For many years, every time I left dad in Haworth, every time we hung up the phone or disconnected on Skype, our parting words were always “bye for now”. I can’t even remember which of us first used those words to the exclusion of any other concluding phrase. Regardless, these words came to mean everything from “I’ll see you in an hour” to “give me a shout if you get bored”.
Implicitly, they also came to mean “I love you” – for someone as kind and amenable as dad you might imagine the words “I love you” would be easy words, dished out with reckless abandon, but for some reason dad rarely volunteered such open expressions of affection. Not for a moment could I have wondered, though. Never was there an instant of doubt. Dad loved each of us, with all his heart.
In recent months, the words “bye for now” took on a greater impetus for me. “Bye FOR NOW”. Not “goodbye”, but “see you later”, see you tomorrow or the next. Instead of the all-encompassing and loaded mantra, for me it gradually became an advisory, then an urgent appeal and ultimately almost a demand. “Don’t go anywhere, I’ll be right back!” And until he was no longer able, dad would always repeat it back to me, and nod and smile.
Since dad passed away, I’ve found myself thinking often about the words “bye for now”, admittedly while shamelessly wallowing in self-pity that I’d never hear those words from him again, but I’ve pondered about why he and I would settle on those words to the exclusion of any other parting phrase. And I’ve had a bit of an epiphany.
Dad’s time on earth was a stepping stone. With all his heart and with every fibre of his being, dad knew that once his time here was done, a new journey would begin. When dad died, he didn’t “depart”, he “set off”, striding down a new path; while I was stressing the phrase “bye for now” in mortal terms these last few months, dad was embracing the phrase in its spiritual terms. He was excited about the next leg of his journey and there were no lingering doubts about his destination. With absolute faith, dad knew where he was going and he knew that one day he would see us all again.
So, dad, in deference to your infinite wisdom: Bye for now.