“Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.”
“Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.”
-J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
Growing up, my folks had a framed image of that Martin Luther quote and they lived by it. It was always hugs and kisses and tears when my father would leave home and on his return, you’d see the joy in his eyes as he’d lay focus on the most important person in the family to him: my mother. What a wonderful example of how to live in harmony. Why did I choose to allow that illustration to skip a generation? From my current perspective, I don't believe my beloved ever wanted that kind of a relationship with me once the commitment was made. You know those stupid impulse purchases you make, or a decision to stop at a drive-thru for lunch? I think that’s what I was to her. Because I knew this deep down, I never worked on changing her mind. I thought I could fuss love out of her…what a fool, what a dope, what a sucker.
There was an occasion before I had moved out of the house, but just after she had demanded that we actually proceed with the separation (something I thought would blow over and not actually happen), when she was leaving town for several days. Her plane ticket was cheaper if she left from an out-of-town airport three and a half hours away. I, of course, agreed to drive her. On the drive down, her attitude was full of hope and joy about her present and future. She was quite chatty and I was not responding to the chattiness. To fill the void, she started playing music. I let my childish refusal to discern what would be appropriate and potentially helpful to take charge of the moment and angrily turned the radio off saying something like, “How can you just sit there and be so happy when we are headed into a separation?!” The remaining two hours of the trip were spent in complete silence. God…what was wrong with me?
I wanted to speak to her. I wanted to find a way. Although she would have preferred to not be the recipient of my ridiculous silence, I am certain that she would not have wanted the conversation I chose since it would have been a conversation full of begging and demand for reason. I doubt any discussion we would have had concerning “us” would have swayed her. But, I’ll never have any way of knowing. My demeanor was one way while my insides ached for her to understand how I truly felt. I knew she didn’t love me for a long time but I didn’t try to fix it, I just reacted by not being accessible, projecting depression, and demonstrating a short temper.
Arriving at the airport, I pulled her bags out of the trunk and we did not say a “goodbye” or “farewell” or “so long”. Definitely no “I love you”. There was no wife sorry to see her husband part. There was no husband making any effort to elicit longing. There might have been a gruff “bye” and that would play it’s part in the coming “going away” and the great effort made on her part to forget me.
One of my favorite reads that I revisit over and over again despite some of its unsavory content is Jack Kerouac’s "On the Road". One passage reads: “What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? - it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-bye.” I felt the weight of a silent “goodbye” that day. I knew everything would change the moment she walked away from me to check her baggage in. (There is more to it than just a feeling but I want to avoid dragging other anonymous individuals into the story regardless of their negative role or the blood I see on their hands.)
I returned several days later to pick her up. Everything was different. For her, the forgetting was initiated. For me, a journey of regret and heartache - always wondering what could have been “if”.
Today’s offering (assuming you made it through this ridiculously long post) is, yet again, a cover. Several years ago, Mark Kozelek curated "Take Me Home: A Tribute To John Denver". I highly recommend you purchase this. There isn’t a bad cover on it in my opinion. Tarnation performs “Leaving On A Jet Plane”. This song feels like whatever has happened is over but there is still so much love and longing - so much desire to not forget the other - so much intent to be sorry to leave. There is a desolate implication that it’s gonna work out. A wedding ring is promised, but who knows…There was a short period, after my beloved's divorce, that lasted from January to June where I thought that things might work out. They didn’t. It went from bad to worse. Her plane trip was quite the metaphor and she never really came back again.
The previously quoted Kerouac passage ends with: “But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” I pray to God that you and I - the brokenhearted - can do just that.