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"Small Goodbyes" by Rebecca Minelga

Phototograph courtesy of Slobbered Lens.

    His skinny arms wrap around my torso, his face buried in my shirt, a makeshift handkerchief catching his tears. This wasn’t a posed picture; it was captured. Trapped. Caged in black and white pixels, then frozen in time. An eternal goodbye.

     We raise Guide Dog Puppies, so goodbye is a part of the parlance of our family. While others might divide time by seasons or the school year, we do it by housebreaking, socialization outings, training benchmarks, and, of course, letting go.

     You might think it gets easier with practice. It doesn’t. If anything, it is harder now than when I started, pre-kids. Now I carry not only my own grief, but his, and his little brother’s. A burden three times greater with every farewell.

     But the tears are bittersweet. We will see them again, uniformed in a leather harness, navigating a dangerous world with poise and strength, shoulders wider, head higher. Their partner – this unknown person – will become a part of our family. This closing door will lead to one thrown wide open to the future.

     So, I let his skinny arms squeeze, even in the unposed, unscripted moments. He is eleven, and I have no doubt that these moments are fast-receding in the rear-view mirror of growing up. The top of his head reaches my chin, his talk has turned to the future, and I saw him walking down the school hall with a girl last week. I’m not ready.

      Thirteen goodbyes. One for every puppy. It’s a good thing I have so much practice. It's a good thing I know that the small goodbyes lead to greater hellos. Because someday, those arms will squeeze one last time. And that will be the hardest goodbye of all.

Phototograph courtesy of Rebecca Minelga.

Rebecca is an author and speaker who uses the power of words to navigate the liminal spaces between who we are and who we are becoming. Rebecca raises Guide Dog Puppies and two sons - in that order - with her husband just north of Seattle. She have been previously published in The Mark Literary Review, Crêpe and Penn, and The Hooghly Review.


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