THE “GOODBYE GIRL” (WITH APOLOGY TO NEIL SIMON)

My ex wife, Sydney, hated goodbyes. She would avoid them like the plague. She would find any reason or excuse NOT to go to the airport to drop someone off – even if that meant I had to drive myself.  I don’t think it was the trip to the airport she detested, it was parting, even temporarily, with someone she loves.

Kids, friends or husband – it didn’t matter. She hated goodbyes, not that she wasn’t sometimes forced into them by circumstance.

Sydney is very sensitive. She feels everything.  She never really revealed to me exactly what it was about not saying goodbye that was so important to her but by observing her actions, you could tell. You will get your goodbye, (if you got one at all) at home, not at the airport.

I, on the other hand NEED to say goodbye. I have to have that coda even if it doesn’t mark the end of the relationship or a life because you never know. I’ve got more proof of that than anyone needs.

To me, a proper farewell is always acceptable. I might agree that it may be excessive when leaving for work on the Friday of a Labor Day weekend and hugging co-workers close in case something horrible happened over the long weekend…but I have been known to embrace them on the Wednesday before the even longer Thanksgiving weekend!

I am a hugger. I make no apologies for that.  I understand that not everyone is and if that’s you, I will respect your boundary. But if we are dear friends or related you aren’t getting out of it.

I think the genesis of this is that I was raised in a touchy-feely family. We hugged everyone, especially each other. My dad would unabashedly kiss his sons. Another reason is my separation anxiety.

This first appeared just before I got married when my now ex-wife, Sydney, would threaten to leave me at the drop of a hat.

Argument over dinner? Syd was throwing clothes in a suitcase. I would be reduced to tears and beg her to stay promising to change into whatever kind of pussy whipped version of a husband she wanted. I doubt I ever became that version but I tried. Over the years she would continue to use that threat to get what she wanted but because just threatening wasn’t doing the trick, she would need to tear out of the driveway in a huff and be gone for however long she saw fit. Hours or overnight. No goodbye, just a slammed door and a spray of gravel and spinning tires. I would be left at home (especially the first several times she did this) in tears wondering if I’d ever see her again and what if something happened to her? I never had a chance to hold her and tell her how much I loved her. The thought gnawed at my gut.

When my father died, I was 500 miles away. I was not there to hold his hand and kiss his forehead and say goodbye. Assuring him of how much he was loved and treasured. I’m sure he knew, as we had a great relationship and I had seen him shortly before his death and each time I would leave I would prepare as though it might be the last time we saw each other on this Earth. Still, I’m always up for a nice warm goodbye and with dad, I didn’t get one.

My mom passed when I was 34. She was in California and I was in Jamaica doing a live broadcast of my morning show. My brother called the resort and gave me the news over the phone. I was devastated. We also had a great relationship and I hugged her and held her close the last time we spoke, but I didn’t know that would be the last time. (If I did, I don’t think I would have left.)

So, with the 2 most important people in my life checking out with no final goodbye (or at least not one where I was aware of it) only heightened my separation anxiety and reinforced my somewhat morbid belief that you never really know if it’s ”goodbye” so best to not take any chances.

So, it is with that background that I share what has passed for “goodbye” between me and the woman I was married to for 33 years.

Yes, we are divorced now. It has been final for just over 7 months as of this writing. When last we saw each other, before the divorce we had not slept in the same room for maybe 2 years but we were speaking.

Sydney was having a very difficult time when she left for California. Her entire world had been turned upside down. I had come out to her as a transgender woman the previous summer and watched her struggle with the forces inside of her try and make sense of that.

So, transgender me was leaving town for Christmas and initially, Syd was going to stay at the house in Texas and watch the animals. I suggested she spend Christmas in California with friends instead of alone and bought her a round trip ticket leaving on Dec 20th and returning the day before her birthday, January 2nd.

So when I drove her to Dallas/Ft. Worth airport to drop her off, it wasn’t “goodbye” but instead was a really awkward departure. She was emotionally devastated that her “man” was now a woman and about to start taking hormones and transitioning physically. So our goodbye was not the gentle warm long hug and kiss it might normally be. It was awkward, short and more obligatory. Someone (Sydney) who hates goodbyes anyway and me who just wanted a break from the drama. Bye, see you in 2 weeks.

Except she didn’t come back. THAT WAS goodbye.

Shit! Not how I pictured it.

In my mind (which really IS fantasy-land) if this was “goodbye as husband and wife” I would have wanted to do things a little differently.

I would have parked the car and helped carry her things into the airport and waited with her while she checked her bags, holding her hand the entire time. (Holding her hand has always been calming for me and a way to convey subtle messages without a word) I would have wanted to buy her ice cream one last time. Sydney was never big on cut flowers but we have gone out for ice cream more times than anyone can count. Then at the last possible minute I would have wanted to escort her to security, hold her tight one last time…putting my face in her hair, staring into her pretty brown eyes and inhaling her scent to remember for all eternity. Then kissing her lips one last time and then with tears streaming down my face (as they are right now) I would let her go after one last precious hug and then watch until she walked out of sight headed for her departure gate – memorizing everything about her – before walking slowly back to my car with tearstained cheeks to begin my new life – alone.

It’s not that I would never see her again, I would. But that was the last time I saw her as my wife. That kills me.

I had 2 other shots to get it right, but the odds were stacked against us because we were divorced and both of us really had our guards up. Both of us had been so badly hurt, neither of us trusted the other.

The most recent chance to have a civil if not loving parting of the ways came in July. The odds were really against this one – because I’d flown in to dispute the case she filed against me in California. She forgot about the court date and showed up only after I called her. The double shock of seeing me, (She was unprepared to see her ex-husband in a knee length Liz Claiborne skirt and matching jacket, fuchsia blouse and low heels and in full make-up) and having her case summarily dismissed with no testimony was too much for her. She had an epic meltdown.

After driving her home, I found a blanket and I covered her up. I removed her shoes and lay beside her stroking her hair and rubbing her back. Soon, she fell asleep. Emotionally exhausted I’m sure.  I kissed her on the forehead and whispered goodbye and told her that I loved her (I do love her. I always will love her.) I slipped out and back to my hotel. 

The last time I saw her, she was sleeping. (Peacefully?) I covered her up. Held her in my arms as she dozed off and stroked her hair and kissed her in her favorite spot – right on the corner of her eye. I told her I loved her. She looked like the angel I married and that’s how I will remember her.

 Image

Goodbye sweetheart, I know we were both hoping for something better.

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