by Lillian Csernica on March 5, 2015
I’m talking about real life. For me, endings, stoppages, goodbyes, farewells, and leavetakings are all matters for sorrow.
I am really bad at saying goodbye.
Why is that? Is it because I can’t stand the sense of loss that comes with the departure of a person or animal? I’m not talking death, I’m just talking no longer a part of my personal life. That is certainly one form of grief. When you’ve had to cope with several losses and departures in a short time frame, you start getting very sensitive about just the prospect of one more. Back when I left 5th grade, we moved that summer and I ended up in an entirely new junior high, away from all the classmates with whom I’d just spent what amounted to the first five years of my life. My neighbors were gone, their pets were gone, all the landmarks and those little details that had become important just to me because I lived for such a long time in that same neighborhood.
Am I afraid of people leaving because of the more traumatic losses I’ve dealt with? My parents divorced when I was eleven years old. I hadn’t seen much of my father on a daily basis because he worked the graveyard shift and slept by day. Once my parents divorced, my father had to go into rehab for his alcoholism, which meant I didn’t see him at all for months. Then the whole visitation mess finally got settled, and I started spending every other weekend with Daddy. This kind of inconsistency can really mess with your head when you’re only eleven.
I’ve lost a best friend to a misunderstanding that should never have happened. I’ve lost boyfriends to distance and rivals and boredom. I’ve lost pets to time and illness and predators. I lost an entire stage of my life once I got married. Sure, I gained a new stage, but the transition was more than a little nerve-wracking.
Even temporary goodbyes upset me. When I say goodbye to Michael and John before I leave for a convention, there’s always that faint anxiety in the back of my mind about whether or not I will in fact return to them. Ours is a world of growing uncertainties. Accidents happen. Deliberate mayhem happens. And sometimes life just goes sideways. I once promised John that I would always come back. So far, so good. I have always come back from every day trip, every weekend away, and even from as far away as Japan. I have to be careful around John. If he sees me wearing shoes on the weekend or wearing one of my outdoor cardigans inside the house, he will ask me where I’m going. He gets nervous, because for him the future is an abstract concept. It isn’t real to him. Before my last trip to RadCon, I showed John the dates on the calendar, when I’d be leaving and when I’d be coming home. That made it real for him. I also called home twice and talked to him. I know what this anxiety is like, so I do what I can to help John.
I’m one of those people who gets bummed out when the movie is over and I have to leave the theater. I love movies. Sometimes it’s hard to make the transition back to reality, to the daylight world. Florence King writes about this in her memoir Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady. She calls it “the other.” She understands what it’s like to develop relationships with people who exist only in the imagination, some of them in the movies, some of them in books. It’s hard to see the credits roll or to reach those endpapers and close the book. I believe that’s one reason people are so committed to writing and reading novel series these days. You get so invested in the lives of these fictional people that you don’t want the story to end. That’s one of the factors that gave rise to fan fiction.
It’s March, and I’m never at my best during March. March 15th is the anniversary of my father’s death. Mary 17th is St. Patrick’s Day, which has a number of peculiar associations for me. This month in the U.S. we experience the torment that is Daylight Saving Time. “Spring ahead, Fall back.” We lose an hour this month. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have an hour to spare.