Do goodbyes ever get easier with age?
My son set off security censors at the airport when he tried to break through to hug my parents who already made it to the other side of the gate. I struggled to hold him back as he wailed, “I want my grandma and grandpa!!! They’re my favorite people in the whooooole wiiiiide woooooorld!” I scooped him up and said, “Baby, you hurt so bad because you love them so much. Aren’t you lucky to have people you can love like that? We’ll see them again real soon.” But he was inconsolable. Some T.S.A. guy flew past me as my son pulled me to the ground to hold him. He broke into an ugly cry and my heart tore in two as his tears soaked my dress.
My mind flashed back three weeks. At this same airport, my husband welcomed me home from an overseas trip and dropped a bomb in baggage claim as I waited for my luggage: Your grandfather died while you were in China. My stomach bottomed out. My legs went numb. Slammed sideways by grief, I quickly waved goodbye to my travel companions so I could go outside and scream. The only man who loved me consistently, however imperfectly, throughout my childhood, was no longer. Here I was, a 32-year-old woman, and I felt so completely alone. Just like my son, I sat on the curb and cried. No one could console me. Dementia may have eroded my grandfather’s mind and we had a rocky relationship in recent years, but I grieved his passing.
I’m still grieving…At my age, I feel like I should accept loss as a part of life and move right along when saying goodbye. I’ve said so many…going off to college, moving thousands of miles away from home, broken relationships, both my grandparents gone…but the human heart is fragile. And the older I get, the more I realize how fragile life is, too. When family or friends take root in my heart and then abruptly leave…the space they leave behind remains. And the ache of that void, however acute, is always there.
But life goes on and sometimes we get sweet reminders of loved ones past. On the day I adopted my daughter, I longed for my grandmother. She was small in stature but her sharp tongue and strong spirit steadied me always. As I paced the halls of the waiting room, eager to receive my little girl, I could hear my grandmother say…Be strong. Don’t cry. You could lose a few pounds. When Haddie was handed over to me, she screamed and slammed her doll in my face. She walked like a boss and made sure I knew she was the boss of me. Her spicy, strong-willed spirit and short stature was an odd comfort to me…She reminded me so much of my grandmother. This thought has carried me through many sleepless nights when I second-guessed whether I had the strength to be this child’s mother, whether I had done the right thing.
The cycle of life slays me every time…lots of hellos…sad goodbyes…Why can’t things stay the same?