The Grief of Goodbye

There are points in life – graduations, kids going off to college – where we both celebrate and we mourn. We buy cards and gifts and we cheer. And then we cry tears of joy and loss as we see the back side of our children or grandchildren, as they go off to new horizons, without us. Blessedly Capable.

Today is a day of grief for me. It’s not really anything I can put my finger on. It’s just been here with me all day. I’ve been calling airlines and purchasing more baggage allowances. But I have found out that I have too many and I need to cut out a bag.

So I opened up the offending bag and I can cut it out. It’s not the stuff. Its the idea. We are already down to nothing. And now, we’re down to less than nothing. Sigh. I take a deep breath, and realize I’ll have to donate some more stuff. But it’s not even that. What is it? I don’t even know.

I sat here on the couch and cried. Not about anything specifically, but the tears flowed. Perhaps it’s when I booked my daughter’s ticket to Barcelona in May. We won’t see her until then. Maybe it’s because today, my son is opening his own bank account. One that I will no longer be on – he’s nearly 20, so it’s time and I won’t be banking at that bank anymore. It’s like the threads of the ties that bind are fraying all on the same day.

I wanted to tell the woman at American Airlines that I needed that suitcase. Please let me take it – it’s part of all I’ve got left. But she wouldn’t have cared. I’m not sure why I care so much. But I do.

We went to Iceland a few years ago. We visited the spot on the earth where the North American and European plates are born. Where deep in the earth, the crust is being created and pushed towards the surface. I always imagined it to be a very painful process as the rock reaches the light of day. I guess that’s how I feel now. Like we’re creating new ground – and sometimes there is pain in doing it.

Today, I’m just going to sit in it. The sadness and the grief of letting go of an old life before embracing a new one. But as the pain washes over me, the grief of goodbye has overwhelmed me – no explanations, no excuses – it just is.

You’ll come and visit, right?

Jeff says it’s stress and that I ran myself down. I don’t know if it’s that or what – but I have the flu again. Started yesterday and now I’m in the fever and chills phase. Cold then Hot then Cold again.

Maybe it’s that we went through three climate zones in 48 hours, each with differing humidity and 30 degree swings in temperature. But I’m down for the count, except when our translations show up in that overnight envelope I expect today from our translator. Then I’ll be walking a half mile to the UPS store to overnight them to the consulate. That should be fun. I’ll have to warn the UPS store personnel to fumigate their store after I leave.

Yes – we are down to one car. This means Jeff takes it to work and I’m home bound. It wouldn’t matter if I didn’t have to get this important last set of documents to the consulate by tomorrow, but suddenly I realize how much I miss my car. That zippy little thing that took me where I needed to go.

All this is just a reminder how much we’re giving up. It’s all going away. I woke up in the middle of the night and thought ‘Oh my God – in less than three weeks we’re homeless!’ But then I remembered that I have already rented an apartment in Spain. So we won’t actually be homeless. When we push off the dock on this side of the world, we’re rowing to a new dock on the other.

Sure, our stuff won’t get there for a couple of months, but we will have a place to lay our heads and shower, that isn’t a hotel. We will be fine. I know that. But I think it’s actually harder than I thought it would be. This letting go.

Sitting at the consulate on Monday, it hit me. We don’t know how to be anything other than tourists in another country. Suddenly we’re going to have to find out how to be locals. But we know nothing. And we will be at the mercy of new rules and customs, and my favorite boots will be on a boat going through the Panama Canal. If they lose those boots I’m gonna be pissed off.

OK, I’m free associating now, in a downward spiral. Deep breaths. I think Jeff is doing better now, than I am. He had to sell almost all his tools and he had his moment about 2 weeks ago. After spending nearly all his adult life putting together the shop of his dreams, it’s all gone now. I saw how hard it was for him and I’m there today.

Intellectually, we both know we’re going to have adventures, and that is exactly what we want, so that’s not the issue. It’s more the idea of losing control. We visited our friends over the last few months – in multiple states.

‘You’ll come visit us, right?’ I implore them in my most needy voice. I mean, we’re moving to Spain but I don’t want to lose my friends.

‘Well’ they say, ‘Sure, when the kids are out of school or maybe when such and such happens, we can come.’

Now I’m not stupid. My friend’s lives are full and they don’t revolve around us. But sometimes I wish they would just lie. We do have some friends who are already in Europe and we’ll see them right away. And our friends, Tom and Laurie are taking a Mediterranean cruise and will be in Valencia in October. She made me put it in my phone so I don’t forget the exact dates.

This is the intersection between dreaming and doing. We’re committed now but like any cross roads, it takes tremendous resolve and a lot of faith to take the leap at that last moment, believing you’ll be OK. Until that overnight envelope shows up today, I think I’ll take a nap and try to restore my energy for what’s coming.

 

Just One More Thing…

After driving to Los Angeles and staying in a hotel overnight, we made it the the consulate a bit early for our appointment. Their website details EXACTLY how you’re supposed to do everything, down to printing two copies of the document check list and the order in which those documents must appear in the packet. It emphasizes how important this all is and I checked and double checked it all. I had Jeff go through the instructions on the website himself, in case I missed something. Here’s how it actually went.

We got there early – I’m never, ever late to anything. And this appointment is too important to be left to chance. There weren’t any other people there to get visas at the moment we arrived, so they took us early.  Good sign – I thought. And they’re really nice people. I know they want to help us get our visa.

‘Just pull the financial documents out and let’s go through them first. That will be the thing that will keep you from getting the visa so if they are good, then the rest is easy’

Seemed logical to me. So out I pulled the holy scriptures of our financial picture – thick dossiers of everything and several months worth of statements.

‘Yeah – we don’t need all this. Just the beginning and ending balances. And being that this is February 5th and your January statement looks like it would have ended on the 29th – we will need that too. Why don’t you have that?’

I was incredulous. I had everything – EVERYTHING – related to our financial picture. It had all been translated for hundreds of dollars. And it all came down to our last bank statement??

‘There was no time to send it to Boulder to the translator and get it back in time for this appointment – 6 days later with a weekend in there.’

‘Well, we’re going to need that since it’s past the 29th.’

You could visibly seem my mouth hanging open. But of course I said, ‘OK’. I would get it.

Then they wanted to know why my translations weren’t ‘stapled by the translator’. I said I didn’t know. They were very concerned unstapled translations might be rejected in Spain. Jeff and I looked at each other. We could staple them ourselves but we remained silent.

‘Please consult your translator and ask why she didn’t staple them.’

I said I would and reached out to her in email from the consulate. Oh, No You Didn’t! She came unglued! She told me in her official translation certification, they expressly said that official translations are never stapled, she never staples, and she thinks it renders the documents unofficial. I was beginning to feel like I was caught between Mom and Dad and they were in a fight.

Ugh. Then we were told we needed more copies of our 10lb packets, so we had to walk across the street and get some made and bring them back. Great! We were all set – the guy gave me back some copies and we went back to our hotel to pack up and get Jeff’s motorcycle to the port of Los Angeles to ship it out. Then my phone rang.

They were very sorry but they had given me the wrong papers and I needed to come back across town and give them back to them so they could give me the correct ones. I will admit to having a melt down in the hotel room. The Gods of Document Hades were having me on again! But what could I do?

I went back through LA traffic and they squeezed me in to sort it out. It only took an hour. I left there and drove down to the port to meet up with Jeff – more than an hour away. I had all his gear, that was shipping with his bike, in the trunk of my car so he couldn’t complete it without me. This delayed us getting out of LA. And I know from experience, you never, ever delay getting out of LA after noon. Or it will take you FOREVER!! You will age on the drive from San Pedro to San Bernadino. It’s like dog years.

So at midnight last night – we rolled into our driveway. Yes  – midnight. And this morning I’m going to our bank to explain to some nice person that I need to get those statements stamped again. And then I’m going to scan them and send them to our translator, who has promised to do them quickly and get them back to me via overnight post, so I can overnight them to the consulate. She’ll probably put 50 staples in them just for spite. But I’m tired thinking about it.

I know we aren’t alone. While I was sitting there in my second consulate visit yesterday morning – I noticed almost everyone had a ‘Just one more thing’ to go take care of. Three weeks – we need that visa in three weeks so we can get on a plane. Crossing my fingers that our ‘Just one more thing’ is really ‘The last thing.’

The Wind at our Backs

We’ve spent months and months getting everything ready and today, we drive towards LA. On the way, we’ll stop off in Palm Springs for an overnight with dear friends, and then it’s on to LaLa land to spend, probably a sleepless night in great anticipation. Monday morning we have 2 meetings at the Spanish consulate on Wiltshire Blvd. to turn in our applications and pay our visa fees and tasa.

Feels surreal, now that we are very nearly at the appointed hour. We’ll be dressed up like we’re heading to our college interviews – just hoping they’ll like the cut of our jib. It’s a test you can’t study for.

We only have a few more things on the list after this. And they are thus:

  1. Sell the Audi TT (lining up a buyer)
  2. Sell Mary Jane – our ancient Toyota truck (we have a buyer lined up and will deliver it the third week of Feb)
  3. Have the overseas stuff picked up – Already scheduled for third week in Feb
  4. Get Jeff’s beloved motorcycle to LA to be shipped out before Feb 25th – He will do this alone (I’m not riding to LA again).
  5. And finally – when they tell us our visas are ready – book our flights to Spain out of LA and pick up our visas at the consulate there, before heading the to airport – hopefully by Feb 28th. My searches and alerts on Kayak are making me antsy to pull the trigger on this!

That’s it. No more on the very long list that could have covered the refrigerator last September. I can see all the crossed off items in different ink – and remember how I celebrated each one. And how it happened? – I can hardly believe it, but it did.

We are 25 days away from lift off. I can hear the engines rev. We’re both anxious for it all to be over and to be sipping a drink on the plane. Human beings are powerful when their will is focused.  But first, you gotta believe you can do it, so you can. They say ‘Fortune favors the bold.’ Well, this is as bold as we get so I hope she’s smiling on us for the next few weeks, at least.

Down to the Dregs

We are down to just what we want to keep. The boxes and the couch. The two bikes. And our 5 checked bags and two carry-ons. The Garage Sale worked and the dump runs and donations to Habitat for Humanity are complete.

We were making food the other night  – I won’t call it dinner, because, well…my skills being what they are, it was just food. Jeff looked into a cupboard and then another cupboard. And then the dishwasher. He held up a plate.

‘Who gets the plate?’ he asked me.

‘What?’ I was confused.

‘We have just one plate left in this house. Which one of us gets it? Or do you eat, wash it, then I eat?’

Oops! I’ve already packed up the good dishes that are going with us. OK, so my timing on liquidation is a little off, but we can buy disposable plates at the grocery store. They’ll go well with the disposable forks and spoons we’re using now.

So, we’re down to the dregs. Like the bathroom drawers that just need to be gone through. And while I don’t need expired cold medicine or 5 – just started bottles of Advil, I am sitting here looking at my collection of airline toiletries and I’m having a bit of a hard time.

Growing up, we had no money. I mean, NONE. When I was small, I played on a rug that smelled like smoke – it had been purchased in a literal fire sale and was the color of vomit – I wish I was kidding. It wasn’t until my parents mortgaged everything and bought a grocery store, when I was 12, that we had two nickels to rub together by the time I graduated high school. So vacations in our family? Yeah, there was never a vacation. I’m not sure my Dad understood what leisure was.

The one time I flew on an airplane, before I turned 18 and purchased my own ticket to NYC, was from Portland to Los Angeles – one way on Western Airlines (out of business for 40 years now). My uncle died and left my Dad his car, so we had to fly down and drive it 1000 miles back home.  I remember boarding that plane at 10 years old, walking past the people in First Class and thinking ‘Someday I want to be rich so I can fly First Class!’.

When I grew up, I longed to travel to far away places. And I was lucky, my career paid for a lot of travel – domestically and internationally. Domestically, I had status on several airlines so I got bumped up about 50% of the time. And when ever I flew internationally, I flew business or first class. It didn’t suck! And every time, the carrier would give me a little ‘Travel Toiletry kit’ so I could be comfortable and stretch out, as the seat became my bed – waking refreshed on the other end of a 10 or 14 hour flight.

My favorite airline for travel kits is Emirates. They give you Bulgari lotion and a bunch of other stuff. I’m surprised its not crammed with money and diamonds, or something. But the award for Best Eye Mask goes to Iceland Air. I covet those eye masks. It’s worth paying for the upgrade to Saga Class – believe me. Delta gives you Tumi, and when you get the Tumi Hard cases. Well, those are collectors items.

So I have saved them. Each and Every One. And today, they’re all piled on the counter. They represent adventures (and some boring business meetings, I’ll admit). The 10 year old girl, boarding that plane in 1976 with her jar of half dollars to spend at Disneyland, really did make it out of those circumstances. When I would come home from business trips, my kids would rush me to get the gifts I always bought them – think rugby ball on Portobello road (don’t get me started). But they never got to have the travel bags – those were for me.

I sit here now, and open each one. Every airline has emphasized something different in their little pouches. Some partner with other luxury purveyors to upgrade the experience. Others are more generic. But each speaks to me. “Don’t throw me away! Remember when we went to Dubai together? ‘ or ‘I’m what you got when British Airways bumped you from Business to First – that was a fun trip with premium champagne, wasn’t it?’

I can’t take them all. It’s not practical and Jeff would kill me. And I know it’s ridiculous, but I think I’ll sneak my favorites into my checked luggage – how much can they weigh, really? And the Tumi hard cases are definitely making the cut!