Every summer my Dad’s cousin Carlo drives from Milan to Gravagna to live in his childhood home for a couple of months. He plants a garden, hikes more miles daily than most men half his age would but as soon as it is dark, his real work begins. He hauls out a telescope (that probably costs more than my house) from a garage made out of cheap corrugated metal and looks at the stars.
This summer I went over three times to stargaze with him. Once under the church wall where he sets up his telescope and once in a field above Gravagna where he had hauled his telescope to get a better view of the lunar eclipse.
The third time was the night before we were leaving. We looked at globular clusters, dying stars and meteorites–and at the end of the evening we hugged goodbye under the starlight.
Goodbyes are always hard in Gravagna–many of our friends there are in their seventies and eighties and the goodbyes are always a reminder of our own mortality. I went to the bottega to last day to say goodbye to Teresa, who runs the village shop and without whom we could not get our daily bread, eggs, and milk. She keeps the village running on every level. As I walked into her courtyard I found Carlo there. As I went to hug him one last time he whispered in my ear. “We really said goodbye under the stars” and slipped away.
I was so grateful. Long goodbyes have always been difficult for me. Probably part of this is my choleric future oriented personality. But part of it is that short goodbyes are the sweetest in my experience. Its better to leave a little something undone. . . . .
I suppose that goodbyes under the stars feel more authentic. . . slipping away into the darkness, somehow feels more honest–the night both hides us and makes us vulnerable–there is apart of ourself we must reserve in a goodbye–we are taking it away with us and a part of ourselves we make available–vulnerable–our sadness at departure.
Of course one can’t plan goodbyes but when you have a particularly good one–its nice to reflect on why.