Never Can Say Goodbye
I arrived home one afternoon after kindergarten with a bright scarlet face—so drenched with tears that my mom could’ve rung it out and filled the kitchen sink. It took her quite a while to calm me enough so that I could talk.
“Oh, Mommy! I had to say goodbye to Paul today!” I said, wiping my face with my dress sleeve.
“Paul? Who’s Paul? I’ve never heard you talk about him. Is he a good friend of yours?” she asked.
“No. But, Mommy—I’m never going to see him. Ever again. In my WHOLE life!” I explained, gasping through my sobs.
Yep. We lived on an Air Force Base—having already moved twice since I was born at Brookley Field in Alabama. And Paul was just the first of many folks I’d be saying goodbye to over the years. Growing up on a military base, about one third of my classmates would move each year—nearly a 100% turn-over every three years. My girlfriends and I used to joke that you never really had to break up with a guy, because he would move before you tired of him. It was true! In 8th grade, my boyfriend, Danny, moved the morning after our graduation dance. He even missed the big Grad Party at Sherry O’Malley’s house the next night. That summer, I had a crush on a boy named Corky. But I didn’t have to put up with that unfortunate name for long—his dad transferred long before school started. And in 10th grade, my boyfriend Rusty (yeah—I didn’t really pick ‘em for their great names, did I?) moved unexpectedly while I was on summer vacation! (Now, I don’t think even Paul Simon thought of that sneaky of a way to “leave your lover”….) With this kind of early childhood training, you’d think I‘d get used to saying goodbye—get really good at it. But, alas, no. It’s a skill I never developed.
Fast forward a couple of hundred years to this week…
I lead a bunch of book clubs. More than I this ADD gal can really handle. Handsome Husband says that I do this to procrastinate—instead of finishing my book. I prefer to just think I enjoy it.
One of my reading groups, Celebrating Books!, meets in the community center of an upscale lake community nearby. It’s full of fun, feisty, and (unfortunately) frequently-traveling women. When I first started the book club a couple of years ago, about twenty-five women signed up. And although I believe 7-12 is the ideal size for a book club, I just couldn’t turn any of them away, so I ran two back-to-back sessions to accommodate them all. But, after the first few sessions, I realized that these retired women travel a LOT, and so their attendance is not what you’d normally expect. I felt I could safely combine the two groups after all since such a large percentage were absent each month. Over time, our group settled in and our latest registration boasted over fifteen stable members. However, the past couple of months, the actual attendance had dropped to only 5-6 participants. This is a book club where I am a paid facilitator—but I provide more than that. I decorate the room in the theme of the book—with music, food, party-favors, an icebreaker game, a ‘fabulous prize” for the winner, and present an “if you liked this book, you might like these” list at the end of each meeting. It’s a real “book party”, thus the name, “Celebrating Books!” Someone asked me once how many hours I spend preparing for each month’s session, and I was too embarrassed to tell her. Suffice it say: A LOT. So, even with over fifteen paid members, I could no longer afford to spend that kind of time and energy for only a handful of folks to enjoy. So at Monday’s meeting, I brought my sister. She was there not only to help me with the room set-up (which as you can imagine is quite considerable)—and to play the Ring-master to my Celia as we celebrated The Night Circus—but also as moral support for my grand announcement—and to keep me from devolving into one hot mess. (I cry at McDonald commercials.) I told the group we would not be continuing for the new spring series. They were disappointed. They were kind. They understood. They didn’t know how hard a decision this was for me. They didn’t know how much they all mean to me. They did not know my issues with saying “Goodbye.”
And so for all of my lovely, loving and literary “ladies of the lake”, I won’t say “Goodbye”—I’d just like to remember the great times we had together. So, I’m dedicating this song to them: I’ve Had The Time of My Life. I hope this song makes them all get up and dance!
Good luck. God Bless. And Cheers!