I hate saying goodbye to people. I have known this for years and years but never looked closely at the why’s. This is as good a time as any to examine my feelings, having just said goodbye to my friend in Arizona.
At airports, I see other people accompanying their friends or family members right up to the security line, while I insist on a quick goodbye at the curb. Others do not seem upset – or maybe they are, but are hiding it better than I can.
Of course it goes back to my childhood. There were lots of partings which I was not prepared for and I was expected not to talk about them afterwards. Sometimes I was given explanations and some of those explanations were outright lies.
Let’s start with the pets. Two dogs left our house, supposedly because they tried to bite my brother. I was told they were going back to the breeder who lived in the country and that they would be taken good care of and would have puppies. Both times I was told this after the fact, so there was no chance for a goodbye. Today I know that’s an unlikely story. What breeder would sell a dog as pet quality and then want to use it for breeding?
For three summers my brother and I were allowed to have kittens. At the end of the summer, they just disappeared. I cannot remember what we were told, if anything. I have no memory of these animals being used as sacrifices, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised.
When I was little, I was lucky enough to have a safe, loving woman take care of me. When I was four, I was told she was retiring because she was too old to take care of children. I also remember thinking that she could not lift me up any more and so I promised her that, if she stayed, I would not get any bigger. That’s where my memory stops. I don’t know if I ever saw her again.
That summer, I was sent to my grandfather’s house. The only people I knew were my grandfather and my little brother. When I came back, there was a new apartment, a new person to take care of us, no dog, my father had been drafted, and many of my toys were missing. And then school started. I was too stunned to cry.
Now these events explain why I dread loss and either cling to people and things or let go of them casually, pretending to myself that I do not care. It doesn’t, however, totally explain my dislike of goodbyes.
It could be magical thinking: if I don’t say goodbye, the person will stay. It’s the act of saying goodbye that makes them leave. Or, since my mother believed that children would be less upset if the parting were unacknowledged, it might be an attempt to spare myself pain. Or I might prefer to get it over with quickly, rather than draw out the pain.
Or it might be all three, and even more.