Eight 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.
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.