When I left Turkey in 2012, I wrote a blog post entitled: Things I will miss most about Turkey. It listed all sorts of things that hurt my heart about leaving that amazing country. But without a doubt, THE hardest part of leaving Turkey was saying good bye to my housekeeper and great friend, Hatice (pronounced Hatijah).
Hatice with our little Abigail
I still can't really look at that photo above without having to avert my eyes from Hatice's face. Seeing it, makes me just feel so full of emotion.
In that blog post I wrote these words:
Hatice. Just one word. Without a doubt, when I think of leaving, leaving Hatice is the hardest part. She has no passport. Her ability to visit us is nerely non-existant. I hope to see her again but am not sure I will. And far away from family, Nene Hatice has become Abigail's surrogate Grama. I will miss her so deeply it hurts me -- physically. She and I have agreed not to talk about it. Not to say good bye. We just have to pretend it isn't happening.
Hatice loved all my children, but she had a special connection with Abigail. Abigail adored Hatice. She was Abigail's Nene.
She'll always be her Nene.
And then I moved to the Azores. I said good bye to Hatice ... somehow. And I met Hita. She is a sixty-two year old widow with two grown children and no grandchildren. She has an incredibly large extended family. She is one of two sets of twins that her mother birthed! Her daughter is deaf. Her son brings her to work each week. Five years before I arrived on the island, her husband died of a very sudden massive heart attack. She wears all black at all times which signifies that she is a widow who does not plan to ever marry again. Oh and while she lives on a very tiny island, she is afraid of airplanes and water. No joke.
I wrote a blog post after meeting Hita. I shared about how hard it was to leave one set of people behind and then be expected to make new friends and love new people here. I entitled the post: I can't love her.
Hita with our little Hannah
Here were the words I penned when I wrote that blog post:
I also still realize how much I am still grieving leaving Turkey when I find myself fearing making friends here. I have my arm up. I'm keeping people at a safe distance. I don't want to connect and disconnect again. My housekeeper, Hita, is wonderful. I enjoyed taking her on her first elevator ride ever the other day! (She's never left the island and there really aren't any high rising buildings here in Terceira.) She loves Abigail. She is a fantastic worker. And yet, I don't want to love her. I can't love her. I can't say good bye to her like I had to do Hatice.
And yet somehow, I fell in love with her too. I didn't mean to. I tried not to let it happen. But she nestled her way inside my heart. We call each other family. When she asks me what I need done, I usually just throw my hands up and tell her that this is her house too. "Do whatever you think!" I say.
In addition, my departure is even more profound for Hita because the Americans are drawing down here at Lajes. No more families are coming to this Base. Only unaccompanied airman who have little need of a housekeeper.
It is likely that in the next year, there will be no more Americans for her to work for.
Like Hatice, the language barrier between Hita and I means lots of charades and guessing and calling in a translator. But like Hatice, when I see Hita with my baby Hannah, I don't want to let her go. I want her in my life forever.
Saying good bye to other American friends is hard, but I know I will most likely see them again. Maybe soon. But with Hita who has no passport and has never left this island ... ever, I know that the chances of ever hugging her again are slim.
I am ready to leave here. I am ready to go back to America.
But saying good bye to Hita?
Not ready for that.
I don't think I ever will be.
How do I possibly say that good bye?