Monday, May 21, 2007

A Million Goodbyes

It's dark, but my eyes are well adjusted to it. I've been up, getting showered and dressed for thirty-five minutes, and it's now time to leave. I look down to see my wife lying asleep on her side of the bed, her brown hair covering her face. I push it back, exposing her soft, rosy cheek, and give it a gentle kiss. "Goodbye" I whisper. She doesn't respond, but exhales softly. A few moments later I'm locking the front door behind me and then driving to work.

As I drive, I think back to all of the goodbyes, I've said to my wife. None of them have ever been permanent--I've never not seen her again. Every time we part, there's a goodbye. Sometime later--usually hours, but sometimes weeks, and occasionally months, but always-- we're together again. I begin to wonder, just how many times we've said goodbye to each other. Then I think back to the first big goodbye.

It was a sunny, warm day--not yet into the full blasting heat of Texas summer, but still very warm. I stood next to my little red car, which was was parked in the driveway of Misty's tiny house. There was barely room for a driver and a passenger--every cubic inch of that Ford Focus hatchback was crammed with nearly all my earthly possessions. We didn't know when we'd see each other next, but it had to be soon. We had only been engaged for three months when I was offered a job fifteen hundred miles away in California--a job that was just too good to turn down. So, there I was, leaving my beloved fiancée and her two little girls behind. Suddenly it was time to say goodbye. We stood there for a moment, looking into each other's eyes, holding each other's hands. We spoke, but I don't remember the words. We kissed. And we kissed again. It was time to leave. I hugged and kissed each of the little girls on the cheeks and climbed into my car. I put my arm out the window to squeeze Misty's hand again. She leaned in for one last kiss. Again, we said our goodbyes, and I promised to call as soon as I got to my destination. I started the engine and drove off, watching in my rear view mirrors to see her waving, and then returning indoors.

We had countless telephone conversations, with just as many goodbyes over the following ten weeks, but the next time we parted was not long after the first.

I was driving on a cool, gray morning. Misty sat in the passenger seat. I was filled with irrepressible happiness, and yet gloom hung just ahead. I gave her hand a squeeze. We had just eloped to Las Vegas after being apart for two and a half months, and had just ended an amazing and wonderful--and far too short--one-night honeymoon. Now she was flying back to her job and her children in Texas, and I was driving back to my job in California. I made the turns into the unfamiliar Las Vegas airport and eventually found a parking spot. I unloaded Misty's luggage from the back of the car and carried it to the terminal.

I don't remember the conversation, but I know we chatted as we walked. After checking in, we didn't have to wait long for her boarding call. I wished the wait was longer. I wanted the minutes to stretch on so I could just stay in the presence of my new bride. I didn't want her to go. Again, suddenly it was time for goodbyes. Again, we didn't know when we'd see each other next. We embraced. We kissed as passionately as we could in a public place. I then watched as she walked through the gate, and out of site.

As I drive in the early morning twilight, I think to myself, that was almost seven years ago. There were another two years of daily goodbyes, before our next long separation.

All three kids were asleep in the back of the van. It wasn't terribly late, but after a day at Disneyland, we were all tired. My flight was in one and a half hours, which should have given us just enough time to make it to the Los Angeles airport. I was about to take a two month business trip to India to train some technical support agents. "Sure, it would be tough to be away from each other," we told each other, "but we had been apart for this long before and it only strengthened our relationship."

POP! thup-thup-thup-thup-thup.

"Oh no!" Misty exclaimed. "We have a flat!"

She pulled the van to the side of the freeway, making sure to stop under a streetlight. Changing a tire is usually no problem for me, but this was going to be a challenge. I hadn't changed a tire on this vehicle before, and so had to discover the secret hiding places where the jack and lug wrench were stashed. My luggage was covering the the spare tire and had to be completely unloaded to gain access to it. And, it was dark. As fast as I could possibly work, I jacked up the van and removed the deflated full-sized tire and replaced it with a fully functional spare "donut". Finally, after roughly forty-five minutes, we were driving again. But now we were in mad rush to get me to the airport on time. Misty drove as fast as the little spare could take us without blowing out.

Thirteen minutes before my flight, we arrived at the airport. She pulled up to the curb, and Misty and I jumped out and unloaded my suitcases. There was hardly a second to spare for a quick peck of a kiss. "I-love-you-goodbye!" I hollered behind me, as I ran with my bags into the airport. It was a terrible goodbye. I would be totally out of contact for the next twenty-two hours as I flew halfway around the world. I wouldn't even know whether my wife and children made it home alright, let alone be able to do anything to help. But at least I made the flight.

My cellphone rings, bringing me out of my memories on my morning commute. "Hi, babe," I answer, seeing that it's Misty. "You're up early."

"I don't remember you giving me a kiss and telling me goodbye this morning," she pouts over the phone.

"Of course I did," I assure her. "You were sound asleep. You didn't even move."

"Oh." She sounds disappointed that she missed it. "Well, I just wanted to say I love you."

"I love you, too," I respond.

"Okay." She yawns. "I'll talk to you later."


"Promise," she responds. "Bye," she says sleepily.

"Goodbye," and the call is disconnected.

One more goodbye. May there be a million more. And even then, someday, when one of us departs this world, it will only be a matter of time--maybe months, maybe years--before we are joined together in the eternities, forever connected, with no more goodbyes.

This essay was written as part of an English Composition course. It was a timed essay, to be completed in 4 hours (or less; it took me roughly 3 1/2 hours). I scored 92/100.

1 comment:

LuckyLarson said...

This is the second time I have read this great essay. A++!

It does seem to mean more now. Great stuff, and keep writing. When you write you create treasures for the future.

- Doug