I had to say goodbye today.
I’ve told you before that goodbyeing is not an easy thing for me to do.
I’ve told you, and I’ve accepted the difficulty that this word holds for me, but today it hit me once again. It hit me where it hurt.
My uncle told us today that if we wanted to see the house again, we’d better go while we were in Tyler, because he’s selling it. After eight years of holding on to the walls which once held in the laughter of the man with the aged hands. The one with the gentle hands which held ice cream spoons steady for me. Shuffled dominoes. Tapped out cigarettes. Moved marbles across a Wahoo board. The hands which held my tiny hands as I learned to call him Pa.
So we went.
And at first I did not understand why the tears began dripping down my face.
But after some thinking on the way I felt as I walked through the halls of the house which I once squealed with joy through, I realized it was because I was saying goodbye.
Not to a house. Because those floors and walls which stood steady against every storm in my life until I turned eleven made up a place which was never just a place to me.
I remember once in elementary school, we had to draw a picture of our favorite place on earth. My classmates chose places like Disneyworld. And I drew a picture of Mimi and Pa’s.
It was my home away from home, my happy place, the safest place I could imagine. It was everything that a little girl with big dreams needs.
And as I walked through today, remembering the way Pa sat just so in that corner, how we always shared fritters right there in the kitchen, how the pink bedroom was where I always stayed, looking at the patch of carpet where I watched “Fox and the Hound,” the backyard where my parents got married, the pool where I whiled away my summer days, I realized that I somehow never outgrew the little girl who cried on Pa’s bedroom floor when I let myself understand that he was gone. And as much as I was saying goodbye to the house which is an inextricable part of my childhood today, I realize that I was also saying goodbye to that little girl, to that part of myself.
Because as much as I wish it could, time just won’t stretch and fold back on itself. I cannot go back to being the little girl with sun in my hair and Pa’s hand in mine.
So I have to walk forward. I had to walk forward out of the door, and I had to ride away from Pa’s house. And as I got one last glimpse of the house, I was reminded of the way I would always cry when we left as a child, and the way Pa and Mimi would stand in the driveway and wave. But today I did not cry in the open, unrestrained manner of a child. I cried the way that adults cry. Quietly. Clutching control. Red-faced from the force of holding in sobs. Hands moving deftly up toward cheeks to remove the evidence of tears. And this was another way in which I realize that I said to goodbye to my childhood today. For the first time, I grieved the loss of Pa, the losing of Mimi, the loss of sunlit days in that beautiful house, as an adult. And it was different, because they didn’t wave.
I can’t really seem to write a conclusion to this. Which makes sense to me, because I don’t believe that this kind of heartbreak, this kind of grief, has a conclusion.
And I know you have felt it too.
And I guess the only thing that I can really say to sum this up is that in all my forced goodbyes today, I know that I was not made to goodbye the memories. Those, I will carry in my heart as long as it is beating. And in the carrying, I will try to let them make me better.
It’s what he would want, I think.
I know that he would want me to use the days I spent in his love to make me better.
Because that’s really what love is about.
And no amount of goodbyeing can change the impact of the love of the man with the aged hands.
-Jessi Sanders 2012