My all in one photo
I am thinking about saying goodbye a lot lately. Surprise surprise. And inevitably I think about my boys, and the many goodbyes I had to say up and until today: The first time I had to go back to work (albeit half day) after the birth of my firstborn. Excruciating. And then after Kevin’s birth. Totally devastating as I was still breastfeeding him. I was so blessed to be a stay at home mom to JD, so my first goodbye with him would only happen when he was 3 years old – a half day play group – but that was traumatic enough.
And then it’s that first goodbye on the first day of Grade 1. I shamelessly and openly cried with Nathin’s first day of school. I sobbed. I went into the ugly cry – I was one of the youngest moms there and I remember distinctly how embarrassed I was because all the other moms looked so calm and collected. Kevin’s first day of Grade 1 was much easier – he was such a happy baby and it looked like he won the lotto when I left his class. And then it was JD’s first day of school. I was the oldest mom there and felt distinctly out of place. I cried so much I couldn’t go to a very important appointment I had. Luckily they understood, but I went home, got into bed and slept and cried the whole day. It has never been easy going back to that school since…
Nathin’s first day of high school was another difficult one for me. The Grade 8’s nervousness were tangible and I could see my child was a nervous wreck. And although the school really tried hard to make it look wonderful to us parents, I left with a huge lump in my throat. I felt so despondent when I left that day – saying goodbye to him was really, really hard.
Kevin’s first day of high school was in stark contrast to my feelings of hopelessness with Nathin’s first day. You see, he started his high school at Affies – the proud Afrikaans boys only school in Pretoria – and not only that, he went to boarding school. When Kevin told me about his choice to go to boarding school I was utterly devastated. Nathin usually kept to himself after school, and JD was exhausted after ‘school’ so Kevin was my little chatterbox, telling me about his day, complaining about teachers saying he talked too much in class (how dare they!) and begging me to take him to the school field to kick ball. I really never had a dull moment with him around. So when he (very adamantly) told me that a) he was going to Affies and b) he was going to boarding school it felt like the end of the world to me. Little did I know…
Leaving Kevin at that bloody boarding school was absolutely heartbreaking. Again, I cried so much my ex-husband insisted that I go lie down. I stayed down for two days. Also, we were not allowed to see our poor babies for TWO WEEKS – the longest two weeks of my life. But my child was blissfully happy, and that helped a bit. Nathin started his Grade 10 year at Hoërskool Menlopark, and although he was all grown up, I had to furiously wipe away tears before he saw them because he would most certainly NOT be impressed with me.
Kevin learned and laughed and blossomed in Affies and boarding school seemed to be one long feast. It’s only years later that I was made to understand exactly what hell they were going through that first year! It’s a good thing I only found out so much later because everybody who knows me knows that I would have broken down that school. But Kevin was blissfully happy and I was happy because he was.
And then Luan died. And it’s like a little piece of Kevin and his friends’ childhoods died with him. I have no words to describe the utter devastation Luan’s death caused, so I am not even going to try, suffice to say that up to this day I still cry every single time I think about that day. And I know saying goodbye to Luan was one of the hardest things Kevin ever had to do in his life. I think it changed all of us profoundly.
Luckily I had 5 years before Kevin’s next goodbye, but Nathin’s came just after he finished Matric. My firstborn went to study in Stellenbosch. Gasp! I couldn’t believe it when the day come that he had to get on that plane to Cape Town. (I have come to hate airports with a vengeance these past few years!) I cried and cried and cried – not even trying to hide it from him. And although I could see he was intensely uncomfortable with his crying mom, he tried to console me with a hug and a quick “I have to go now mom, I love you.” And then he was gone. It was very, very difficult and that night I cried myself to sleep.
I know it seems like I cry a lot over my boys, for whatever reason, and I suppose with 3 boys it’s inevitable. But please let me just clarify that I honestly laugh more than I cry with them – even if it doesn’t seem that way!
Kevin’s Matric Farewell and his last days at Affies with their church service were filled with tears and lots of laughter too. Although I have to admit, it was also with a sense of relief that I left the Affies school grounds that last day – for many reasons. Let’s just say I had a ‘joint’ problem – the Affies will understand. In a way I was really glad his Matric year was over. He was a prefect (for a while at least) and ‘cheerleader’ – I’m not sure what they are called in English but he was a ‘dirigent’ and a very happy one at that. But it was also an exhausting year for both of us – and not just because I had to start a completely new life as a divorcee!
Kevin leaving for Stellies the next year was another story. I was devastated – realising that both my ‘big boys’ are now gone from the nest, and I distinctly remember the last day we spent together as a family of 5 on 31 December 2013. (We would never be reunited again, as I divorced Jaedin’s dad a few months into 2014 – another sad story for another day faaaaar into the future.) I looked at Nathin (19), Kevin (17) and JD (4) and I realized that my life would never, ever be the same again. Greeting Kev that last day before he left for Stellenbosch left me physically ill, that’s how bad it was. A few months later I made a choice regarding my youngest that lead to another excruciating goodbye and it seemed like I would never smile again and would forever be saying goodbye to everyone I love. Almost a self-fulfilling prophecy I now realize.
Nathin’s last day of university arrived soon enough, and he decided to stay on in Cape Town where he was employed by a wonderful company as an IT Engineer (after a short stint in Pretoria) and where he is till very happily employed. My firstborn starting his first day as a ‘grown up’ going to work was a ‘goodbye’ to his childhood and student years and difficult in its own way. But I am so thrilled that he is thriving in his new role!
Kevin continued to study at Stellies, and I know that he will agree with me, his 3 years at Stellenbosch flew by. His days were filled with friends, and soccer, and jokes, and drinks (and later a beautiful girl) and I really hoped and prayed that his student days would be all he dreamed it would be. And it seemed that it was. It certainly cost me and his dad a pretty penny! But it was worth every cent!
His last year of university was made even more special by a wonderful girl called Georgia. I was so thrilled for him and so utterly relieved that I actually liked her! I mean, really, really like her – not the pretend-like that ‘mother-in-laws’ are sometimes forced to do. She is friendly and witty and funny and gorgeous and I think what I love most about her is that she makes my son smile – even more than he used to! Without me or Georgia realising it, the year was over before it properly begun, and it was only late in December that we heard the final and fatal news that Kev had to leave for New Zealand. I don’t need to remind you how devastating that was (is!!) for me and Georgia. And then having to say goodbye to her as she left for Cape Town was ridiculously difficult!
I hate saying goodbye. I hate saying goodbye to my children even more. I hate the feeling of helplessness and loss that saying goodbye evokes and I hate that sometimes we have absolutely NO control over a goodbye that we are forced to say. We can try and sugarcoat the word with ‘farewell’ and ‘until we meet again’ or whatever else you want to lie about to yourself, the bottom line is that it’s goodbye and there is NO ‘good’ in goodbye! None whatsobloodyever.
But I also realize that life is one long perpetual goodbye – from saying goodbye to our pets and childhood and grandparents and aunts and uncles (and sometimes cousins like I had to) to greeting family who emigrate to the United States to friends who emigrate to the US and Australia and England and God knows where else. It’s saying goodbye to old friends and new ones, old loves and new ones and old lives and new ones. Goodbye. Oh how I hate that word and all it represents tonight.
And as the rain is pounding down in Pretoria my heart yearns for all three my boys (and my gorgeous girl Georgia) tonight. But it is the warm thought that all 4 of them are happy and healthy and doing SO well that comforts me tonight. Even if it’s just for a little while…
All the things that we’ve lost Breaking off comes at a cost And know I miss this mistake Every word I try to choose Either way I’m gonna lose Can’t take the ache from heartbreakOh, but as you walk away You don’t hear me sayWhere’s the “good” in “goodbye”? Where’s the “nice” in “nice try”? Where’s the “us” in “trust gone”? Where’s the “soul” in “soldier on”? Now I’m the “lone” in “lonely” ‘Cause I don’t own you only I can take this mistake But I can’t take the ache from heartbreak No, I can’t take the ache from heartbreak No matter how it falls apart There’s an “art” in breaking hearts But there’s no fair in farewell, no When I see you in the street I pray to God you don’t see The silent “hell” in “I wish you well.”Oh, but as you walk away You don’t hear me say Where’s the “good” in “goodbye”? Where’s the “nice” in “nice try”? Where’s the “us” in “trust gone”? Where’s the “soul” in “soldier on”? Now I’m the “lone” in “lonely” ‘Cause I don’t own you only I can take this mistake But I can’t take the ache from heartbreak Songwriters: Daniel O’donoghue / Mark Anthony Sheehan / James Barry No Good in Goodbye lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Peermusic Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group, Spirit /Global Talent Music
There’s no “fair” in farewell…
My heartbeat x 3