Sunday, December 10, 2006

All Goodbyes Are Mostly Bitter

I don't know of any goodbye that isn't wracked with regret.
Mostly goodbyes are hard and painful.
There isn't a goodbye that I wouldn't rather forget
I just look forward to the next hello that's waiting.

My cousin Alvin Pineda passed away on the first day of December. For almost thirty-six years he labored against the odds and survived as long as he had. I hadn't seem him for the longest time until I went home for vacation in the middle of this year. We went to the apartment their family was sharing and in one corner of their "bedroom" he was splayed out on a foam mattress. His maternal grandmother watched him dutifully, keeping him from having abrasions by toweling off his sweat and giving him regular sponge baths.

He was cared for like he was no more than a toddler. He lived and died barely in touch with even an inkling of his human potential.

My cousin Alvin had Down's syndrome.

In this land, finding true friends is just as hard as managing to find yourself in a crowd is as simple as snapping your fingers. You must perforce make friends on the job or you wilt like a flower that does not see rain. While this does not bode the best thing for you, it is the only thing that ensures your survival. These friends may not prove to be the most natural ones for you, but some of them can and have proven to be the best friendships one may ever have.

Which is why, there is no good goodbye. Ever. From the moment someone says, "I'm giving up, this is it for me" and makes preparations for the trip home or points elsewhere, there is just no happy ending. Could one have done something to make the decision easier for that person to stay? Or to leave? What happens next? Do we catch up next time, or do we catch up again, ever?

Would it be enough to say, "good luck" to make up for all those times you have been together? Even if, in hindsight, you and your cronies were just shooting the shit finding some creative ways to kill time? How can you accurately put these into words?

More and more I have to come see life through the prism of people - and departing people is so much harder. A place is just a place.

No, I am not devastated by the knowledge that my cousin who would probably have not recognized me has died. Rather, I am saddened by the contingencies and the constraints that have kept him alive and then allowed him to live that way. I only have compassion for his parents, who tried to handle raising a differently-abled child their own way, in the best way they could, without depriving the rest of their children.

It's the tough ones, the recalcitrant ones, the unresponsive ones, the troubled ones, that make them special.

And so we go back full circle --- back here, because the conditions make the relationships one chooses more special.

Speaking of the special ones, even the small ones, the insignificant ones, the what-could-have-been ones, goodbyes are more often than not, bitter.

Even if saying goodbye meant leaving a difficult situation (as I once did back home before I came here), it's the though of not having done it earlier that will haunt you. There is hardly any goodbye that carries with it the sweetness of accomplishment. It's normally just the relief of surviving.

As in death, so in life and love. There are places in my heart that hold all those lost loves --- even the crushes, the what-could-have-beens, the never-did-happens. Yes, even those. It's not like I am perpetually browsing through these places, but I hope you get the idea. They become more special because they are not part of the continuity of my life, but even if they do in some way, they are not the same as what I would wish for.

There is only the hope that somehow sweetens the goodbye but there is nothing, nothing that it can do to leave the aftertaste of bitterness. Only the expectation that someday, you will get together soon.

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