The Anatomy of Goodbyes


Goodbye! How often do we say that? A simple salutation in reverse, we say it at the end of every phone conversation, after every meeting and/or get-together, party, church gathering. Every time we meet someone for whatever purpose or happenstance and then part, we say goodbye. Without even thinking.

So what is “goodbye?” It’s a farewell, of course. It’s a wish for good things to happen to those whom you’re saying it. A little on-line research explains that people have said goodbyes to each other for hundreds of years. The word “goodbye” is a contraction of God be with ye.

The word origin and history for goodbye goes back to the 1590s, from godbwye (1570s), itself a contraction of God be with ye (late 14c.), influenced by good day, good evening, etc. Bottom line, the term is a well-wisher for the most part. But have you ever used the term loudly, angrily, and forcefully as you slammed the telephone receiver (of yore) on marketers or someone you have no intention of wishing well? (My biggest objection to cell phones, among several, is that we can no longer slam down the receiver!)

Which brings me to the different types of goodbyes. We’ve already mentioned several occasions—primarily casual times—in which we use the term. But there are parameters for goodbyes:  the casual ones become emotional based on the distance, in time or miles, that will separate the well-wisher from the “wishee.” The longer the distance, the more difficult the goodbye.

And that goodbye is eased or exacerbated by the closeness, or lack thereof, of the person to whom you’re saying goodbye. In other words, if someone with whom you’ve worked for many years retires and moves to another state, that’s a sad goodbye. And you miss them, their daily conversation, their presence in that chair. But if your son and daughter-in-law close shop here and move to Florida, that goodbye leaves a vacuum, an emptiness in your circle of everyday life, a yearning for… for them.

That’s the place, the situation, the dilemma(?) I am in now. This isn’t a last-minute decision for them. They’ve been planning it, openly, for five years now. I have a standing invitation (and a room with a view!) to visit them at any time. But… it’s another goodbye. I didn’t realize how much it was affecting me until I mentioned on FB that I was in a wild cleaning frenzy:  had my guest room carpet and living room furniture cleaned, my Oriental carpet sent out for cleaning, my draperies cleaned, doing my windows and all the bed linens/blankets/comforters and kitchen cupboards myself. A friend discreetly emailed me that all that activity fit the “nesting instinct.”

OMG!! At my age?!

The absolute worst of all goodbyes, of course, is the final one. Lord knows, I’ve personally experienced far more of them than I ever wanted.

But, for today, for this final week when my kids will be in town, I am enjoying their proximity, the feeling that they’re just a half hour away, and later… they’re just a phone call away. I still have one son in town and I feel blessed with that. And I have my grands nearby.

Oh, and I have an almost totally clean house, although I still have some of my windows and hardwood floors to clean. Want to come over and help? We could work together, have a good time… and then say goodbye.

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