Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Long Goodbye

Grandma Engelhard started it.  My mom did it.  My sister and I do it.  My kids have started to do it.  This wonderful "it" is the long goodbye.

To execute the long goodbye, you need to stand at your door, or it is fine to follow your company to the car, as your visiting family is getting ready to leave.  You begin waving as soon as everyone is in the car, and you don't stop until they are out of the driveway, and completely and totally out of sight.  The people in the vehicle wave until they can no longer see you.  You may take this to extremes, if you so desire. My daughter does.  Especially for her brother.

Sierra waves goodbye alongside the moving vehicle for as long as she can keep pace.  She waves and runs until she is left behind, panting for breath.  I think she does this to try to make up for the time I blew it.

One time I messed up.  I messed up big time.  My oldest son Dylan has always been a stickler about traditions.  I say "stickler" like it's a bad thing.  It's actually one of the things that make it challenging to be his mom, and it's one of the things that makes me want to hug him so hard he squirms. Dylan likes knowing that certain things are done a certain way...especially during the holidays.  I like to think I contributed to his obsessive compulsions.  I'm quite certain I get to take full credit for most of his idiosyncrasies.

We had just finished our Thanksmas celebration (I'll blog about that in another post.)  Dylan had gathered his containers of leftovers, tucked his gifts in his truck, and was saying his thank yous to everyone.  We all kissed and hugged him goodbye.  My mom, my sister, and I went out and waved, and for whatever reason...was it too cold?  Did we think he wouldn't notice?  Did we FORGET?  We all went back inside before he left.

I immediately received a text.  "You forgot to wave goodbye."  My heart sank.

"Mom!  Joelle! We didn't wave goodbye until he was gone!!!"

"Come back!" I texted.  "Give us another chance.  We'll do it right!"

"Never mind.  I'm already at Dad's."

"We'll drive down there and you can wave to us!"  Desperate, I know.

"It's okay, Shrink.  We'll do it next time."

That day haunts me still.  I hate thinking I missed an opportunity to make one of my kids know that I love them so much, I will do silly things to prove it.  Was he emotionally scarred after that? Whether he was or not, I will not let another long goodbye get away from me.

Tears were streaming down my face on this snowy winter's day when Dylan and Jamie left.  I waved and waved, wanting with all of my heart to erase the memory of the time I forgot to do it. I could see his hand and flannel sleeve waving out of the truck window until his red tail lights faded around the bend.  He forgives me.  He loves me.

The long goodbye; even when my kids can no longer see me, they know I am there for them, waiting for their return.


  1. WOW! I love traditions...and we have silly ones and important ones and I know that when I forget or get distracted and "disappoint" Talmage (he usually notices it more than Bethany)...I feel terrible too. Thank goodness they get over it fast.
    Keep writing...I love your perspective on everything (I myself have fallen off the wagon--AGAIN. need to get back on)

    1. Thank you so much, Noelle. I'm struggling to write this week, but slumps are expected in life, aren't they? ;-)

  2. That is so touching Denise, you should be proud, you are a great mom!

    1. Rhonda, thanks for stopping by...and for your kind words. Love you.

  3. I wonder what makes traditions so important to some and of little import to others?

    1. I think it's the repetition of anything that promotes good feelings...tradition keepers (Dylan) live in fear of anything that threatens the continuation of the tradition. I love traditions, and am usually comfortable with the evolution of them, as long as the basic tradition continues.

  4. My sister and I recalled different endings to this story, so I contacted Dylan who I knew would remember. Here is his response:

    "To be honest I can't remember exactly what happened but if I remember correctly.....After spending a wonderful day with the Family, I left and was crushed by the absence of the much appreciated, seldom missed, but never forgotten, annual, communal wave of departure, crushed beyond any and all repair. Luckily after leaving dad's house I came back to grandma's a second time, where I retrieved what was rightfully mine,(seeing as I am the eldest of the grandchildren), leftovers which I had stowed away in the frigid garage for safekeeping. Afterward I departed on my trusty steed with the spoils of a long day fought. As well as the communal wave I so look forward to every year.

    That's my take on it. Love you Shrink."


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