Sharon Randall: Saying goodbye

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2016

Some things get easier with practice. But saying goodbye just keeps getting harder.

I’ve been saying goodbye all my life. I’m pretty good at it. And fast, too. Sometimes I’m out the door and gone before anybody knows I’m leaving.

But I’ve never liked doing it. Unless I couldn’t wait to leave. If you’re eager to leave, it’s not a goodbye; it’s a “good riddance.” A real goodbye is one you say to someone you love, or a place you want to stay, or to a time in your life when you are happy.

I’ve said my share of those kinds of goodbyes. I suspect you have, too.

As a child, after my parents divorced, I hated having to say goodbye to my daddy. He hated it as much as I did. So he came up with a plan to make it easier. Instead of saying “goodbye,” he said, we’d say, “See you soon.”

Grownups like to think they are clever. I didn’t want to disappoint him, so I went along with it. It didn’t make me miss him less. But it reminded me that we’d be together again. And that helped me feel less sad.

We said those words countless times when I was growing up: At the end of every visit. When I went off to college. When he walked me down the aisle at my wedding. When I saw him in the hospital after he had a stroke. And when he called me the last time, before he took his life.

The day he was buried, I stood by his grave and whispered, “See you soon, Daddy.”

It didn’t make me miss him less. But it reminded me that we would be together again. And I sorely needed to be reminded.

The hope of reunion is a small dose of comfort, but sometimes it’s enough to help you get by.

When my three children were babies, I tried my best to make goodbyes easier for them.

I’d swear to them that I’d be back soon and that nothing — no power in heaven or earth — could ever separate them from my love. Then I’d say, with a big goofy grin, “See you soon!”

It never worked. They’d cling to me like drowning cats, sinking their claws into my skin and howling hysterically.

Sometimes I miss those days. But the kids outgrew them and so, I guess, did I. By the time my oldest left home for college, we were taking goodbyes in stride. One long hug (when my boys hug you, you know you’ve been hugged) and a quick “I love you” and finally, “See you soon!”

I waved, dry-eyed and smiling, as he drove away. Then I sat on the curb and bawled like a calf.

That’s my version of a refined goodbye. What’s yours?

These days, it’s especially hard to say goodbye to my grandkids. They aren’t old enough to understand that goodbye doesn’t mean forever. Actually, I don’t quite understand it myself, but I’m trying. To make our goodbyes a little easier, I ask them three questions:

“How much do I love you?” I say, and they shout, “All!”

Then, “Where is your nana when you can’t see her?”

“In my heart!”

Finally, I ask, “And where are you forever and always?”

“In your heart!” they say.

They know grownups like to feel clever, so they go along with it. But this morning, Randy, who is 6, had another question.

I’d just spent three days with him and his family in their new home in Montana of all places. We’d had a grand time, but it was ending, as usual, with my heading back to Las Vegas.

“Nana?” he said, his green eyes and copper lashes fighting back tears. “How many days until I see you again?”

I held his face in my hands and told him the truth.

“I don’t know exactly how many days. But I promise it will be just as soon as possible.”

He studied me for a moment, then nodded and smiled. One last hug, one last “I love you,” and finally, “See you soon.”

If only soon were sooner.

Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 77394, Henderson NV 89077, or at her website: