Friday, December 24, 2010

The Long Goodbyes

When the idea to run away to Pittsburgh initially took seed and began to grow, it was an idea born in the ether of football and hockey euphoria, along with a strong desire to get back to my Yankee roots and shock us as a family out of the despair we had been living in for so long - even before June 2009 really.  There was a vague knowledge lurking somewhere in the recesses of my mind that it would involve saying goodbye to people who are precious to me, even if I rarely get to see them, but no real sense of it.  Not really.  I was too caught up in what I was working toward to contemplate what I was leaving behind.  But now, with title to a little house on the other side of the country secure, reality begins to set in.

But, here I am, packing boxes, gladly giving away things that even a year ago I would have told you I never would have parted with and finding myself saying goodbye to people I once assumed were just part of my world forever.  I mean, really, they still are.  We live in the Internet age.  Our friends are only a Facebook post away, but is it the same really as sitting across from them, looking them in the eye, and sharing whatever news/gossip/experiences we can?  No, probably not.  I gathered my friends in reality, not cyberspace.  I was fortunate enough to have met them in person at some point, and we found our bond in something concrete that we experienced together.  Even though the truth of a busy modern life is that it's hard to find time to see one another often, I have a core handful of friends whom I absolutely know would drop anything and come running if I called and vice-versa, no matter the time of day.  I'm leaving a few behind who may have needed to do that at some point in the not-so-distant future as their parents age or life hands them particular challenges, and I worry over my decision to pull myself away and not be there for them.  But, my little house in the North Hills calls my name and tells me its ready for someone to once more inhabit its walls with laughter, love, sometimes joy, sometimes sorrow.  And I realized last night as I watched the customary views of the city from above when the NFL Network came back from commercial breaks that I am beginning to think of Pittsburgh as home.  Maybe to convince myself that I've chosen the correct path for my family, I'm diligently setting my mind to the mantra that this is the most beautiful, awesome city in the country, and I'm going to throw myself into it completely.  I almost ache for it.  So, that means saying goodbye to so many good friends.

And, ironically, I'll be saying goodbye to some new ones.  Just to complicate the swirl of emotions, I've met some new people in the last few months whose company I enjoy, and whom I wish I could have spent more time with.  The lovely, generous woman I sit across from at work, the bubbly, funny and very loud woman who sits next to her, and the fiery red head from across the office, who lost her husband a month before we lost Kelsey.  All interesting enjoyable people to add to my contingent of friends, but who came to my world view as I was already preparing to move, so I'll never get to know them as I have others in the office, whom I will miss deeply.  Among these newer folk is my hairdresser.  Not only did I finally someone who can take good care of my aging hair, but I found a friend in the process, and I actually can't quite believe I'm leaving her.  I told her I was going last month and found it surprisingly hard.  She is a widow of six years, a strong minded attractive Alaskan (not unlike the other Alaskan we all know and some love) whose husband died six years ago of brain cancer.  She is a nurse who works part time at Dell's Children's Hospital, can fix anything, is a master colorist who does shows in New York a few times a year who came here to be close to her adult daughter and grandchild.  But what she is the most is a survivor, and she's offered a emphatic view into the world of grieving and surviving grief that all the counseling in the world could not have brought me.  I can't quite believe I'm leaving her insights, her humor, her fantastic way with my hair behind.  But, she had me come in for one last cut last week, and we said what are likely our goodbyes, and I got through it with no tears.

This process has repeated itself several times over, as I grab a quick lunch with a couple of friends here, or dinner and a drink with a friend there.  Some, sadly, I won't get to see before I pull out, there's too much chaos in trying to wrap up work, pack up a cluttered home, figure out doggy moving logistics, all during the holidays and soon the playoffs.  I've considered having a packing party, actually my friend Jenn's idea, but the house is so chaotic, with stuff strewn here, there and everywhere as we take it all out to examine it and determine its worth to be hauled across country.  Of course, that's the idea of a packing party.  To pack that stuff.  It's not exactly like I'd have to worry about making sure the china is washed and set out.  Pizza, beer and lots of newspaper and boxes is about all the planning required.  The idea has some merit, but I hesitate to ask my friends to come labor to move me away, so I don't know yet what to do. What I do know is that I've been oddly blessed in life.  Meaning, as hard as the last few years have been and as devastating as the losses have been, I've managed to get through it with the support of an amazing group of people, some young, some old, some liberal, some conservative, some sports fans, some not, some silly, some sad, but all of them share one thing in common:  I love them deeply and am indebted to them for seeing me through and not giving up on me.

To my friends:  I would list you all, but there are too many.  I hope you know, as you read this, you are among them.  I hope your love and support is something I can pack and take with me.


  1. So, I from this point forward your new title will be St. Cheryl of Pittsburgh Our Lady of the Strays.

    Packing party - I am there at your beckon call. Keep in mind I pack the way I wrap Christmas presents.

  2. Of course I'll be at your packing party, but I will warn you, I won't be a happy packer. (well maybe if there's a lot of beer, I'll just cry in it)