The wrong way to say Goodbye


From the moment we met, we started saying goodbye. It started with small trips to Melbourne and Perth, we had long phone calls, lots of giggling, “what are you wearing?”

I’d drive him to the airport and find a message on my answering machine by the time I arrived home. We quickly became engaged. A few weeks later he had to go to Canada,  he wrote me a 10 page letter while he waited in the departure lounge, we spent a small fortune on long distance calls. Flowers with poetic notes arrived regularly at the office while he was gone.

After marrying we moved cities, he had to fly to Singapore, I drove him to the airport and realized I wasn’t exactly sure how to get home. As the car idled on the side of the road, I sat with the map in my lap sobbing while Macy Gray helped me along with my own pity party “my world crumbles when you are not here”.

Who was that girl?

If I had a time machine I’d go back and find her,  knock on the car window and tell her to go home, have a nice long uninterrupted bath, drink her coffee slowly, read a book and take lots of photos of her yet to breast feed boobs.

The travel continued, I got better at saying goodbye, he always rang as the plane was about to take off, again when he landed. We both ‘drunk dialed’ if we’d had a night out.  It wasn’t until after we had children that I discovered what my girlfriend describes as the “bitch switch”.

He wasn’t going to be there for the first mothers day. On the day of his flight I sulked like a moody fourteen year old for most of the day. I told him what everyone else was going to be doing, the presents, the brunches, “I guess they’ll be no breakfast in bed for me” I sighed out loud melodramatically. I gave him a Grandma kiss as he left and a patronizing pat on that back, I sighed out loud again. It was an Oscar worthy performance.

I’m incredibly embarrassed to admit that I have many of these performances in my repertoire. There’s the monosyllabic goodbye as the taxi arrives to pick him up, the casual mention of everything you will be doing on your own while he is gone. “Are there any questions you’d like me to ask at parent/teacher night?”

The phone will invariably ring when you’re in the middle of the dinner from hell, you’ll be picking spaghetti off the wall and catching a two year old’s vomit in your hands as he tells you he’s had a fantastic dinner with the sales team, you can hear the excitement in his voice. You’re sincerely happy for him but all you can manage is a strained “you’re making it very hard for me to like you right now” before you abruptly hang up.

Three hours later when the children are bathed and drifting off to sleep, you’ve cleaned up the mess, set up breakfast for tomorrow and as you fold the washing, the guilt of your words starts to set in. You ring him at the hotel, with the time difference its two in the morning for him. When he answers the phone he sounds tired, but he’s immediately worried something is wrong “Is everything okay?” he says. And you realize that yes, everything is just fine.

As you run through the days events. How the two year old’s head somehow got caught in the fence, the missing shoe that was only bought three days ago, and the ding you put in the car when making a hasty exit from the mind numbingly boring dance class. You both start to giggle at the ridiculousness of it all. What was originally about to send you in to a fetal position in the corner now has you both laughing together. There’s a pause in the conversation, “So what are you wearing?” he says.

For nostalgia’s sake, here’s a bit of Macy.

So what about you? Do you have a bitch switch? Or do you crave having time apart?

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