worst fears coming true. I got a call that my dad was dying. So my son and I went to be with him, to take care of him. He held my hand so tight at the end it hurt. We said I love you to each other as much as we could. And when he died, I told him I’d miss him forever.
In the viewing room, when I got to see him that last time, I played piano for him, and for me. And then, for both of us, I waved goodbye one last time.
Waving Goodbye To My Grandma
Then, there was only my grandma.
My grandma wasn’t easy to love, but as I got older, her and I grew closer. I taught her it was okay to say I love you, and I miss you. And when I visited, and I left, she would wave goodbye. One time, she even cried.
A few years ago, she couldn’t see anymore, and she kept on falling. So not long before my Dad died, she move into a new place.
I visited her there the day of my dad’s funeral with the rest of the family. It was the first time I’d seen her that visit, because I’d been with my Dad. She asked if I could come back alone, but I couldn’t. We had to get on the road; we’d been gone so long. So I waved goodbye, and I promised I’d come back, and like with my dad, my whole heart hoped I’d told the truth.
So many things happened the year my Dad died, and I didn’t get to see her again until the next June. It took a long time sitting there with her, before she knew who I was. She asked when I was going to come back, but she forgot what I said. She remembered to wave goodbye just a little, though. And she smiled, but I knew what was coming, and I cried.
I didn’t want that to be the last time I waved goodbye to her, so I went back a month later. She had just turned 102. I’m not sure she knew me, but she touched my face and my hair. She thanked me for saying happy birthday. When I left, though, I’m not sure she even knew I’d been there.
Two days later, I held her hand, too, just like I’d held my Dad’s. I told her I’d love her, and I’d miss her forever. And then she wasn’t there to wave goodbye anymore, either.
So now there is no one to stand in the doorway for me, waving goodbye to the child I was and the grownup I am. There is no one to visit and no one to cry or smile, missing me when I leave. I am not afraid I won’t be able to wave goodbye one more time, because they are already gone. I am left with “I love you” and “I miss you” forever in my heart.
Waving Goodbye To My Son
And now it is only me, and my beautiful son.
When he visits, I hug him as hard as I can. I’ve lost him before, but I don’t want to lose him again, now that he’s back in my life. I tell him I love him, and I can’t wait til the next time. Oh, my, how I treasure the man that he is.
I am like my grandma. And I am like my dad, too. I try not to be afraid I won’t see him again, but he’s all I’ve got. So sometimes I am.
And when we part, my son and I, because I’ve spent my whole life waving goodbye and crying, that’s what I do.
~ cj 2014.03.20