As a writer, I’m constantly observing and remembering small details. Sometimes I have to write a few words down so I won’t forget them. I tried carrying around a little notebook for this very reason, but it didn’t take. So I tried a miniature journal and even a recorder, but none of that worked for me. The Notes App on my phone, that’s what does it for me.
Last week my family traveled two hours north for a traditional family Thanksgiving. It wasn’t a day to be missed. There was a lot of cooking, and talking, many loud female voices, and laughter coming from every occupied room. But the highlight of my day came with great sadness.
You see my grandmother is quite old and fragile too. She lives in constant pain and has a hard time walking, especially after she’s been sitting for a while. After hours of visiting, it was time for her to go home. My sister and I surrounded her, supported her weight, and guided her out the door. As she walked down the two steps into the garage, she moaned because of the pain radiating up her back. There was nothing I could do to take her anguish away.
At the car, my sister let go of our grandmother, and I guided her into the front seat where I buckled her in. As I pulled back to say goodbye, I saw the tears in her eyes. I didn’t know if they were tears from the pain in her back or tears from the pain of facing her first holiday alone since her husband of sixty-six years died in a brutal tractor accident five months ago. They also could’ve been tears of happiness, we don’t see each other often and reconnecting is always such joy for both of us. I found myself tearing up when she took hold of my face with her paper-thin hands and looked me in the eye before she spoke one word. She said, “Goodbye.” I told her I loved her, kissed her on the cheek, and nuzzled her neck; much like a child does to her mother. She smelled of French perfume and lipstick. Then I pulled away. She took my hands in hers and squeezed them.
I don’t know if her last word was a forever farewell or a gesture of hope that we will see each other again. But that doesn’t matter. This detail, this one word of finality carried so much meaning. Even though our inevitable goodbye will be heart wrenching, I can already feel the joy she feels when she thinks about reuniting her husband. And for that reason, our sadness is our highlight.