Saying goodbye is always hard. When I was a kid I used to think that it was easier for those leaving than for those staying. My reasoning was good; when you leave you have at least something new to look forward to while those who stay have only the memories. Of course back then I didn’t know that leaving loved ones behind–especially when you have an ocean between you–without knowing when you’d see them again is heartbreaking.
Saying goodbye is always hard but it’s even harder when you are leaving an elderly mother behind. Unwanted thoughts and questions flood your mind as you share that last hug, that last kiss: will I see her again? Memories of the last time I hugged my dad come to mind. He wasn’t elderly and he wasn’t sick. Yet, that day at the airport in NY more than twenty years ago was the last time I got to hold him in my arms. He died quite suddenly a few months later. Saying goodbye to my mom who is now eighty-two years old was heart wrenching.
I guess I should’ve started by telling you I just returned from my first trip home to Portugal in over six years. The last time I’d seen my mom in person (I give thanks for the internet every day for giving me the chance to see her anytime I want however virtually) was about four years ago when she and my sister visited me in the U.S. I had tickets lined up to go last year but we all know how that worked out.
It was a strange visit. Don’t get me wrong, it was great to be back home, to see old friends, family, old haunts (and by that I mean coffee shops and beaches, lol) and eat all the things I haven’t eaten in six years. But it was still a strange visit without some of the usual perks. My sister had spent the week before our arrival running to the hospital with my mom who woke up one morning unable to hear and stand upright. She suffered from sudden deafness (caused by a still-to-be-diagnosed condition) which is apparently pretty common but hard to recover from the older you get. The day we arrived, she was at the hospital receiving treatment.
We spent a lot of the two weeks of vacation running back and forth from doctors and hospitals for varied reasons. My sister has a busted meniscus and can barely walk and my nephew was having all kinds of anxiety-induced health problems. Which made for a weird visit. But I am so glad I got the chance to be with them and I wouldn’t trade this trip for anything.
But saying goodbye killed me. Living across the Atlantic has caused me to have to say many last goodbyes: my dad, my grandparents, one of my best friends. I wish it got easier but as you get older it actually gets worse as you realize time is running out and your own mortality comes calling.
Did you ever have to say goodbye to someone knowing all too well there was a very good chance you’d never see him/her again?