Hints of a long goodbye

Ever since a date has been set, the agreement signed, and an impending farewell is almost inevitable, it feels like time has become so tangible and finite that it feels every minute and every second spent in negativity seems so much of a waste.

Hugs, long heartfelt talks and words of support, love and appreciation for one another come easily now.

A simple “Daddy, can I hug you?” request now would make him spread his arms wide open immediately without any hesitation. In the past, he would dismiss it away, say I’m crazy, and ask how old I am to still be asking hugs from him with a grumpy expression on his face. Now, he hugs me warmly and tells me I better hug him all I want because I won’t be able to do that when I leave for Japan. Whenever I call his name and smile at him, he doesn’t give me that grumpy expression on his face or tell me I’m crazy or childish like he used to anymore. He smiles back. Every. Single. Time. And he answers brightly whenever I say goodbye just before I leave the house. Simple things like that break my heart a little more each day, knowing full well the underlying messages in between them all.

I feel his struggle with letting me go. On good days, he tells me objectively that he sees and understands this is a good opportunity for me to grow. He tells me things like: “You’ll learn a lot more than just skills beneficial for your career there. You’ll build character and strength. You’ll learn resilience and faith and belief. You always say you’re weak, but I know you’re strong. And, if things don’t work out, you can always come back. You always have a home here.” On bad days, he sees the way I am now, how I am unable to take care of myself properly, and tells me not to go. To be honest, I think this is the only time I feel like I’m really getting to know him for once.

My mom expresses herself by providing and catering to my every needs and demands lately. If I made a casual remark that the chee kueh she bought was delicious, I’ll find chee kueh for breakfast the next morning, and the morning after, and the morning after that, until I tell her having chee kueh every morning may not be a very good idea for my health in the long run. If I made a childish demand that she’d sit beside me and watch me eat my late dinner every time I come back home late from my night lessons, she would shut her laptop down without the usual dismissal that I’m used to, and would sit there beside me, telling me about her day, mostly reassuring words that she’s at ease now with the way things are with her three children.

Friends whom I’ve shared the news with reacted differently. But it was clear who truly regarded me as important to them and who didn’t in their own ways. And in that sense, I am grateful to have this opportunity to really rethink about the friendships I have in my life and know which are the ones truly worth focusing my time and effort on.

In the past, the concept of time seemed infinite and never-ending. If I felt like simply staying at home in my own little introvert comfort zone, I’d turn down any request to head out. I’d do a rain check. I tell them there’s always next week. Or the next. Or the next. Now, it feels like staying at home all day or stressing yourself out too much because of work is such a waste, because there are only a finite number of hours today that you won’t be able to simply take back tomorrow. Now, I grab onto every chance I get whenever I have the free time. And if I want to tell someone I’m truly thankful to have them around in my life, I’d say it  out to them even if it means making them feel uncomfortable at the sudden confession. I say whatever I truly feel nowadays and don’t hold back. I’m okay with being vulnerable now. Because the people I care deeply about need to know just how much they’ve made me who I am today and how thankful I am to have them in my life, to have been able to put up with and continue to want to be with such a difficult and complicated person that I am.

It seems that too often we tend to live like our lives are infinite. But put the possibility of an end in the near future and you’ll be surprised how everything can change so quickly in a flash. Now I wonder why it has to take an impending long farewell for people to sprint into action, seize the day and hold loved ones close?


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