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When Heartbeats Linger Abroad

Reflecting on the Cherished Pain of Goodbye

By Sirena Carroll - The Blind Single MomPublished 5 months ago 5 min read
(Image supplied by author.) Outside a German café, Sirena stands smiling, accompanied by Nugget in a stroller. She is dressed in a casual black jacket and blue jeans, her hair pulled back, highlighting her cheerful expression. She holds a multi-colored "white" cane, signaling her visual independence. The toddler, snug in a vibrant red stroller, wears a coat sprinkled with colorful patterns, his small brown boots resting on the foot support. Beside the duo, a wooden barrel adds rustic charm, while a sleek, modern ashtray stands in contrast. The café's glass façade reflects a bare-branched tree and a tranquil street scene, with green parasols folded beside the entrance, hinting at the outdoor experiences awaiting warmer days. Above the entrance, a sign reads "Rotenhans," presented in simple, elegant lettering that seems to promise a warm welcome within.

Dear You,

As I bid farewell to Germany for the last time, I realize this town means more to me than I expected. When I knew I was returning, it was easier to walk away. There was a next time.

There's no visit left in my future. My daughter returns to America with her military father and stepmom this year. Still, a part of me will remain here. A piece of my heart will continue wandering the narrow streets. Smell the woodsmoke in the winter air. Listen to the church bells marking time with a fifteen-minute tolling.

The friends I leave behind bind a part of me to this country, this town, to them. I know I'll see Judie again. She'll return to the States herself one day. Even if she isn't living there, her daughter is Rose's best friend; I know we'll plan summer play dates when they visit America.

I fear I'll never see Fin and Liesel again in person. I may always need help to afford a return to this town.

Fin. That man is well rooted in my heart. We met him on a cold day at the start of summer in 2022. Rose and I brought the baby out for lunch. We sat, shivering, at one of the outdoor tables. He approached us like a shining knight in heated armor. His voice radiated warmth and his soul kindness. He brought us blankets, learned our names, and has been one of our favorite people since. I wish I'd clocked the date. He's even Uncle Fin at this point. He cherishes my little ones almost as much as I do and gets extra heart points.

We met Liesel around the same time, though my personal connection with her is newer. Our first introduction occurred less uniquely. She was the only server at the time who spoke fluent English. Her vibrant spirit captured us instantly. She smiled. She acknowledged both my children with genuine delight. Rose had a blast playing with Liesel's little ones when they visited the cafe over the summer.

I ask myself how I came to cherish these two people so profoundly when we never spoke for more than a handful of minutes at a time. They're busy servers. We didn't have time for heart-to-hearts. And yet, they captured mine.

There's no definitive answer. Hearts are strange. Sometimes, friends just work, and there are no criteria one needs to meet. Sometimes, they're just treasured, and that's that.

There isn't a friendship formula, but there are contributing factors.

My visits to Germany are infused with Rose's presence. Being with my daughter and watching her bond with her little brother makes everything else bearable.

There is also screaming. Some arguments rise two floors and penetrate every door I try closing against them. These arguments have sent Rose fleeing up to me in fear. We'd either sit and hug, waiting it out, or distract ourselves with music or movies.

There is the constant judgment I receive from Rose's father. I'm blind. I'm uneducated. I'm unemployed. I'm too fat. I'm female. Put it all together, and what do you get? A third-rate human at best.

We discussed Gabriel's cleverness last week.

"I mean, his father's not unintelligent," he stated, emphasizing the word "father." Cue awkward silence.

At the start of my last visit, I remarked on how my ADHD medication destroys my appetite.

"Well, you wanted to diet, so that sounds like a good thing," he responded.

He pointed out their fattening nature whenever I tried Scottish shortbread and chili con queso. Yes. Thank you. I know I'm overweight.

Even though my visits to Germany meant having time to parent Rose, I always had to follow a slew of texted commands. It didn't go over well if I confronted him about screaming at Rose. Expressing irritation when discussing parenting agreements sent him into a rage.

I can pack my bags and leave now if that's how I will be! Rose's father can always strip joint vacations for the children out of the parenting agreement if I'm going to throw it back in his face!

I am worthless in his eyes. Worth less than him.

This environment sanded me down emotionally until there were days when I had to flee the site of all my flaws. Last summer, this retreat occurred almost daily.

When weather permitted my escape, Rotenhans was my haven. Fin and Liesel were tender when I most needed tenderness. They were friendly when I most needed friends. Once we grew close enough for them, Fin's hugs became my cornerstone of gentle contact, imparting incredible strength when I had none.

I craved to be seen.

They saw me.

I yearned to be worthy in the eyes of another adult.

They made me feel like I was more than an excrement stain on the highly polished boot of their lives.

At Rotenhans, I built memories.

Shortly after Gabriel began walking, he toddled into the cafe while playing with his sister. It was a slow day, and only Liesel was inside. Gabriel took off into the kitchen to hug her, Rose hot on his heels.

Anywhere else, scowls and grumbles of displeasure would abound. Not here.

Liesel laughed, scooped Gabriel up, and gave him a cuddle. She showered him with cookies, and Rose returned him to the outside table where I read.

Fin told me he collects magnets. It's a small tidbit, but it meant the world to me. It was another step down the road of friendship. He didn't hesitate when I asked if he wanted to be a pen pal.

I can count the number of friends I genuinely adore and still have fingers to spare. My past makes trust incredibly difficult.

I trust these friends implicitly.

This town holds a piece of me because Fin and Liesel always will.

Saying goodbye to Rose, knowing I won't see her again for eight months, is like having my soul slowly dismembered with a spoon. But I know I'll be with her again.

Leaving behind two friends I might never see again presents a unique anguish. Unknowingly, they were my foundations when everything around me was shifting.

Alas, but saying goodbye hurts so much more than I wanted it to.

Sincerely, Me


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About the Creator

Sirena Carroll - The Blind Single Mom

Killing Misconceptions, One Story At A Time

I'm Sirena, a book-loving blind mom opening up on the unique life of single and co-parenting with a disability.

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Comments (3)

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  • Katelyn Greller3 months ago

    Your work is so beautiful and soul-baring yet goes down like a warm drink. I relate so much to what you wrote about friends you might never see again. I hate life transitions like that and am so grateful our friendship was forged long distance so at least there's not a move hanging overhead 😂 I'm continually grateful for your vulnerability that helps us all.

  • Dana Crandell4 months ago

    Enjoyed the warm tribute to your friends, and the pain of leaving them behind is something I can certainly relate to. The epistolary form was an interesting choice. I enjoyed this story very much.

  • L.C. Schäfer5 months ago

    What beautiful souls, and how lucky to have met them ❤

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