Sunday, January 25, 2009

three little words

It was a cool morning. There was dew on the grass, and I could hear the ponies braying in the pasture. My pink shorts and new Colorado t-shirt weren't enough to keep me warm, so little goose bumps dotted my skin. My Uncle Fred and Aunt Nancy were giving us a round of hugs, and then my sister pulled out her camera and asked if we could take a few pictures. We huddled up with Tiffy their dog and took pictures with the mountains in the background. Then we climbed into the already full red Granada and put our seat belts on. I called front, so I was squished between my parents in the middle of the front seat. My sister and brother were snuggled in the back with three pillows, blankets, backpacks and a cooler. As we pulled away, I looked up and saw tears in my mother's eyes. "Why are you crying, Mom?" I asked. "We're saying goodbye," she answered.

It was a hot August afternoon. There were boxes in the living room filled with everything my sister was taking with her. Dad pulled the pickup up to the house so it was easy to load. In the hot sun, we carried pieces of my sister's life. Once the pickup was well loaded we worked on my sister's little gray car. My mother and sister left. A little while later, my father, brother and I left. We arrived at my sister's dorm room to find her quite settled. Her side of the room was the right side when you were standing at the door. She had a desk, a bed, and a closet all in a row. After we unloaded the pickup, we stood for a moment as we all hugged my big sister. Anguish was heavy on my heart, and I thought, "we're saying goodbye."

It was a cold rainy November day. My mother called me at college to let me know that my grandmother wasn't doing well. I hurried to the nursing home that I was so familiar with. I climbed the yellow stairs and the smell of clean floors and a sort of mothball scent seeped into my nose. I turned left at the top of the stairs and then left around the corner. I walked into the first room on the left where my grandmother was resting. It was dark. Her breathing was nearly as heavy as the weight on my heart. I walked to her bed and took her cold and wrinkled hand. Tears streaked my face as I whispered, "We're saying goodbye."

It was a sunny summer day. The one-way street held the van that was loaded with Nathan and Brianna's belongings. Children were running in the street and several relatives watched us from across the road. The back of the van sank down low to the ground, and we talked about the long ride it would be from Massachusetts to Iowa. After looking at each other for a while awkwardly trying to think of something to say, we prayed. Nathan and Brianna and their families headed toward their cars. And, we hugged the kind of hug that you don't easily forget. She promised to call along the journey, and I promised to visit. They drove away. I climbed in my car and those words rang in my head, "We're saying goodbye."

It was frigid in my little apartment. I hung up the phone and glanced over my shoulder as if something would be there to commemorate the past year. The blank wall stared at me. The memories of friends made and meals shared, music created and lessons learned, meetings held and tears shed flashed through my head. In my mind I knew that what once was, was no longer. And into my mind came those three little words, "We're saying goodbye."

And, we did.

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