This last goodbye was different than most that I’ve went through with my family. I was only really home for a little over 3 weeks after being gone for 7 months. I’m also only going to be gone for 6 weeks this time which is a stretch that is still worth worrying about (my wife and I both agreed that anything over 3 weeks is pretty painful), but it’s much more manageable that what I’ve done in the past.
All of these factors combined to just give the goodbye a much different feel. It almost felt like I was just visiting instead of home for good (which I guess, in a sense, is true). It took me a good week or two just to settle into the family schedule, and then by the time I got everything figured out, it was time to go again. I was able to help out with a few home projects (to be honest, I mostly just got in my wife’s way), but we didn’t come close to getting all the things done that we had planned. We really only took one family trip, but since the kids were out of school, we got to spend all day together. There was really just a different vibe to it.
Normally, before a long farewell, I’ll start to get upset about 3 to 4 months before I leave. I don’t walk around in a complete funk or anything (that comes around the week point), but I’ll look at the kids and just a get a little misty-eyed. The frequency of these episodes increase the closer it gets, but it’s relatively easy to manage them and keep the kids from getting upset as well.
The challenge comes around the month point where there’s an internal conflict to get as much stuff done around the house to take the strain off the family while I’m gone and to spend as much time as possible with the wife and kids. I obviously don’t want my wife on a ladder trying to clean the gutters later on, but I really just want to sit down and watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with the kids or play catch in the park. It’s a delicate balance that has always left me feeling like I wasn’t fulfilling either role very well.
At the week point, I mostly just shut down. There’s really not a lot more to say about it. I try my best to be positive with the family, but I’m mostly just a mess.
The absolute worst part is that final goodbye at the airport or on the pier. Everyone is crying, and the kids are asking me not to leave. I know that it will be the last hug I’m able to give for awhile, so I try to make it last as long as possible while also trying to get through the moment. Once I’m on the plane or ship, things still aren’t fun, but at least I have a job to do to keep my mind occupied.
This time, however, it was more of a compressed timeline. I honestly never really got the misty-eyed moments, and we were trying to clear enough things off the honey-do list that I didn’t feel like I was leaving anything undone. I was also spending every moment with the kids, so I didn’t have many regrets there. I did start to shut down about 2 days before I left, but not as badly as normal. The one part that was just as painful, however, was the final goodbye. That one still hurt.