I started thinking about (and planning for) that first goodbye the moment we booked our flights to start our new life in the US. As expected, it was a tough goodbye, but we were so excited about our new adventure that it was difficult to fully comprehend the finality of it. While saying goodbye to all our friends was also tough, saying goodbye to close family was just awful.
We moved to Atlanta, GA in 2011 and when we said our goodbyes, I didn’t realize that it would be 4 years before I would get the opportunity to go back and see my parents, family and friends again. Yep, 4 years.
The First Visit
I went back home (isn’t it funny that we still call it home?) by myself and I broke down crying when I saw my parents at the airport. Well, to tell the truth, I was already very emotional on the last leg from Johannesburg to Cape Town. But seeing them in person for the first time in 4 years was a lot to handle.
It was a great first trip back and I spent most of my time with my family and close friends. I visited my brother in his new house (also my old house) and I got to know my little nephews who were both born after we left. I had lunch dates with former co-worker-friends and dinners with extended family. Worked in coffee dates with school friends and wine dates with our best couple friends.
And all too soon it was time to say goodbye again and come back to my new home. I really felt that second big goodbye. Back then I knew it could be years before I would see them all again and it made me question our decision to move our little family so far away from all our loved ones. Not only was it very sad to say goodbye but I felt so much guilt for leaving them and moving in the first place. And at the same time, I knew I had to hang in there, that we had good reasons for the choices we made and that someday it won’t be so painful to say goodbye.
There have been many trips back “home” since that first one and all the happy reunions are naturally followed by more tough goodbyes. For me, the goodbye clock starts ticking the moment my family meet me at the airport and it is ticking there in the background whenever I meet up with friends and family.
I just returned from another trip back “home”. A great trip with my husband and kids where we revisited our old hometown Paarl. We also explored Cape Town, familiar wine farms and some of our favorite restaurants with family and friends. Life didn’t stop when we left 8 years ago. Our parents got older and are facing new challenges. Our niece is starting her married life and my little nephews are now going to school. Colleagues moved on to new careers at new companies and old friends formed new friendships. Things changed. We are still a part of it all, but not at the centre of it all as before.
But the one thing that stayed the same, was those final goodbyes. They have not gotten any easier or less painful and I think this might just be the new normal when you live so far away from your family and friends.
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