1.4. Wish me well but don’t say good-bye.

Merritt Malloy is my favorite poet.  Except for my friend, Sally, who first told me of her, no one has ever mentioned her name.  Malloy has written a couple of slim volumes of verses about people she loves.  My favorite book is The People Who Didn’t Say Good-bye. And the lead poem is “The People Who Cannot Say Good-bye” and it touches me every time I read it.

I won’t say good-bye to any of my Bay Area friends.  I am not leaving anyone—just outward bound for a while.  My friends and my family know that being close and connected has nothing to do with distance.  They say fare thee well but not goodbye.

*                           *                           *

I had dinner the other night with my friend, Gene, with whom I have crossed a half-dozen decades.  We didn’t see each other at all from the day we graduated high school until the 25th class reunion, then but once before the next reunion.  At the 35-year mark I moved to his part of the country and we visited several times a year.  The friendship never faltered even as our lives changed, converged, diverged, converged, and diverged.  We tried for annual dinners and monthly phone calls.  The effort counted whether of not we succeeded.

When I decided to take a year on the road, we talked weekly and scheduled dinners regularly.

“Once more before you leave,” he said.  His life was no less busy and mine was hectic with preparations but we did get together more frequently.

And I asked why.  After all, cell phones and the internet have made miles meaningless.  I imagined no change in our monthly calls and annual dinners.

“It is because.” he said, “I have been able to see you any time I wanted.  And now, I won’t.”

Sometimes good-bye can be about proximity.

*                           *                           *

This morning I had word that Leon, another friend from my schoolboy days, had passed away.  Lee’s life was a struggle with a tag team of demons.  Lee never called, he never wrote.  I never minded that the keep-in-touch burden was on me.  He had enough on his plate.  He never complained. It was his lot to play the hand he was dealt even as he understood his game was rigged and the deck was stacked.

I called him a week ago tell him I was going to take a year and hit the road.  I’d be coming through Delaware in the Spring and would stop and see him.

I opened with the lazy throwaway question, “How ya doing?”

“Just waiting to die.”  He said. “I have a needle full of chemo in my arm.”

We had a foggy chat.  I am not sure he knew who I was.  He wanted to get off the phone.

Even though I knew I would not be seeing him in the Spring, I did not say good-bye.

But today I used the hour after receiving the news about Lee to say good-bye because this good-bye is not about miles and geography.

There is a time for good-byes but the commencement of adventure is not one of them.  In fact it is the time to stay in touch, to share.

So, whether I sail off to the tune of Willie Nelson’s nasal “On the Road Again or Ray Charles’ gravelly “Hit the Road, Jack, don’t come back no MORE, NO more,” I am taking everyone with me.

14 Responses to 1.4. Wish me well but don’t say good-bye.

  1. Leanne says:

    Oh Al, that is awesome: touched me very deeply. Very, very, very GOOD writing – from and to the heart. …can’t wait for the book to come out, even though I’m one of the lucky ones who gets to read it in all of these sneak previews. Have wonderful adventures! I am so grateful to be on board.

  2. Dave LaRoche says:

    Sensative stuff, my friend. I appears your muse is ready. It seems certain you will give us more about life as you spend time reflecting. I wish you only the best and will follow your travels.

  3. Colleen Rae says:

    Al – that was very moving. ‘Death need not be fearful as Love is Eternal…’even in death we don’t have to say goodbye. I am in touch with my son whenever I wish…in my thoughts, deeds, and memories.

  4. bob marcus says:

    our love ones who have past are with us everyday…..they were and are part of who we are then and now…

  5. Wonderful Al. And have a wonderful time out there on the open road. Drink in every minute of every mile.

  6. Bruce Bethany says:

    Bonjour Al: I sent you a few poems from among certain women poets I admire.
    Ms Malloy strikes me as thisclose to Hallmark-card sentimentality. I also sent
    my favorite Phillip Larkin poem, Aubade, the best ever about the terrors of
    that pre-dawn hour when we can be seized by mortal dread. Cheers,,,BB

  7. karen wittgraf says:

    You have me a bit teary-eyed with your wisdom and reality. I love the “No good-bye” thoughts because we’re programmed to them and we can break that program, can’t we?
    Keep writing, keep me thinking. Live!

  8. Gary Cecchi says:

    Thanks for letting me share this with you. Have a great time with your newest of adventures.

  9. Colleen Rae says:

    Al – Here’s a little something I once wrote…Jump on the opportunities and experiences tha the journey of life offers. Ride it hard and fast, don’t slow down on the curves. savor the aromas of exotic places. Listen to the music of each momemt in time. Taste everything you can get your tongue around. Press yourself on life, like a favorite lover. Then – sit down and write, with obsession and love.
    Enjoy the journey my friend.

  10. Al, your message touched me deeply. And you have the opening chapter of your book already. Isn’t it a fact that having time to muse clears away fog? Colleen Rae before me expressed my sentiments exactly about living for all you are worth. As for Leon, death was a friend, and death does not sever friendship or love. Each friend passing through our lives teaches, becomes a part, leaves an imprint. I look forward eagerly to hearing more of your thoughts while on the road.

  11. Joe Jones says:

    Hi Al,
    I haven’t seen you in nearly 20 years or so I guess we didn’t say goodbye then, I don’t intend to say it now. As you well know I now live here in the south of Spain gaining another part of a life adventure & a part of that adventure is hearing from dear old friends like yourself just living the dream, You keep me going old mate take care & stay in touch I dearly look forward to our next meet.

  12. Carol says:

    What is this about goodbye? We are traveling right along with you………as long as you keep us posted on your memorable and heart felt experiences. Keep writing. There is a book here. Hugs, Carol

  13. Linda B says:

    Al–all those CWC workshops are showing fruition–your words were very moving. Sorry to hear about the loss of one friend.

    And, I see we have another interest in common. Willie’s song On the Road Again is one of my favoritesong now for whenever I take a trip. And, when I take that final trip out of this world, I have instructions for it to be played at the end of my funera, which I hope is way in the future.

    Willie moved to Austin a year after I did in the mid-1970′s. I did not like c&w much at that time. After walking into many of a Texas dive and find him playing away, I was hooked.

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