Today we said goodbye to our little exchange student, and we are bereft.
We miss his big smiling face. His lively dance moves. The way he said, “What? Huh?” In a high-pitched voice to everything he found surprising about Australia, and anything we said that he didn’t understand (which was virtually everything). We miss the way he made us laugh and the way he helped us see our town as if for the first time. To appreciate the natural beauty, the weather, the faint scent of sugarcane and salt, the heaving sound of the waves.
We miss his enthusiasm to try new things, to stretch himself in ways we couldn’t even know. He was afraid of many things, here in this slightly crazy space of a country. The startling insects, the furry animals, the earthiness, the brightness of the stars. He was surprised by the casualness and the warmth of Aussies (Ozzees), but he allowed it all to infuse, and brew and become. We called him Watters, and he sent his Mamasan an email saying, “I’m an Ozzee boy now.”
Our throats got lumps in them.
We knew we only had him for a short time, so we stacked the days with experiences and we held nothing back. We told him what we thought of him, and we allowed him to bury deep into our hearts. Kind of like the way you do when you know your Dad is dying of a cancer that grows by dissolving vital organs, one by one by one.
But with more laughs than cries. Because nobody was actually dying. Even if you might not ever see each other again.
And that’s the thing. What I found today, is that grieving is not about the death, it is about the missing. Coco was beside herself when we were saying our final goodbyes. She is seven years old, so she didn’t want to do it, wanted to just leave without the sting of the final glimpse of her friend. I suppose she thought she would avoid some of the pain if she avoided the situation. Which is what we often do. Liam was completely different, because he said he knows he will see Watters again. A different protective mechanism perhaps.
And me? Well, I drove those emotions down nice and deep, somewhere down near my big right toe, where they can stay a while. I’ll take them out every now and then, have a little look, and slowly and slowly the feelings will become more bearable. A sense of creeping acceptance will begin to take over, until I can look at the whole experience safely.
I know how this works, by now.
Eventually and eventually you can smile with your eyes again.
And remember the people who scored your heart with their enthusiasm, and the way they could always make you laugh.
Thanks for coming Watters. We’re gonna miss you and your crazy stunts.
…From The Ashers xx