Saying “good-bye” to relatives is awkward, especially if you like them. And the feeling after the good-bye is dull, almost numb, inside. When I was five years old, my mom, my three brothers, and I took a long trip to Rhode Island to see Mom’s relatives for an extended visit. It was a fun vacation when we met people with sharp accents just like Mom’s and got to do some cool stuff we couldn’t do back home. The visit was a long time ago but I remember making close friendships with these New England aunts (pronounced AWNTS), uncles and cousins.
On the morning when we were to return home, I needed some time alone to reflect. So, like any five-year-old too small for a big bike, I grabbed a tricycle and rode to a tranquil, scenic reflective spot. I could tell you that my five-year-old reflective spot looked down onto Fall River or Block Island Sound. . . . My reflective spot did look down. However, it looked down into an empty ravine filled with trash and, as rumor had it, rats the size of polar bears waiting to eat little kids alive. So there I sat. There I reflected.
My cousin Silly Sally (not her real name) must have been quietly reflecting right behind me. And, I gathered, she was going to miss me as much as I would miss her. I gathered this because the next thing I knew was a Silly Sally-sized foot gave my trike and I a swift push that sent us racing and plummeting to the child-eating rats below. I knew this was going to be the end of my life.
But, it wasn’t the end as I predicted. My brothers hurried to my rescue; Silly Sally apologized; and I got only a few scratches (probably from rat bites). What I do remember is this: Silly Sally’s parents comforted me with ice cream and 50 cents (which in the 1960s is like eight million dollars today). We then said our awkward good-byes and my family and I headed out. The eight million dollars in my pocket and the dull pain of loneliness kept me company during the 1,600 mile bus ride home.
As an adult, the feeling after the good-byes — both the good and bad ones — reminds me I was created for a companionship beyond this world. I’m pleased that heaven won’t include good-byes.
Calvin G. Roso © January 2014