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How to Say Good-Bye This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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For the first thirteen years of my life, my dad always called himself “the dad who goes to everything.” And he was. Whether it was a school play, a talent show, or second-grade show-and-tell, my dad was always there. I got used to his presence at all of these events, and took the five-minute drive from his house to mine for granted. I never thought about what it would be like if that were all to change, and I didn't have to, until March of eighth grade.

My dad and I had a tradition that every Saturday morning, after I spent the night at his house, I would go into his room and sit on his bed and we'd talk. Sometimes my brother, Evan, would join us, but for the most part this was my time with my dad to talk about anything I wanted, or even just sit and read a book while he skimmed the newspaper. One morning, he unexpectedly asked me a question.

“What would you think if I were to move away and take another job?”

He took me by surprise. I thought about it for a moment.

My dad had been working in the library department at Brown University since before I was born. When I was five, my parents got divorced, and my mom, Evan, and I moved out of our house in Riverside, Rhode Island, and settled one town over, in a tiny suburb called Barrington. My dad stayed in our house, and Evan and I visited every other weekend, as well as Monday nights. While this was the routine, my dad only lived five minutes away. Whenever I wanted to see him, whether I was taking a sick day from school or just bored, he would drive over. Though I didn't see him every day, he was constantly in my life. If he moved away, all this would change.

“I don't want you to move,” I told him.

He said okay, and that was that. Being a self-­centered 13-year-old, I immediately forgot the conversation and allowed the usual middle-school gossip to consume me.

Months passed and eighth grade was coming to a close when my dad brought up the topic of moving away. Each time the conversation steered in that direction, I would change the subject – after telling him I didn't want him to go. I guess I thought if we didn't talk about it, it wouldn't happen.

Of course, the subject was unavoidable. In early June, the time came to have the talk that I had been dreading for months. My dad and I were driving in the car when he paused.

“Brianna,” he began. That immediately caught my attention. My dad always called me “B” or some other crazy nicknames, but never Brianna unless I was in trouble, or we were having a serious conversation.

“Yeah?” I asked nervously.

“I've been offered a job at the University of Texas in San Antonio, and I've decided to take it.”

I was shocked, unable to speak.

“To succeed in my career, I can't stay at the same job forever. In order to move up in my field, I have to move around,” he continued.

I was heartbroken. My dad and I sometimes clashed as I was growing up, but that didn't change the fact that he had always been there for me, no matter what. How could that stay true when he was living on the opposite side of the country?

My dad always wanted Evan and me to know the whole story about whatever was going on. This was no different.

After that we had many conversations on those Saturday mornings that always ended the same way. I would be reading a magazine, and he would interrupt whatever Seventeen had to say about fashion to talk.

“B, it's important to remember that we'll still see each other and keep in touch,” he began. I stayed silent, willing myself not to cry. “Even though I won't be close by, I'll always be your dad,” he continued.

I silently stared at the ceiling. Do not cry. Do not cry. Do not cry.

“I'll have a cell phone so we can text and talk often. None of this changes how much I love you and Evan.”

This was always the point where the tears spilled over.

“I don't want you to go,” I begged. My voice cracked with emotion and I started sobbing, as I had many times as his departure grew closer.

Since my dad was moving, he would need to sell the house I had lived in since I was born. Granted, after the divorce I didn't live there full-time, but this was still the house I had grown up in. This was the house with Evan's and my growth carefully recorded in pen on the back of the pantry door. I walked into the room I had called my own for 13 years and sat on the floor. I looked around at the boxes that held my things and cried.

My dad was set to leave at the end of October, and eventually the day came when we had to say good-bye. He took my brother and me out separately to do this. Evan went first, and then it was my turn. We got milkshake – chocolate for me and vanilla for him. We drove around the familiar places: Route 6, Waddington Elementary School, and Providence. All I could focus on was that, before long, all this would come to an end. And soon enough, my dad's beat-up white car slowly pulled up in front of my house. The weather reflected the mood of the day: it was pouring, the wind was blowing, and the sky was dark, despite the fact that it was only late afternoon. My dad and I stepped out of the car into the rain.

During our many conversations about his moving, he told me that the best way to say good-bye is to hug, look each other in the eye, say “I love you,” and then walk away without looking back. The last part was key, he said. It was important to keep walking straight into the house. Of course, in my tearful state, it was difficult to remember this, so my dad talked me through it.

With the wind howling around us, my dad hugged me tightly. At this point I didn't even try to hold back the tears. The cold rain mixed with the salt of the tears that streaked down my cheeks. My dad's light blue eyes looked into mine, and I could see that this was incredibly hard for him.

“I love you, Brianna,” he said.

“I love you too,” I managed to choke out. He gave me one last look, and then told me it was time for him to go.

Walking away from my dad was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. He flew back to visit three weeks later, and Evan and I started visiting him in Texas every three months, but it took two years for me to be able to say good-bye to him without it being incredibly emotional.

Now I'm in college in Florida, a long way from home in Rhode Island. After my dad and I finished decorating my small dorm room, I sat on the green, admiring the beauty of the campus and the way the Spanish moss hung off each tree so perfectly, as if carefully placed over the branches.

As the warm Florida sun kissed my face, I found that I was able to better understand and appreciate why my dad had moved away. He and I are similar in that neither of us was happy in Rhode Island. Throughout my search for the perfect college, I knew that in order for me to fully grow as a person and become independent, I had to leave my friends and family for a larger place where I could continue to work toward my goals. As I looked at the blur of unfamiliar faces walking by, I could relate to his going to a new place where he didn't know anyone.

Although I will always wish that my dad hadn't moved, the distance has strengthened our relationship. My dad has become my rock, or my “safety net,” as he likes to put it. He has an answer for everything, and is able to help me transition into becoming an adult – from answering questions about banking to giving me advice on how to achieve academic success in college. I still wish that my dad could have been close by for my high school years, but I fully understand why he had to leave. Looking around at what will become my new life, I realize that I'm finally at peace with it.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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