The Last Goodbye
The goodbye three days ago with Hoi and Ri was unexpected. While we were driving in downtown Danang Friday afternoon, as Hoi was gently fanning Marissa with a hotel brochure the alleviate some the humidity she wasn’t used to, the van driver abruptly pulled over to the side of the road. Our guide announced that this was place we were dropping of Marissa’s mother and brother. I looked out the van window and saw that he had pulled over to a bus stop. Hoi’s house is, to say the least, secluded and this was a very good opportunity for them, as we headed back to the hotel, to easily visit their in town relatives. Ri was then headed back on the 12-hour bus ride back to his village to his wife. Our time together had come to and end. This had been agreed upon between our guide and the two of them, but we non-Vietnamese speakers were oblivious to the plan so it took us by surprise.
So we all got out of the van and said our goodbyes. Hugs were shared and, without a common language, we nodded and smiled to wish each other the best. It was heartfelt, but the goodbye felt premature. Looking forward for us, the plan now was to sight see the few remaining stops on Saturday (which I have already blogged about) then relax at the hotel Sunday (I think our guide wanted the day off), then fly onto Hanoi late Monday morning.
But Friday night, Chris ruminated on this and the more she thought about it, the less she liked about it. On Saturday morning before we went sightseeing, she told our guide that we wanted to see Marissa’s birthmother one more time, even if would be without the bus-bound Ri. Our guide mulled it over it briefly then agreed that we would see Hoi one more time Monday morning before the flight to Hanoi.
So, this morning we headed back to Hoi’s house. Our guide had phoned Ri over the weekend and informed him of our revised plans. With this advanced warning, Ri decided to delay his trip back to his wife, and Hoi’s brother-in-law and her youngest brother were able to join us.
At Hoi’s house, Ri and I joked about how both of us had married older women. Hoi admitted that after meeting Marissa, that she couldn’t sleep that first night. A million things had run through her mind that night and now, a few days later, she couldn’t think of anything to ask. They did ask when we would visit again. Everyone understood that our answer of “I don’t know” was a tacit admission that this wasn’t going to happen again.
Hoi had bought Marissa a nice gold-colored necklace. It seems they felt the need to kill the proverbial fatted calf. Hoi after hearing that Marissa likes fruit, gave her a golf ball-sized orange. Her brother gave us the gift of homemade bologna. Hoi harvested peanuts from her garden, then washed and dried them on the cement block in front of her mother’s house next door. Meanwhile Hoi’s brother-in-law cracked a coconut to gave its milk to us.
But finally it was time to head to the airport and while Ri would use our Van to reach the bus route, we had to say goodbye to Hoi in the alley leading to her house. Big hugs were shared. As we headed out of the hollow, Marissa leaned her head on Ri’s shoulder still clutching onto the little orange.
Not much was said as we reached downtown. We stopped at a bridge near the intersection of two major roads. It was time to say goodbye to Marissa’s remaining relative one final time. Not asking permission, Ri pulled Marissa out of the van and walked a little ways for some privacy with his newly-found little sister, but the din of the bridge traffic would allow him that privacy. He leaned into Marissa and raised his voice loud enough for her to hear and, carefully enunciating a language in which he knew few words:
I love her. I miss her. I love her forever.