Travel Stories

Goodbye to what I know

         I am writing to say goodbye.  I choose the word carefully.  As my intimates know, both as a child and as a man, I have known great separation anxiety.  And part of that painful complex included a superstitious aversion to using the word “goodbye,” which sounded and seemed so terminal to me.  Even in phone conversations I wouldn’t say “goodbye,” but rather “see you later,” or “take care of yourself." 
         This time I am saying, “good-bye.”  And I mean it.
         Good-bye is derived from “God be with ye,” which is only used by English speakers when departing.  De parting, from the Latin departire, to divide, to separate, to break contact with, perhaps never to return or see one another again, all of which is a matter of probability, mere luck, fate, and free will.  But enough of that.  And good be with you.
         I am on my way to Africa.  I have planned well and thoroughly: gotten my vaccinations, inoculations, and a new passport, finished or given away the law work on my desk, paid my taxes and bills, and was fully packed and ready to go to the airport a day early, as I was nearly seven decades ago, fully dressed and ready to go, standing in my bedroom in clothes laid out the night before, including a clip on bow tie, prepared for my first day of grade school, when my father came into the bedroom to tell me it was still only three in the morning, and bade me undress and go back to bed.  That ready.
         I have also watered the more than one hundred houseplants who live with me, and sustain me in my tiny cottage in exchange for an occasional sip of water and visits outside in summer.  Olive trees that produce a few bitter olives.  Key lime plants that produce a few bitter key limes.  Cacti.  Stone plants.  Spider plants.  Jades.  Orchids.  Purple refuges from Myanmar and St. John.  Characters all, who trust me. 
         And hardest of all, my separation from Joy, who brings me such comfort, pleasure, and love, and the words of goodbye I speak to my beloved children.
         My travels will be shared as best I am able on a website/blog that can be accessed at –  I anticipate returning 10 weeks from today to watch the Pats in the Superbowl, first Sunday in February, 2013.  (editor's note - they fell one game short of getting there.) 
         And to my dear friend Ken, whose fortunes continue to be the most Job-like of anyone I know, complete with a daughter in her twenties dealing with newly discovered brain cancer, good be with ye.  And good be with ye to Steven B, the sweetest man I know, recently diagnosed with metastatic kidney cancer who I visit right before I go to the airport, babysitting his two year old granddaughter, the red headed Izzy, pianist and artist extraordinaire, who needs her face wiped, and offers me a grape.