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Monday, November 30, 2015

Bye, Atlanta

I remember the first time my father told me he was moving to Atlanta. We were in a car on Woodman Road getting ready to turn left onto Glenside. I don't remember exactly how he said it, something like "we're going to be moving to Atlanta". It was sunny that day, a bit chilly.


What does that mean?

Will I come visit you then?

Did you even consider how this will affect me?

I barely see you now.

What does that mean?

I was a sophomore in High School I think. My parents had split up a few years earlier so I had already settled into the groove of having divorced parents, but I was still so angry at my father. I was also subconsciously terrified that he would leave again, want to see me even less if I gave him a reason, so I tried to always be as accommodating as possible. I tried to be funny enough and polite enough and pretty enough and smart enough. I wanted to make sure he was always happy with me and that I made things easy for him. For him.

So on this day I said nothing about how I was really feeling. I said nothing about how I felt discarded and unimportant. I said nothing about how shitty it was that he said it so nonchalantly like he was saying we were going to Olive Garden for dinner. I said nothing about how he should have had words of reassurance for me letting me know that we would see each other, that he was still my dad and would be there for me.

I don't know if he thought about any of that. Maybe he didn't. Maybe he did. Maybe it's too much to expect that he would have. Maybe he was worried I would be upset so he tried to keep it as brief as possible, because he couldn't handle me getting mad any more than I could handle him getting mad. Who knows. Either way, on this day, I said nothing. I think I mumbled "oh ok, so when is this happening?" and then tried to seem excited about the move. Why am I writing about this? Well, because next year I'll be saying goodbye to Atlanta.

Along with my father, his then-wife Cathy and my little brother and sister naturally accompanied him on the move, and so began many years of visiting what came to be a second home of sorts. After nursing school, my sister Genie moved down as well. I toyed with making the leap myself during college, living in the big city, but that was mostly because I was unhappy about where I was in that time in my life, not because I liked Atlanta. In truth, I hate it.

I hate the traffic. I hate the newness. I hate that everyone is from somewhere else. I hate the suburban sprawl. I hate the disparity of wealth. Did I mention I hate the traffic? That being said, I have come to know it very well. I've spent holidays, graduations, weeks and days within it's neighborhoods. I've eaten at it's restaurants and shopped at it's malls. I've been to two hospital rooms where I kissed my niece and nephew for the first time. I buried my father there. It's comfortable to me.

My sister and her family will be moving from said comfortable zone sometime next year. I hope a good decision for them and one that will bring them closer to me which I'm very happy about. With dad gone, that will just leave my little brother and sister, whose current early-twenties schedules leave little time for their big sister. I will always visit them. I will always be their big sister. I will always go visit my dad. But something feels different. After more than 20 years, Atlanta won't be a part of me anymore.

I will miss the traffic, I will miss the restaurants, I will miss the big city feel, I will miss my favorite Waffle House on 85 that makes the best cherry coke's ever! I'm also afraid that life will do what it always does, it will keep going. Days will turn into weeks, weeks into months and months into years. I'll rationalize why it really hasn't been that long since I visited, and my schedule is so crazy, I can't possibly afford the plane ticket or have time to drive the eight hours down until next year. See how I'm already doing it?

To make sure that doesn't happen, I will need to be vigilant and present. I will need to be aware of how my actions, or lack thereof, will affect my brother and sister, unlike my father at that stage in his life. In the end I was lucky, my father realized the mistakes he'd made. Divorce was not the problem, it was what he did afterwards. It was the almost ten years afterwards that he wasn't there for us and that we couldn't count on him that were the problem. We finally had that discussion we hadn't had in the car that day, and countless others where we both talked about how we really felt and what we wished had happened. I no longer have any regrets about what I should have said.

I will always love the good memories I have from Atlanta. The good times with my father that made up the last 15 years of his life. The visits with my sister, watching her become a mom. The visits with my little brother and sister, watching them grow. I will always love Atlanta because of what it represents. Remind me of that when I go on a tirade about the traffic.

I wanted to write about this because I found myself really sad when I heard that my sister was actually moving. I was surprised at how much. I think it's because it's one of the last physical ties I have to my father, to that time in my life. It means another layer of things are moving on. Another time has come and passed. Another moment that I'll never get back.

Bye, Atlanta......

{ With my dad on the river near Stone Mountain }

{ Having fun with my brother at the original Coke Factory }

{ The Fitzgerald siblings on a an aquarium outing }

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