Goodbye Sucks

airport-signEight years of expat (migrant) living has thickened my skin…to an extent. I can generally hold it together at the flag ceremonies and stand un-quivering through a chorus line of hugs. Depending on where on I am on the roller coaster of emotions I find myself riding these days, you’ll find me anywhere from stoic to sniffly, but I’ve gotten adept at saying goodbye.

Despite the increasing alligator hide thickness of my skin however, goodbye always sucks.

Yesterday I said goodbye to my mother and my sister and my in-laws who had all come to celebrate an early holiday with us. My mother and I had the inevitable conversation, the one about our next moves on the chess board of migrant life.

They are questions for which I don’t have an answer. I wish I did, but I don’t.

If I had to hazard a guess, there would be several phone calls between my mother and myself that stand out in her mind:

Hey, Mom, I met a guy!
Hey, Mom! We’re getting married!
Hey, Mom! I’m pregnant!
Hey, Mom! I’m pregnant (again)!

I know the one she is waiting for now, the one which will likely round out her top five:
Hey, Mom! We’re moving back!


And yet I can’t make that call and I can’t even tell her when I may be dialing it in. There are too may cogs and wheels spinning that are keeping the whole mechanism running to separate out just one and answer it with any certainty. Why am I telling you all of this? Because all of this makes something which sucks on its own suck even harder.

Like I said, goodbye sucks.

They suck on either end, whether you’re staying or going. They suck the life out of you as well. Every time I see my mother (once every six months or so), I am walloped over the head with the fact that she is six months older. Then, as soon as I raise my head from the first blow, I’m blindsided by the fact that my kids are six months older as well. And that everyone will be six months older the next time we are all together.

And if you’ve ever felt the swift passage of time, let me tell you, when you’re only working in six month chunks, it’s like doing the time warp.

Children get older…and less cuddly, less interested in making gingerbread houses with their grandmother or playing a silly game with their auntie. They get older and grow less interested in spending any real time with Granny and Granddad. It hasn’t happened–yet–but doesn’t take too much imagaination to envision a time when it will.

It could be in six months.

Or six months after that.

airportWhenever I say goodbye, after I get over my irrational fears about planes and fireballs and Bermuda Triangle disappearances, the real fears rush in to take their place.

My kids marching toward teenager-hood is an eventuality which supersedes where we live. But…somehow the idea of my headphone adorned teenager ignoring my mother once a month is more palatable than the idea of him ignoring her once every six months. The idea of my little one preferring a computer game over a game of gin rummy with his aunt tugs at my heartstrings a bit more when it’s only twice a year.

Yeah. LIke I said. Goodbyes suck.


25 thoughts on “Goodbye Sucks

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  1. and I am sitting here home alone, after having said Goodbye to my children taking off with their father on Sunday.
    So your post saved me for going insane, house is impeccably clean…I vacuumed and rubbed every corner !
    Well, there is VIBER…it is not too bad hey !


  2. I’m with you. Heading to the U.S. in January from our expat home in The Hague. It’ll be the grand tour. Chicago to see my oldest son. To Jacksonville, Florida to see my parents and brother. Then crossing the continent to see my younger son, my sister and step kids in SoCal. Every time I FaceTime with my parents they ask me when we’re moving back to the States. My dad is 91 and my mom is 86. They’re still living on their own but every time I see them I see the march of time. I don’t have a concrete answer for them, maybe we’ll be back in mid-2018, maybe before, maybe after. They can’t travel so it’s my job to go to them. The expat life is exhilarating and terrifying because I’m the one missing so much.


    1. I think it’s the biggest downside and the biggest sacrifice. Sometimes when people swan over the ‘good life’ we have (and we absolutely do, no doubt about it), we also remind them that the decisions we made to lead this life included some doozies against us as well. This is the BIG ONE–at least for me. I am relatively lucky, my mom is still young and vibrant and able to travel. But I won’t lie. The feeling that I somehow cheated her out of her best year’s with her grandkids will likely haunt me until I’m dead and buried. It’s my own cross to bear and I own it. But at times like this, it’s a lot heavier to carry. Happy holidays to you and your family. Have a wonderful trip and time with them all!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I can see that. I enjoy watching the people they are becoming. But hidden under those layers is all the guilt I carry that my family doesn’t get to watch it happen, only see the six month end products. Most of the time I don’t think about it. But whenever there is a visit, the point is driven home a bit more forcefully. Like a wooden stake through the heart forceful….

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You may be surprised my teenagers still look forward to seeing the few relatives and those special family friends that they have. They are also not used to seeing them often but are more than happy to put away those headphones and computer games to spend time with them. Knowing how your 2 are I think you and their grandparents, aunts and uncles may be pleasantly surprised.


    1. I hope so! They’ve continually surprised me and are genuinely happy to see and spend time with family, which is always nice (for all involved). Maybe we’ll just ride that out and one day I’ll wake up and they’ll be 25 ;-).


  4. Goodbyes are the worst part of having visitors or heading home. It’s so hard to say goodbye when you don’t know when you’ll be back next…and when or if you’ll be moving home. I guess that’s part of the price you pay for living abroad.


  5. I’m with you. Life has been a long string of good-byes since our oldest went off to undergrad, 10 hours away, seven years ago. Now she’s 17 hours away, our son is three hours away, and good-byes don’t get any easier. Yours are magnified exponentially, I know, being so far away from family. Thinking of you this holiday season, and wishing you peace and joy.


    1. Oh, I think goodbyes are hard no matter how many hours away you are. 17 hours is a long way away. 3 is a good number. Close enough for weekends, far enough to avoid unexpected drop in visits ;-). The irony is that because we only see family twice a year, we spend much longer with them each time, so I think my kids have gotten to know their grandparents/aunts/uncle on a deeper level than if they were just random weekend visits. That said, there are plenty of times I would give it all up for the random weekend visit.


  6. SOOOO true. Especially when the expiration bell has rung on the original time of your intended migration. But you said two years. Be home soon then? But isn’t THIS home? The heart strings tugged is an understatement. And I too wish I had easy answers for “…the inevitable conversation, the one about our next moves on the chess board of migrant life.” Well put friend, well put.


    1. Oh….the expiration bell. That’s a big one to get past. I think it must inevitable that the ones ‘left behind’ think it has something to do with them, when it absolutely does not. If only they knew how much they factor into our decisions, even when those decisions end up keeping us apart. Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season. Looking forward to a bright and bushy-tailed 2017 ;-).


  7. We spent 12 years abroad. Everywhere we lived was the perfect place for us at that point of our lives. I didn’t want to come home! Fb has been great for keeping up with distant friends. Being an expat, one meets great people with lovely children. With Fb, I can see how these kids grew up, where they live & what they are doing with their lives. I love that! Expat kids also have a broader view of the world & what is possible. I love my life with less airline travel, but so grateful for the life my family got to experience.


    1. I am immensely grateful for it, Diedre. More so than I ever thought possible at the beginning of this journey. I was very hesitant to take that first step, though I tried to hide that hesitation under a mask of excitement and adventure–but man, that first year was tough. It took me a full seven years to be able to realize that making that choice was one of the smartest things we’ve done. It’s convincing those we love and left behind that they are the things that make us doubt from time to time what we did was/is right.


  8. Oh, I hear you. How I hear you. Family close by was always my biggest loss while we were overseas 7 years with 2 little ones basically born and raised overseas. So, we made a hard decision and moved back to the US this summer and now that we’re in the middle of all of the family politics and day to day, I wish we could rethink the decision. I think a better compromise might be to make more frequent trips home, but continue to live overseas. But the holiday season is a hard time to be far from your family, there’s no denying that. Moving back right before this terrible election season probably wasn’t good timing. I feel like there’s no place I belong anymore but I do know that fitting in to America is really hard after years overseas – that reverse culture shock everyone talks about is tough.


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