"Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you. Then, it will be a really good day." Louie Schwartzberg
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On Saying Good-Bye and a Stiff Upper Lip

posted by Susan Dominikovich on , , , , ,

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Our Abby-girl said good-bye to her best friend today.

Let me clarify, I am not big on the terms "best friend" or "bestie" or "bff."  Paul and I have discouraged our girls from using these phrases and instead, tried to encourage them to consider the feelings of all the children who consider themselves to be their friends.  Not one friendship is any more important than another.  Each of their friends is special to them in their own unique and wonderful way.

But in this instance, Our Abby-girl said good-bye to her best friend today.

Abby and her twin sister Violet were inseparable at kindergarten and in their first months at school.  I was glad for them that they had each other, that miraculous twin-bond, but also sad that they weren't included in the other children's games.  There weren't many birthday party invitations cluttering the fridge under bulky magnets in those days.  It was as if the girls had a little sign over their heads which read, "already taken...don't bother." 

Then at some point in their first year at school, the teachers decided to put Violet in one class, leaving Abby in the other.  The theory was to encourage Abby to come out of her shell, to find a place away from her older, bigger, louder twin's shadow, to develop an identity of her own.

And it worked.  She came out of her shell and at the same time developed a bond with her friend Kaitlyn who happens to live just down the street from us.  Abby and Violet have been together in classes ever since but Abby's bond with Kaitlyn has stuck.  And in one of those ways that only God could have conceived of, our entire family has developed a bond with Kaitlyn's family.  They have become more than friends; they are our community.

So in fact today, we all had to say good-bye to our friends.

But when I met the girls at the gate at 3:00 it was Violet who clung to my leg and tucked right in for a cuddle. I had been on a river trip with our older two and although I knew it was our friends' last day at school before moving away, my brain was still somewhere between rapids and wet suits.  Concerned, I asked Violet what had happened and if she was alright.  "Kaitlyn," she stammered.  "We just said good-bye."

Ugh.  That word.  Good-bye.  That one word on any occasion has the power to bring out the emotions of what seems a life-time of walking through a gate at International departures and getting on a plane.  Good-bye.  Oh how I dread that word.

We had a whole day of drawn out good-byes on our recent trip back to Canada.  Our friends and their beautiful family in their home.  My mom in the hospital where we also said good-bye to my brother and his family.  Other friends who hold a firm place in our hearts because they hold us in theirs.  My sister and her husband and my growing-up-too-quickly nieces.  My dad the next day.  Grandpa.  Grandma.  Aunts.  Uncles.  Cousins.  Friends.


Through it all, I smiled stoically and I choked on the tears and my eyes shone, but I got through it without uttering the words which I felt:  "I can't do this.  I love you too much to have to do this.  Again."


So today I looked at Abby and she was smiling and sticking her tongue out at Kaitlyn who was giggling and blowing raspberries in return.  Characters.  Her mum and I walked the girls down to the cars and I took photos and we both tried to get the girls to say a "proper" good-bye.  Maybe a hug or an "I'll miss you."  But no.  More giggling and raspberries and "I'm coming in your car" and "ha ha ha."  And then finally her mum and I laughed and shook our heads and said, "it's fitting really" and so we quickly hugged our good-byes with each other instead and I put on my stiff upper lip and clambered into my van to drive away.

And I thought to myself, I can cook a mean pasta and gesticulate with the best of them when drinking a good red wine but where oh where is the Italian in me when it comes to saying good-bye?  Oh how I wish I had the courage to express the anguish in my heart in these moments. These moments which are too many.

There was our Abby, still giggling on the trip home.  I wondered if she was being stoic like her mother or if she didn't understand or just didn't care.  Meanwhile, I buried myself in memories while the children had afternoon tea and amused themselves with technology.  Sam played Harry Potter on the wii and Madeline found her tablet.  Eventually I discovered the twins tucked up in Madeline's bed with their blankies and pillow pets, watching E.T.  Interesting choice.  "E.T. phone home."  Not a coincidence.

Later that evening, after catching up on our days with Paul and preparing dinner, I realised the movie was long-since finished and I wondered what our Abby-girl was up to.  There she was at the dining room table writing in a book from school.  It was her turn to write a special prayer in the prayer book  for her class this weekend.  And this is what occupied her thoughts and her little heart:

The words of a seven-year old (spelling changed):

Dear God, I hope that Kaitlyn has a good time travelling to Wellington and that she likes her new school and she makes new friends and she won't forget about us.  I pray everyone in their family has a good time in Tawa and that everyone at our school has a good day and that she'll come back and we'll never forget her and I hope that Holly has a good time at her new school.  Amen.

And I am thinking, she is a lot like me, our Abby-girl.  She has a funny way of showing her grief.  Perhaps I too would have been giggling and sticking my tongue out when I was seven.  And then writing down my thoughts and feelings in a journal or a prayer later.

I suppose neither of us has much of the verbal and expressive Italian in us when it comes to saying good-bye.  But a good deal of the romantic poet. 

I'll drink to that.

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