By Anne Gagliano
I hate saying goodbye—I always have. When I was a little girl, I would cry and throw myself into my grandparents’ arms at the airport before boarding the plane to fly back home. I’d do the same each year when I had to say goodbye to my beloved aunt and uncle and cousins at Thanksgiving. I simply hate it—the separation from those I love. I even tear up every time my husband Mike leaves to go teach somewhere for a few days. I hate goodbyes, even if it’s only for awhile. But none of them even begin to compare to the goodbye of late, for just last week I had to leave my youngest boy alone, clear across the country, and probably for the rest of his life.
As the days slipped away and the time grew near, my heart began to ache more and more. Rick had moved back home after finishing his undergraduate degree to spend this year saving money as he made his applications. We loved having our boy here! Not only was he a comfort after having our oldest son get married last summer (another tough goodbye), but he was lots of help, too! We have very extensive grounds that need lots of upkeep; Rick did it all. The boys have both always done the majority of our yard work, but with him home full-time again, he was able to do even more and complete some pretty big projects for us.
I begin to help him pack. He’s upbeat and excited—I’m quiet and withdrawn as I dare not speak over the lump in my throat. He’s rummaging through his things, trying to decide what to take; I’m watching his blonde head and studying every line of it, burning his image into my memory, for this will soon no longer be his home.
We fly to DC, the goodbye drawing closer, the goodbye I hate to face. We spend the week setting him up in his new place. It’s perfect. It’s nice, safe, furnished, and close to campus. I hang a picture of “chlocolate” on his wall. The law school is gorgeous, impressive, amazing; we are bursting with pride.
The heat is a bit much for us thick-blooded Seattleites. It was 65 degrees at home—here it’s 90 and humid. Rick has to face being sweaty for the first time and is concerned about showing up to class that way. But it’s all still amazing, heat and all. We enjoy the crickets’ song and the warm summer nights—neither of which we have back home. The energy is palpable—both Rick’s and the area’s—for he is a young, handsome man with a bright future in a living, vibrant city, our nation’s capital. I drink it all in, hoping the excitement will drown out the mounting pain of the impending goodbye, but it doesn’t.
I cannot speak—the tears flow. All I can do is cling to him and try not to embarrass him too much by blubbering.
“Goodbye, Sweetheart,” I manage to croak out at last. It is, indeed, the hardest goodbye of all.
Anne Gagliano has been married to Captain Mike Gagliano of the Seattle (WA) Fire Department for 26 years. She and her husband lecture together on building and maintaining a strong marriage.