Today I’m going to bypass the shitshow (immigrant round-ups, CPAC, Sweden, the unhinged press conference, “enemy of the American people,” RUSSIA, Flynn, the Florida [campaign] rally, Republican senators and representatives back in their home states but not meeting with constituents).
Let’s put a pin in all that for the moment. Today, I’m thinking about goodbyes. Not Trump’s goodbye, although it is my favorite daydream of the moment. Not saying goodbye to the 2016 dream of the first woman president. That one is still a bit raw, so, again, pin. I’m thinking about the goodbyes — said or unsaid — being said because of politics.
I found this NYT video, “When Your Loved Ones Voted the Other Way,” fascinating. I appreciate the respect with which these parents and adult children tackle these conversations. Their phone calls end with goodbye, but clearly and lovingly leave the door open for the next hello.
I’ve had a few memorable goodbyes in my life. I got divorced when I was 23. One of my best friends from high school did some hurtful and unexplained things when we were in our 20s. My son left for college in August of 2015. My mom died in August. My dog — for whom the question “Who’s a good boy?” was created — died on Monday (which is why this blog is five days late).
I was reminded of another goodbye when I had lunch with a friend (who happens to also be an ex-boyfriend) last weekend. It wasn’t an unusual scene. Thanks to email becoming a thing about the time we parted ways, we were able to stay in touch through the rawest part of our break-up, allowing the 90% of our relationship that was great — our friendship — to survive. I’ve been happily married for almost 21 years. I went to his wedding more than a decade ago. When we get together for lunch, as it seems we’re able to do annually or so, or shoot each other a quick and funny text, that friendship picks up right where it left off.
We usually talk about our kids, journalism, old shared friends, politics — lots of politics this weekend, of course.
Yet our goodbye is a permanent memory. I was in the passenger seat of a U-Haul, turning left out of the entrance to our condo complex. He was sitting in a chair in the screened-in porch of the place we’d called home for two years — petting his aggressive but adorable black cat with his right hand, a lingering full-arm goodbye with his left.
Important goodbyes stay with us, regardless whether we ever say hello again.
I’ve written here about how my mom’s passing away in August affected the usual election-year dance between my father and me. While I’ve read stories of families and friends who couldn’t bridge the Trump/Clinton chasm, I know that won’t happen in my case. We will have no wave from the porch moment.
But I’m starting to feel like we’re having an unspoken goodbye. In my best daughter moments, I know I should check on him more often. He lives 30 minutes away. Seeing him weekly shouldn’t be impossible. But I haven’t seen him since I took him to a doctor’s appointment a few weeks ago. When the news came on in the waiting room, we had a brief exchange about Trump’s travel ban, which ended with this:
Me: “So you don’t believe facts unless you agree with them?”
Not too long after, he referred to a “snowflake” on my Facebook page. He didn’t call me one, but he may as well have. At that moment, my husband asked why I don’t simply defriend or hide posts from my dad (I do the latter now and should’ve done it long ago, as a friend suggested). The answer is that I want him to read facts. But, back to my dad’s statement above, what’s the use in telling him facts if he doesn’t want to hear them?
I didn’t call him on Monday when Malcolm The Best Dog died. He found out on Facebook, along with 400+ other people, a few of whom I’ve never even met.
All of this makes me wonder what this recent election and current political climate is doing to relationships all over the country. I read a story on Pantsuit Nation today about a woman who returned from the Women’s March in DC prepared to share her stories … but then opened Facebook to a barrage of #NotMyMarch posts from friends and family members, mocking and shaming those of us who marched. This young woman was considering a mass Facebook unfriending. Another posted that an old friend had sparred with her on Facebook, then defriended her, now isn’t returning her calls.
This makes me ponder the grand goodbyes (I’ve read countless stories of those and near-misses from Thanksgiving) and the slow goodbyes. I wonder if we’re paying attention to the latter, because they can sneak up on you — as I feel it sneaking up on me with my dad. And I wonder if they’re really worth it.
Now I’m not talking about social media or even real life acquaintances. A Facebook acquaintance with whom I politically agree lost her shit with me a couple of weeks ago and I thought for about 10 seconds before unfriending her. Had never met her, had no reason to have her cause me stress. But we all have people we are truly connected to who are on the other side. And many of us are still grappling, almost four months later, with how to move forward with these relationships.
I know the argument: If these people can look Donald J. Trump in the eye and in the lie and support him, there has to be something wrong with their core. And maybe there is. But think about what we’ve overlooked in others (from our crazy aunts who made us feel special when we were kids to Bill Clinton).
I also wonder: Why does it seem to only be our side who frets about this? I might need to put a pin in that thought, too.
I’m trying this week to remember the pain of goodbyes. I don’t want to make them casually with the people I’m close to. And I don’t want to let them sneak up on me. Some goodbyes are inevitable and beyond our control. Most are not.
Now, back to the daydream of Trump’s resignation speech …