Annie Dillard’s latest book
is a novel, The Maytrees.
One of the characters is Lou,
a woman who lives alone
in a seaside cabin on Cape Cod.
At one point in the story
she prepares to take in a married couple
she has not spoken to in twenty years.
The woman is dying of heart disease
and the man has been so badly injured in a fall
that he can no longer provide care for his wife
and now needs to be cared for himself.
Annie Dillard writes what Lou, the willing caregiver, did:
“She bade her solitude good-bye.
Good-bye no schedule but whim;
good-bye her life among no things but her own
and each always in place;
good-bye no real meals,…
The whole fat flock of them flapped away.”

In the absence of clear directions
about how to prepare for caregiving,
we may not realize all the goodbyes we must say
as we undertake this role.
Like Lou, we may be called upon to bid adieu to our solitude,
to the way we’re used to spending our days on our own.
Some of our farewells may seem quite minor,
making them easy to say.
But some may feel wrenching to us—
the freedom to keep our own schedule, for instance,
or to continue the career we so enjoy,
or to maintain the financial independence we’re used to.
We may need to say so long to beloved pastimes,
long-held dreams,
certain established friendships.
These good-byes need not be final.
Also, they need not impact us in only negative ways.
In Lou’s case, for example, she came to feel she was needed
in ways she had not felt in many years,
and her days took on fresh and unexpected meaning.
Still, endings are endings,
and they’re not to be ignored.

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One Response to “Good-byes”

  1. Amrita Says:

    This is an awesome post.

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