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I stink at goodbye. I freely admit I have avoided the ceremony of parting as much as possible throughout my life. As I was driving away from dropping my youngest child at the airport curb this morning because he is headed back to college in the east, I wondered if my aversion to “saying goodbye” is a virtue or a vice.

It was labeled a vice once by the kids’ dad when he was trying to win custody of the children years ago. Like a prosecutor accusing a defendant of first degree murder, his attorney shouted in open court, “And Your Honor, do you know that she DOESN’T EVEN SAY GOODBYE?” (His attorney always made “she” sound like some really nasty, dirty word that no nice person should ever be called.)

This flaw was supposed to be some evidence of my bad character – I think. I’m not quite sure because the attorney never got any farther than that. She didn’t accuse me of neglecting my children, or of being a drunk or a drug addict, attributes that I’m pretty sure would have won him custody of the kids. No, the worst she could come up with was I don’t say goodbye, which (fortunately for me) did not turn out to be grounds for declaring me an unfit mother.

But at least once in my life, in a public place, someone labeled my aversion to goodbye as a vice. Is that right?

The word “goodbye” is a short for “God be with ye.” Now, I have no trouble with “God be with ye.” I could toss that off in a heartbeat. It sounds so much friendlier than “good bye.” And, as a good Episcopalian I have heard the priest intone a thousand times, “The Lord be with you” and responded, “And also with you.” I actually think I would rather use this ritual in parting because to me “goodbye” sounds so dead end – so final, so “Get out of my life and stay out” or “Yes! You are leaving and never coming back!” On the other hand, wishing blessings to someone and wishing blessings back seems to express so much more love and caring than just an abrupt “Goodbye!” (Which also makes me think of “Begone!”)

Of course that brings the religious problem into play. For those who don’t believe in traditional religion or even God, using the Anglican liturgy at parting would definitely not be an option. But what if we said, “Blessings to you” and the answer was “And also to you”? As a committee of one, I like that better.

Still, I think my aversion to saying “goodbye” is not really based entirely on the word we intone during the “ceremony of parting,” as one dictionary defined it. Where the people I love are concerned, the separation never feels real. In my mind and heart, we are still together even if we aren’t physically in the same place. “Having to Say Goodbye” feels so drastic to me. And even when I do say “goodbye” I inevitably add, “See you soon.”

As I drove away from the curb this morning, the post-holiday sadness began to settle on my shoulders because Thanksgiving 2012 was now officially a wrap. For a brief second I longed for the old way of airport parting, where we parked the car and headed inside and even sat at the gate with our traveler until the call for boarding. Of course we can’t do it that way anymore. So all airport partings are now a quick hug curbside like mine was this morning.

But then, as I swung my beloved red Mini Cooper into the “Exit to Downtown” lane, I realized that the brief hug at the curb is better for me because we aren’t really apart, no matter the miles in between. And, as with every parting from a loved one, I remind myself not to think about the separation, but to look forward to the next visit. Which, in this case, will be in just three short weeks!!!!!

Ok, I admit it. I stink at goodbyes. But I’m not sure that matters much.

Good Bye

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