Spouse Calls: Summer, the farewell season
Stars and Stripes August 9, 2009
There is no escaping PCS season. Either we are moving, or some of our friends are moving, or both.
This year, for me, it’s both. As I watched the painful parade of departures this summer, I noticed that all goodbyes are not alike.
Some people like a big party to say so long to everyone and get it over all at once — sort of like ripping off a Band-Aid.
Some brave souls prefer to bid farewell to each friend, facing the pain of each farewell.
Still others prefer not to say a final goodbye at all, slipping away without the formality — or the chance for tears.
Perhaps our preferences reflect the way we cope with the flux of military life. Or maybe it depends on how much time and energy remains after the preparing, the sorting, the packing and the cleaning. Sometimes the goodbye-ing is just one more thing to do, and a difficult one at that.
"Saying goodbye in any fashion is hard," said Cheryl Stark, an Air Force wife in Ansbach, Germany.
"The people you get stationed with become your family. They are there for the holidays, the celebrations, the good times, the bad times," Cheryl said.
"I have found that the longer we stay in, the harder it is getting to say farewell to those who have become yet another extension of our family."
"We are a huge party goodbye family," said Catherine Brown, whose husband is a military contractor. "I mainly do this for the kids, so that they have an opportunity to say goodbye to their friends."
Catherine, who now lives in Florida, said she invites friends over for a cookout or easy finger-food gathering before a move.
"Never forget to have the address book sitting out so friends can write their info down," she advised.
Donna Musil, who grew up in the military, suggested exchanging grandparents’ addresses as well, because they are more permanent. Donna is the creator of the documentary, "Brats: Our Journey Home," about military children.
"Do keep in touch after you leave. People are not expendable or interchangeable," she said. "I think military children need to learn that as they go along, or they’ll keep doing it when they grow up."
Valerie Mackin agrees: "I was a military kid, a military member and now a military spouse. Over the years I’ve learned that people just don’t stay in touch as much as they say they will," said Valerie, as she prepared to move from Texas to Florida.
"I like to see as many people as I can, either at a party or one on one, because I’m pretty sure I won’t be seeing most of them ever again," she said.
"Or maybe I think if I make a point of saying goodbye they might stay in touch that much longer. … There are always those one or two that just keep hanging in there with you," said Valerie.
Sandra Grey, an elementary school counselor in Grafenwöhr, Germany, said saying goodbye is important, so she approaches it intentionally.
"I think about the special qualities of each person and just tell them what they mean to me. It takes time and some deliberation, but I have learned … how important it is," she said.
"I am not a good good-byer. I cry a lot, so short and sweet is good for me," said Cindy MacKenzie, not long before I stopped by her house at Ramstein, Germany, preparatory to our move last month.
"It’s not goodbye. It’s see ya later," she said.
I’m with you Cindy, and I will see you later.
Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She finished this column sitting on the floor of her empty house in the middle of moving to Stuttgart, Germany. Spouse calls appears weekly in Stars and Stripes. Contact Terri at firstname.lastname@example.org and see the Spouse Calls blog here.