Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Goodbye Never Said

Last night at bowling during the third game I remembered that a friend I used to know had his birthday on January 10th. I haven't seen this person since 1995 but I remember odd things like dates. Anyway, I went to look him up on Facebook and started looking through his photos when I got to a photo of an older lady that said, "Rest in peace..."

This person I knew. Growing up as a youngster I spent almost as much time at her house as I did mine. She was my friend's grandmother and was also my next door neighbor. Almost every day I went over there and when I was in 3rd grade she was my grandparent for "Grandparent's Day" at school.

Then, when I was 10, we moved to Saint Louis and the next and final time I saw her was at my sister's wedding. Years passed, there was no Facebook, and each time I was in Indy I thought, "Well, I guess I should say hi." but I always found a reason not to. Maybe I'd be intruding? Perhaps she wouldn't remember me? Perhaps then was the wrong time, or perhaps she was busy?

About five years ago my sister, nephew, and I started a airport tradition; when my mom flies to Indy for Christmas we go the neighborhood that I grew up in, we drive by the house we lived in, share stories of what it was like, and then also drive by the house that was our neighbors. Year after year there she was, in the window, and she always seemed to spot our car. Just three weeks ago we did this again and as we drove by her house the lights were out, but I thought I saw a television on with the silhouette of a person in a chair. I was sure of it, but the thing I saw on Facebook last night was dated November 3rd. The occupied chair I saw wasn't occupied.

My nephew, each year, implored us to drop in and say hello because, as he said, "Someday she's not going to be there and you're going to feel bad." A sharp kid my nephew is and he was right. There were so many chances to say hello, and to say thank you for being there growing up. I mean, it was so neat to actually have a grandparent there on Grandparent's Day. Mine were alive at that point in time but were all over 1,000 miles away.

She had a stroke several years ago and about 16 months ago she called my dad to chat. I think through Facebook she learned what I was doing and I believe she was proud of me but she also said that she'd love to have me drop in at some point in time.

I had every intention of doing so; I truly did, but there was just something about the awkwardness; what would I say after so many years. A "hello"? Nothing seemed right and besides, there's always the next time, right?

If there's one guarantee in life it's that there is no guarantee of a next time. This is something I think we put aside in our brains because if we always thought about this we would have an obsession sense of nervousness. But, when the finality comes true, we look back and think of all the chances we had to say hello, or to drop in and talk as if no time had passed.

This will be one of the bigger regrets in my life. I had so many chances but always convinced myself that the timing would be wrong and that there would be another time. Then another time turned into another time and eventually all time runs out.

Recently I've been closing my presentations by stating that, for us on the autism spectrum, we have a great deal of difficulty expressing our emotions, especially emotions of gratitude and thanks. This was my block. This is why I always awaited the next time. I felt I had to say something because I never had. I mean, I spent just as much time over at her house than I did mine, she was a barber and cut my hair the first ten years of my life, she took my friend and I to countless museums and other places. All this was great but I'm not good at meeting a person after an extended time so I just never knew what to say so I said nothing at all.

Last night I sent a text to my sister and she said we'll still drive by her place and remember her. I thought right then that she would be my blog topic today because I never did the chance to say thank you to her personally so perhaps a dedication like this enough. Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn't, but it's the least I can do.


  1. My condolences Aaron. May the memories you still have comfort you. I'm sure she's up in heaven and knows how you feel. I'm sure your words reached her.

  2. The fact that she had such an impact on you means that she understands and is truly proud of you. She will now be able to watch you from above as you bring change and awareness to everyone you meet.