I related a story to my son the other day.
Don’t laugh –I do this sometimes. I speak, he sort of stands there. I pretend he’s listening. Like when I read him these blog posts. He may not appear actively engaged, but he doesn’t, on the other hand, flee. I consider this a good sign.
The story had one of those sledgehammer messages. (I’ve learned that subtlety is overrated when dealing with teens.) But behind the most obvious point I was trying to make was another with a more universal message, which he may have missed.
Because teens live more in the instant than in anything long-term, it’s hard for them—or many of us, for that matter—to think far-off. Because we don’t sometimes plan for the inevitability of the future, we often miss chances in the here-and-now that we later regret.
It’s a hard lesson, and one most of us have probably learned in the hardest of ways. Only in retrospect do we realize that we had a chance, but let it pass.
Most of the time we don’t know it’s the last time we’re saying goodbye to someone–until it’s too late.
Sometimes we have to scratch at our memories to even think to the when of a last encounter. Often, we can’t recall those last words we spoke as we were leaving.
And then there’s the leaving.
One kind of leaving is like the distant voyage away from a shore. The people, the buildings, the horizon simply become less. They slip from our sight, become specks in our memories. They’re like the healing of a wound, the fading of a scar.
Another leaving comes when the end is inevitable. There’s a chance, an opportunity -for those of us willing to take it. A way to say goodbye.
Maybe the worst is the kind that hits like my sledgehammer message. A lightning bolt out of a blue sky; a chirpy ringtone heralding a horrible message.
My story was one of those. A death. But one that had that magic goodbye and one last I love you.
We don’t always get those.
And it’s not always about death.
My son has been saying goodbyes to classmates and friends. I don’t think he thinks any of them will be a last time. He’s unlikely choosing his words with forever in mind.
As my seniors left after our last time together, they gave me thank-yous and gifts and goodbyes -and promises that they’d keep in touch –for sure.
I chose my words more carefully than they.
ll, be happy -have a good life.
Michael’s more apt to offer a quick see ya later. Because he assumes he will.
I’m less sure.
Maybe then I should treat those goodbyes with a little more respect. Because until it’s upon us, we really don’t know if it’s a goodbye-til-later or goodbye-forever.