Invisibilia searches for the best way to say farewell in final episode In their final episode, Invisibilia searches for the right way to say goodbye.

The Goodbye Show

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YOWEI SHAW, HOST:

From NPR, this is INVISIBILIA. I'm Yowei Shaw. Welcome to the goodbye show. And, you know, it's not like we want to say goodbye. NPR is stopping production of INVISIBILIA because of a massive budget shortfall. But that's the thing about goodbyes. They are often forced upon you, sometimes rudely, and they're just hard. So our team is saying our goodbyes by doing what INVISIBILIA does best, thinking hard about them. And we reached out to you, our listeners, for help.

JEFFREY MEYER: Hey there.

ELYSA SYCARD: Hello, INVISIBILIA. You asked about goodbyes.

SHAW: And you did not disappoint.

MARISSA MANN: I am currently in the middle of saying goodbye.

ALLISON LAUGHLIN: My goodbye is one that everybody saw coming.

ISAIAH PRASAD: Trouble letting things go...

SYCARD: I've never liked goodbyes, but who does, really, right?

SHAW: We heard an objection to using the word goodbye in general.

MARINA FOO: On Treaty 7 territory, where I reside, the Blackfoot people do not say goodbye but instead kitamatsin, which means see you later because goodbye is reserved for death.

SHAW: Speaking of death, there was a lot of death in our inbox - dying family members, dying friends, dying pets.

NATASHA ALLEN: I'm in the process of saying goodbye to my 19-year-old cat, Humpher. Sorry.

SHAW: There was a goodbye to a bad job...

RYAN COLON: Felt like a toxic relationship.

SHAW: ...To romantic relationships...

LAUREN TORRES: We had some wins. We had some losses. The season is now over, and that's OK.

SHAW: ...Also a goodbye to a breast implant that went bad.

LALA DRONA: I put the breast implant in a display case jar thing.

SHAW: And surprisingly for NPR, we only got one haiku.

ERIC ONG: Bye for now but not forever. Wait, see, listen...

SHAW: Then there's the listener who did a very INVISIBILIA thing and said goodbye to her childhood home by recording her favorite sounds of it...

(SOUNDBITE OF WALKING ON STAIRS)

SHAW: ...Like the way the stairs would creak walking up them, the closing of her bedroom door...

(SOUNDBITE OF DOOR CLOSING)

SHAW: ...Or something as small as a light switch.

CLAIRE JONES: Likes to switch quick - got a lot of gusto - the light, however, was always a bit delayed and then eventually stopped working entirely. But the switch - it was a good switch.

(SOUNDBITE OF LIGHT SWITCH)

SHAW: So today on the show, before NPR turns the lights off on us, we've got stories from the team and from you, our listeners, all meditations on navigating these tricky moments of departure. But first, a message from my co-host, Kia.

(SOUNDBITE OF PACKING TAPE STRETCHING)

KIA MIAKKA NATISSE, HOST:

OK. Let's get some nat sound of boxes.

(SOUNDBITE OF PACKING TAPE STRETCHING)

SHAW: Kia's packing up to move right now, but she wanted to say goodbye.

MIAKKA NATISSE: This is just a little note to say thank you to everyone. I have a really deep gratitude to, firstly, you, the listener, for tuning in, for writing us, for tweeting, for sending messages, just really engaging with the stuff that we make and letting us know that you like it and appreciate it. I'm so grateful for that. I'm grateful for all the many, many people who have worked and helped make this show, including my co-host, Yowei Shaw, who helped usher in this new era of INVISIBILIA. Thank you to the people who first made this show, Alix and Lulu and Hanna. And, yeah, I'm just over here packing boxes. Endings can be hard, but they can also be opportunities. And so that's how I'm taking it. I'm taking this ending as an opportunity for a completely new and different beginning, and I'm looking forward to it.

Keep in touch. Don't be a stranger. You can find me on the internets. Just search Kia Miakka Natisse or Miakka Natisse. You'll find me on some adventure near the water.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONNOR LAFITTE'S "EAST SIDE POCKETS")

SHAW: Of course, Kia, you'll be by the water. Thank you for helping me spearhead this new era of INVISIBILIA. I am so excited to hear where this new adventure takes you.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONNOR LAFITTE'S "EAST SIDE POCKETS")

SHAW: OK. Our first story comes to us from producer Andrew Mambo. Hey, Andrew. Welcome to the goodbye show.

ANDREW MAMBO, BYLINE: Hey, Yowei. I come bearing gifts.

SHAW: Oh, OK. I love a gift.

MAMBO: I got fun stories. I went through the listener emails. And during this time, what I really needed was some levity, some laughs. So I kind of found myself diving into this particular subset of funny stories about goodbyes, which was the awkward goodbyes.

SHAW: There is something so delicious about the awkward goodbye as long as you are not the person responsible for it.

MAMBO: Yeah.

SHAW: For everybody else involved, it's truly a gift.

MAMBO: Oh, yeah. They're the best. That's why I want to share with you a few of my favorite awkward goodbyes from listeners. You ready?

SHAW: Yeah. Let's do it.

MAMBO: OK. So we heard from one listener who, the morning after a cute guy stayed over, she had to poop. And, you know, she's trying to be polite but also, you know, like, trying to get the guy out the door.

SHAW: Makes sense.

MAMBO: Yeah. And he's just kind of not getting the hint. He's lingering, taking his sweet time. In the end, she finally ends up just yelling at him to go.

SHAW: That is like me in meetings that go long, and I have to pee, but, like, I can't yell 'cause we are in a workplace. So I just start bouncing on my bouncing ball chair. I don't know if you've noticed.

MAMBO: Of course. Yeah, I've noticed. You do that in meetings sometimes.

SHAW: Well, that's what's happening. I'm doing a silent version of a yell via bounce.

MAMBO: OK. Good to know.

SHAW: (Laughter).

MAMBO: I'll make a note that for this last week we're working together. Yeah. All right. So another story we got was from a listener that took place in high school. And, you know, that's already an awkward time. And one day, their dad tells them, hey, we're going to be moving away at the end of the school year. So this person is kind of devastated. They're leaving all their friends. They decide they're going to make the perfect goodbye and they spend months making a stop-motion animated film that they play on the last day of school. It's the perfect goodbye. All their friends are, like, emotional. And then over the summer, the dad comes back and says, hey, actually, we're not moving. You're going back to school. And so they start the school year. And all the friends and everybody in the school keeps being like, didn't you leave? Why are you still here?

SHAW: Oh, my God, that is a...

MAMBO: Yeah.

SHAW: ...Nightmare. This person was just trying to get an A in saying goodbye...

MAMBO: I know.

SHAW: ...And, like, doing it in the most thoughtful, nice way ever.

MAMBO: Right?

SHAW: They're probably still processing that one, huh?

MAMBO: Yeah. Super awkward. OK, this last story is, like, next level. It's just straight slapstick awkward. This happened, like, 15 years ago. This listener, Megan Sheehan - she was living in San Francisco at the time. Her friend Michael came to town. They were close friends in high school and had actually hooked up a little, and they kept in touch over the years. So when he comes to town, he invites her out to brunch with his current boyfriend and a group of friends. She's like, yes, of course, I'd love to see you and meet your new boyfriend. But she's a little nervous 'cause it's been a long time, and she wants to make a good impression. So, you know, she takes a little extra time getting ready.

MEGAN SHEEHAN: I'm sure it took me, you know, an hour or two to get ready.

MAMBO: But almost immediately, things kind of start going left. Like, back then, Megan was a punctual person. So she gets there, she's trying to be early, but when she arrives, she sees that everybody's already seated.

SHAW: So she's, like, thrown off her game from the jump.

MAMBO: Right, exactly. And then they order.

SHEEHAN: Pancakes with bacon on the side. Like, bring the syrup. Like, give me as much sugar as you can (laughter), you know?

MAMBO: And the rest of the table is ordering salads and grain bowls.

SHAW: What kind of brunch is that? Why are you paying for brunch if you're only going to get salad?

MAMBO: I'm with you. Yeah, I do think the salad people are coming for you, but - so she tries to chat with her friend's boyfriend. But, like, they have nothing in common, so the conversation isn't going so great. It's just kind of flat.

SHEEHAN: His body language was sort of, like, turned towards his friends. Definitely felt like he just wasn't really interested in chatting.

SHAW: Poor Megan.

MAMBO: Yeah, I know. So the table gets cleared, and brunch is coming to an end. She's like, you know, this has not been great. I'm just - probably just going to leave. And she decides to stop by the bathroom. And as she's coming back from the bathroom, she sees Michael's boyfriend, you know, who she had been having difficulty connecting with. She decides to stop and say, hey, it was really nice meeting you. And then she doesn't really have anything else to say after that. So she's kind of just standing there awkwardly.

SHEEHAN: And so I sort of step closer to him and, like, just sort of press my body up against his body, like giving a hug but without my arms.

SHAW: So awkward. Wait, wait, wait. So why didn't she use her arms?

MAMBO: She cannot tell you why. She does not know.

SHEEHAN: I just - I think I sort of froze. Like, I was thinking, well, he's taller than me, so he's going to kind of, you know, envelop me a little bit with his arms. But he wasn't going in for the hug. He was just standing there.

MAMBO: So he doesn't give her anything. He doesn't help the situation at all.

SHEEHAN: So I'm giving him a full body press, you know, with the front of my body against the front of his body with no arms.

MAMBO: If he moved out of the way, she would have fallen down. Like, yeah.

SHAW: (Laughter). OK.

SHEEHAN: And then I kind of stepped back, and I realized what just happened. And he looked so confused.

MAMBO: So eventually, she's like, oh, God, what have I done? - and decides to just leave and not, like, say goodbye to anybody. She just runs out of the restaurant.

SHAW: Wow.

MAMBO: She doesn't say goodbye to her friend Michael. They don't even talk about it the rest of his trip there. And she continues her friendship. You know, they're still in contact. They've never talked about this happening.

SHAW: They've never talked about it happening?

MAMBO: She has never talked about it. I was like, you going to send him the story? She's like, yeah, I think so.

SHAW: (Laughter).

MAMBO: Like, that's going to be her way of talking about it. So awkward.

SHAW: It would be so much less awkward if Megan had just talked to him about it years ago.

MAMBO: Oh, yeah, for sure. I mean, like, that's the beauty of awkwardness - is that it becomes more awkward because you don't talk about it. Like, it's just a gift, and you need to just take it and embrace it and hold it tight.

SHAW: Well, I feel for Megan and all of these listeners because I am also awkward at goodbyes. You know, like, there's always a moment where somebody has to initiate the goodbye. Like, this is over now, and we are moving on with their lives. And I just don't like being that person. And so there's, like, that awkward dance of, like, who's going to do the goodbye? Who's going to initiate? You know what I mean?

MAMBO: You don't want to take responsibility for being the one to start the goodbye?

SHAW: Absolutely not. I just let the other person carry that burden.

MAMBO: Well...

SHAW: OK. Well...

MAMBO: Is that what it feels like? (Laughter) Is it happening now?

SHAW: Like, don't you feel it? Someone needs to initiate the goodbye.

MAMBO: You have to do it.

SHAW: OK. Goodbye.

MAMBO: OK. Bye, Yowei. Bye.

SHAW: Bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHAW: After the break, the dead grandma club.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHAW: Hi, Ariana.

ARIANA GHARIB LEE, BYLINE: Hi, Yowei.

SHAW: This is the first time that we have tracked together.

LEE: It is.

SHAW: And I wish it were under better circumstances.

LEE: Me too. Me too.

SHAW: But yes, Ariana Gharib Lee, you are a producer of INVISIBILIA. What do you got today?

LEE: So, for me, the scary part about saying goodbye is not actually saying goodbye. It's the part that comes after. Like, am I going to remember what I'm supposed to about this experience or this relationship? Which is why I've always been the type of person to hold on to stuff. For example, a few years ago, my grandmas passed away, and I'm obsessed with this amazing stuff they left me, like a rug from Iran that's in my living room, a portrait of my Chinese grandma that's on my wall. Maybe you've noticed this huge ring that I wear on my finger, which I always wear, even though it gets in the way of cooking.

SHAW: I have noticed.

LEE: But in this callout, we got a story from a listener that actually made me question myself.

SHAW: OK.

LEE: The listener - her name is Molly Devnani. And last year, she lost her grandma, who she adored.

MOLLY DEVNANI: I have this memory of her, like, throwing her walker forward and then walking to catch up with it - just a busy, busy person.

SHAW: Oh, my God. How does that even work? That's like a - it's, like, from a Pixar movie.

LEE: It's like, do you need the walker? I feel like you don't need the walker.

(LAUGHTER)

LEE: So after she passed, Molly went to India where her grandma had lived. And while she was there, one of the things that was happening was that her family was cleaning up her grandma's house, deciding what to throw out, what to keep. And that's when they all came across a bag of nightgowns.

DEVNANI: They feel pressed and a little humid, maybe. And they're kind of stuck in their folded positions. One of them is yellow and has pink flowers on it. Another one is green, like, a bright, fluorescent type of green - just her swag, you know?

LEE: So Molly is, like, absolutely entranced with these nightgowns, while her aunt and cousin are also standing there and just, like, way less impressed.

DEVNANI: And they were sort of joking around, smelling it, how it smells like coconut oil. They couldn't stand that she always had coconut oil smell on her. But I could kind of put together, oh, my gosh, they're going to get rid of these. And I just had this sinking feeling of, like, absolutely not. Like, I'm keeping these. These are mine. In the moment, they were like, OK, Molly, you don't know what's going on, but just take them.

LEE: So she packs a bag full to the brim with the nightgowns.

Did you have to pay for an extra bag?

DEVNANI: I did, yeah. I sure did.

LEE: She takes the long flight home.

Literally going back to America with your familial baggage.

DEVNANI: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

DEVNANI: Quite literally, yes.

LEE: She gets back to the U.S., and she has this plan. She wants to turn the nightgowns into a quilt, so she pops the nightgowns in the trunk of her car. She's going to take them to her mom's house for help sewing. But before she can get that far...

DEVNANI: I, off the cuff, just mention this to my cousin. And she's like, well, you know, you actually are supposed to, like, burn them. Or what we do is just give them away.

LEE: So Molly's Hindu, and her family does this thing where they get rid of stuff after someone passes away because they want the person's soul to be able to leave their body and move on, which they can't do if you have all their stuff around.

DEVNANI: And I was kind of like, oh, shoot. You know, I'm sorry. I didn't know that. Why didn't you tell me before I packed the bag of nighties, you know, home with me?

LEE: But, you know, considering the stakes, Molly's cousin is pretty chill about it.

DEVNANI: She's like, but it's OK. It's - I mean, it's whatever you want, so it's more about what you believe in. So now it's kind of like, what do I believe in?

SHAW: That is - it would almost be easier if the cousin was just like, you need to burn them. Or it's totally fine.

LEE: I know. And that's why for weeks, Molly is like, what do I do? Do I make the quilt?

DEVNANI: Oh, my gosh. It would be beautiful (laughter). It would look so good on my couch.

LEE: Or do I take the nighties out of my car and donate them?

DEVNANI: Like, what if her soul is still in there? What if what they said is true. And, like, she's just in the trunk? Like, should I move her up to the passenger seat or...

SHAW: So what did Molly do?

LEE: Well, when I called Molly, she still hadn't decided. And we talked about it a lot. And eventually, she said this thing about keeping the nighties that I just couldn't get out of my head.

DEVNANI: I can keep her handwritten notes around. I can keep her nightgowns around, but that's ultimately to try to sort of stage the scene as though she's here, right?

LEE: Yeah.

DEVNANI: I think we've arrived at our answer (laughter).

LEE: What's the answer?

DEVNANI: I mean, hearing myself talk about those two paths, I think it makes sense to let the nighties soar on to their next home, you know?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DEVNANI: Because I guess ultimately, it's letting go, but it's also reality.

LEE: And the reality is that she doesn't need the things.

DEVNANI: The love stays. You know, if I want to remember her, that's within myself, and I don't really need a physical crutch for that.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHAW: I think that's beautiful. Like, you're not going to use a crutch to remember; you're just going to trust that you will.

LEE: Yeah.

SHAW: So, Ariana...

LEE: Yes?

SHAW: Does that mean that you will take off the huge ring that you wear all the time, even though it gets in the way?

LEE: No. You can't make me.

(LAUGHTER)

SHAW: I see. So you have not absorbed the lesson of your own story that you reported.

LEE: OK. Well, I will share one thing, which is that a few years ago, I was making, of all things, a pinata for my friend's birthday. And yeah. I, like, took the ring off to do it. I put it on the ground, and I stepped on it. And it, like, mushed down into this, like, unwearable shape.

SHAW: No.

LEE: And I, like, picked it up, and I was horrified. And my friend generously, like, went to work on it, and she made it wearable again. And I was super, super grateful. But I guess, like, after, like, talking to Molly, the thing I realized was that I think if that happened again, I'd be a little less freaked out.

(SOUNDBITE OF INFINITY KNIVES' "YES, LORD")

SHAW: Thanks, Ariana.

LEE: Of course. Talk to you soon. Bye.

SHAW: Goodbye.

(SOUNDBITE OF INFINITY KNIVES' "YES, LORD")

SHAW: All right. Our next story is about a kind of goodbye we got a lot of messages about - the goodbye you regret. And it comes from a listener who actually hasn't listened to that many episodes.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: It's about three to four, sorry. Because I find that it's really involved. You cannot do things in, you know, with the background. You go, OK. Listen to INVISIBILIA. You have to really concentrate.

SHAW: This is my mom, the queen who kills with candor. She's also a hot girl who always has the latest on what's new in skin care.

Wow, you look so moisturized.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

SHAW: Or is that sweat?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: No, no, no, no. (Non-English language spoken) It's sunscreen. I love it.

SHAW: I wanted to talk to my mom because she's had a lot of practice saying goodbye, specifically to her mom, my grandma Waipo. My mom grew up an only child in Taiwan, and my grandpa died early on. So from a young age, it was just her and Waipo, the two of them, which they took advantage of with their own special rituals. Like, when my mom was a kid, Waipo liked to dress her up like a doll, buy fabric in the morning and sit at the sewing machine for hours to make my mom a dress by the afternoon.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We don't really have a routine. You know, like, oh, daddy's coming home, so we need to make dinner for everyone. So she would just concentrate on making it to finishing from start to finish.

SHAW: Well, her routine would be you.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Yeah. (Laughter) That's right.

SHAW: But then when my mom was 22, she broke up this duo. She flew to the U.S. to go to grad school and live with my dad, who she'd been doing long distance with. My mom says, back then, if you were lucky enough to skip town for the U.S., leaving wasn't a question mark. Everyone was on board at the time. But still, I'd always wondered what had gone down in that goodbye. We'd never talked about the actual moment of it.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: That, for me, is really, really, really scary - (laughter) a scary thought.

SHAW: In the weeks leading up to the flight, my mom says everything was a scramble. Waipo was in supreme Waipo mode, taking my mom to get her hair curled to look like a movie star, going to acupuncture to jab needles in my mom's face for a sinus problem. There was no time to talk or think much about the separation, how she'd be leaving Waipo to live all by herself, not even the day of the flight.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Yeah. Then we were, you know, in the taxi. And, you know, kind of tense moment 'cause I - you know, we were both silent. A lot of things are, you know, going through our minds.

SHAW: Were you thinking about Waipo at all?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: As young people at that time, I'm not as thoughtful as I would now, so I was more thinking of my own problems. But, of course, thinking, oh, she's living, you know, by herself.

SHAW: When they got to the airport, my mom was hoping for another shot at goodbye, but other family had now arrived. My mom felt like she had to make small talk, and before she realized, it was time to line up at the gate.

How did you actually end up literally saying goodbye?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Oh, definitely hug and shed some tears, of course. Cannot really go deeper.

SHAW: In other words, she felt like she blew it.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE DOT SESSIONS' "DOGHOUSE")

SHAW: Over the next four decades, my mom had to leave and say goodbye to Waipo probably 25 times on visits back to Taiwan or when Waipo visited us in Houston. Growing up, I'm sure I witnessed many of these goodbyes, but they don't stick out in my mind. But now as an adult, I feel for her, having to do this really hard thing over and over again, like she's stuck in some kind of goodbye "Groundhog Day." Did you ever figure out a way to make it less painful?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Oh, I was just basically using avoidance strategies...

SHAW: (Laughter).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: ...Just not to think about it, not to think about it.

SHAW: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The more you dwell on it, the more you become more depressed.

SHAW: Good, old-fashioned avoidance.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Right. Good old-fashioned.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE DOT SESSIONS' "DOGHOUSE")

SHAW: Then the final goodbye, the big one - in 2020, Waipo lost her appetite, and her blood pressure was off. Her nurse at the nursing home took her to the hospital. What was supposed to be a day of observation turned into days, then a week, then an oxygen tank. My mom got on the first flight she could, but she had to quarantine for two weeks when she landed. She was just a few days from making it to the hospital when the time came. So they did a video call.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: When she was in her oxygen tank, she was looking at me, so I can, you know, have an eye contact with her. Of course, the only thing I'm thinking just, she must feel lonely. If I'm there, you know, definitely will help her.

SHAW: My mom had so much practice with goodbyes. I thought she'd have something to tell me about how to do them well, some useful advice, but she didn't really have any. She told me that saying goodbye always hurt, and she never learned how to do it right with Waipo, not during those 45 years and not that last time, either.

If you could do it over and you could have made it by her side, what would you have said to her or done?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: I would kiss her, of course, and pat her on her head like a baby.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE DOT SESSIONS' "BELLS THEME")

SHAW: But then I had this memory with Waipo that I thought might help my mom feel better about these botched goodbyes.

So, Mom, there's this moment I witnessed a while ago that I never talked to you about. Decades ago, when my mom and dad were long distance, my mom made a cassette tape of herself singing for my dad, and she made an extra copy for Waipo. And a few years ago, when our family was in Taipei visiting, my grandma got out the tape and played it for me.

WAIPO: (Non-English language spoken). Oh, yeah. Thank you. (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Playing piano, singing in non-English language).

SHAW: My mom is singing "You And Me," a song originally composed around the 13th century in China. And as we were sitting there listening to this tape, I noticed Waipo's lips were moving to all the words, like she'd listened to this song over and over again and memorized every lyric.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Playing piano, singing in non-English language).

SHAW: When I told my mom about this moment, it was like she'd been flattened by an emotional dump truck.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Wow. So she must be listening, like, a lot. Wow.

SHAW: Did you know that she listened to those songs?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: I didn't know. I didn't know.

SHAW: How does that make you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Well, yeah, I mean, of course, by listening to my voice, my singing, she must feel closer to me.

SHAW: Oh.

(SOUNDBITE OF LIZ DE LISE'S "GENTLE SINE BELLS")

SHAW: You know, when we talk about goodbyes, I feel like people tend to focus on what happens during the literal parting of ways - you know, like that airport scene?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Right.

SHAW: The hug, the kiss, the wave, but...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Right.

SHAW: ...This moment with Waipo - it, like, made me realize that that's just one goodbye point in, like, the long arc of goodbyes...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Right.

SHAW: ...And that there are all these other goodbyes that are largely invisible to the other person, like this goodbye that Waipo was doing with you...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Right.

SHAW: ...By listening to your songs and holding you close all these years.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Right. I think that also counts.

(SOUNDBITE OF LIZ DE LISE'S "GENTLE SINE BELLS")

SHAW: There's one other thing my mom would have done if she'd gotten to say goodbye in person. She said she play YouTube - YouTube of Waipo's favorite song, "Smalltown Story," by this famous Taiwanese singer Teresa Teng. But surely my mom, who my dad calls (non-English language spoken), little bird, can do better than YouTube. So I asked her to do her own invisible, unofficial goodbye - sing another song for Waipo.

Thank you for dressing up for the occasion. So beautiful.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Ah, you're always too nice. OK. (Singing in non-English language). That's it.

SHAW: Hey.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF CONNOR LAFITTE'S "PURPLE LIGHTS AND POPPERS")

SHAW: After the break, lead reporter and producer Abby Wendle brings some Tupperware to the goodbye party. All right. We have reached our final goodbye of the episode.

ABBY WENDLE, BYLINE: Oh, my God. You sound like we're at our own funeral.

(LAUGHTER)

SHAW: It kind of is a funeral for our show. Yeah. Hello, Abby Wendle.

WENDLE: Hello, Yowei Shaw. So, like, as you know, I'm from the Midwest, and we have a bit of a reputation about our goodbyes. Are you familiar?

SHAW: OK, I'm not actually familiar. I did see an email from a listener who said something about Midwestern goodbyes being famous for being really long and drawn-out. And, like, you can't really get out of them.

WENDLE: Yes.

SHAW: Is that right?

WENDLE: That is absolutely correct. It is prolonged. It likes to linger. It's broken down into steps sometimes. There's a sort of, like, welp and a knee slap and kind of, like, maybe a stretch to indicate that you might be getting up off the couch.

SHAW: Oh, that's the signal to initiate.

WENDLE: Yeah.

SHAW: OK.

WENDLE: But then, like, the goodbye can last anywhere from 30 minutes to...

SHAW: Thirty minutes.

WENDLE: ...Like, hours.

SHAW: No.

WENDLE: There's going to be some sort of obligatory taking of leftovers. I saw one person call this ensnarement cake, which I thought was hilarious.

SHAW: Ensnarement cake.

WENDLE: Yeah.

SHAW: I love that.

WENDLE: Also, there's, like, a stage where you're at the foyer, making plans for the future. The internet, not surprisingly, is filled with scorn for the Midwestern goodbye. I've seen jokes about, like, if you go to dinner together, you can expect for the goodbyes that take place in the parking lot to last as long, if not longer, than the actual dinner.

SHAW: Oh, my God. That sounds like torture to me. And also, I don't know if you're aware of this, Abby Wendle, but there's a joke about you...

WENDLE: Oh, no.

SHAW: ...On our team...

WENDLE: Oh, no.

SHAW: ...Just about how it is impossible to get out of meetings with you.

(LAUGHTER)

WENDLE: Oh, God. So as a Midwesterner, I've engaged with this goodbye, obviously. You've been victim to it, apparently...

SHAW: Yeah.

WENDLE: ...You know, kind of by default until this moment - right? - like, this moment made me question it. Like, does it actually have a value? Is there anything redeeming about it? And is it the right kind of goodbye for this particular moment? So I called up the guy that I like to think about these kinds of questions with, David.

SHAW: Of course.

DAVID GUTHERZ, BYLINE: I'm kind of like a story psychotherapist, which feels more like what I feel like I do 'cause I'm not doing therapy for people, right? It's, like, much more about, like, somebody needs to put their story on the couch, and we, like, listen.

WENDLE: Typically not, but yeah.

GUTHERZ: (Laugher) It's not that it's never happened.

WENDLE: I feel like that's a great descriptor, like, a story psychotherapist with like a splash of rabbi.

GUTHERZ: Yes. Yes. There's definitely a certain amount of rabbinic knowledge that's required for this job.

WENDLE: So for our listeners, this is David Gutherz. He helps us do, like, intellectual reporting and research for our stories.

SHAW: He does so much.

WENDLE: Yeah. And he felt, like, doubly qualified to talk about this particular question because he recently moved to the Midwest - Ohio, actually. He's, like, an hour and a half north of me. And he reports already experiencing some Midwestern goodbye energy.

GUTHERZ: I found a lime in my car today that was not one that I bought, that was, like, someone was like - I had mentioned something that someone was like, oh, you'll need limes for that, you know? And then it just sits in my car for the next month.

SHAW: It's an ensnarement lime.

WENDLE: Yeah. So I asked David to do a little bit of research and thinking about the Midwestern goodbye, some, like, mulling it over. And here's what he had to say.

GUTHERZ: I think people who come from the outside and look at it - I think one of the reasons people hate it is 'cause it looks so denialist.

SHAW: Denialist.

GUTHERZ: You know, it's just like, just say goodbye and be done with it, you know? But I think that it's a very particular way - it's all about leftovers.

WENDLE: (Laughter).

GUTHERZ: It really is all about leftovers. It's - you're gathering up the leftovers of the night from each conversation, from each person, something that you haven't yet eaten, you know, from each person there in order to say, like, well, but I'm still carrying these leftovers home with me, so I haven't fully - some bit of this is still with me.

WENDLE: I'm thinking about my mom and all the people out there who have these goodbyes in their life that they regret not doing, you know, things they wish they had done or said in a goodbye. And it feels like the Midwestern goodbye, this kind of, like, extra space and room built into apparently every farewell. I mean, it's just, like, a catch-all to prevent against that feeling. So I talked with one listener, and she said that the Midwestern goodbye is a goodbye that's open to opportunity. I think that that is the value of the Midwestern goodbye. It's not, maybe, the only goodbye that you should have in your arsenal. But, like, it is a goodbye that has a time and a place for moments where there's a lot of uncertainty, where maybe, like, you don't want to go, and maybe, you don't actually have to go. Like, anything could happen in that lingering.

SHAW: Are you suggesting that we camp out at NPR headquarters and just get a bunch of Tupperware?

WENDLE: We need to start baking casseroles now, Yowei.

SHAW: OK. That's the plan. OK. Got it.

WENDLE: But, as you know, that's actually not the situation we're in.

SHAW: Yeah.

WENDLE: And at some point while I was talking with David, he told me about this, like, very different kind of goodbye that might be more fitting.

GUTHERZ: Just to get into my rabbi mode for a second, this is, like, so Jewish. I, like, can't even believe that this exists, actually. But there's, like, a way to say goodbye to a book that you really love reading that is, like - that has - that you've gotten a lot of lessons from for, like, a tractate of the Talmud. It's called the Hadran, which means the we will return, which is a prayer that you say. You know, the thought here is you're - reading a book is always a way of engaging with the community in this tradition, that the sense is community is built out of that shared argumentation around a set of ideas and visions that really matter to you or to the other people who would come with you to read this tractate.

And, I mean, and that was, like, one of the things that when I got to INVISIBILIA, it was one of the first things that I was like, oh, that's what's happening here. We're, like, putting a tractate on the table, and we're all Talmudicly (ph) dissecting it until there's nothing, you know, left to say about it, and then we're going to come back and do it tomorrow, you know? And so there's this prayer that you say. (Reading) We will return to you, and you will return to us. Our mind is on you, and your mind is on us. We will not forget you, and you will not forget us, not in this world and not in the world to come.

And the idea is you're supposed to say it aloud, you know, at the end of a study session. And it's also - you're also supposed to leave a little bit unread so that you can come back to it, and it can come back to you. But to me, there's something about that formula that - it's saying, like, I won't forget you, right? I'm going to come back to you, and I'm - and you won't forget me. But also, like, I'm really leaving.

WENDLE: So when David and I began, like, thinking together about Talmudicly dissecting this goodbye, which I've been calling the Talmudic goodbye, it really helped me realize that, like, it has something that the Midwestern goodbye, for all its beautiful virtues, like, just doesn't actually have.

GUTHERZ: There isn't a moment where you really say, you know what? Like, we got to let it burn. We got to let it burn, and we have to - and we really have to not end the denial, necessarily, but, like, take a moment to mark something that is this burning, that is this kind of, like, cleansing. That to me is something that feels - it's missing something of that element.

WENDLE: Yeah.

GUTHERZ: Like, to me, I can only experience the finality as, like, a who knows...

WENDLE: Right, right.

GUTHERZ: ...But not as a shared finality.

WENDLE: A who knows is a denial of, no, we know.

GUTHERZ: Yeah, yeah.

WENDLE: We're - things are ending, and we're saying goodbye now.

GUTHERZ: Oh, when you said that, suddenly, I just felt very, very sad.

WENDLE: Yeah.

SHAW: Oh, you're going to make me cry.

WENDLE: I know. Yeah. It's really sad.

SHAW: It's really sad.

WENDLE: Yeah.

SHAW: I mean, there is something kind of - like, there's like a clinger-on energy to the Midwestern goodbye that I find very sweet...

WENDLE: Yeah.

SHAW: ...And, like, not pathetic but, like, has shades of in denial.

WENDLE: Yeah.

SHAW: I'm not letting you go.

WENDLE: Right.

SHAW: We'll meet again.

WENDLE: Yeah.

SHAW: And sometimes, what you need for a goodbye is just, you know, a dramatic ritual, a just sort of, like, ripping the - like, something cathartic rather than the don't go, don't go.

WENDLE: Which, if you'll recall, INVISIBILIA used to do.

SHAW: I knew you were going to go here. Yes, that is true. How could I forget?

WENDLE: (Laughter) Well, how could I not go here? So, yeah, at the end of every season, we would gather together and have what we called a coven party.

SHAW: Yeah, 'cause we, like, would always burn something.

WENDLE: Sticky notes of to-do lists...

SHAW: Interview transcripts.

WENDLE: There was a certain amount of debauchery. I mean...

SHAW: Oh, yeah. All of us, like, slouched in our chairs, cigarettes out, drinks double-fisting. Remember when we had a competition, the drinks of many colors?

WENDLE: Yes. We had a...

(LAUGHTER)

WENDLE: What do you think? Should we plan a coven party?

SHAW: Absolutely.

WENDLE: Where should it be?

SHAW: I feel like I'm in the middle, so - and I have a solo stove.

WENDLE: Like, Thai food menu, like...

SHAW: Yeah. Thai food - there's a good Thai place around us. We need to decide on what the ritual of - like, what we're burning.

WENDLE: Yes.

SHAW: I think something Zoom related would be fun.

WENDLE: Yowei, you'll notice I've now engaged us in a proper Midwestern goodbye because we are making plans for the future.

(LAUGHTER)

SHAW: Oh, I've been ensnared. Oh, I'm a sitting duck for the Midwestern...

WENDLE: You're welcome.

SHAW: I mean, listen. You've been ensnaring me this...

WENDLE: Seven years.

SHAW: ...Seven years, with all the Midwestern goodbyes during meetings. So, of course, I would be ensnared once again.

WENDLE: Seven year-long ensnarement.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHAW: That's it for the goodbye show. Thank you to everyone who wrote in with your goodbye stories and messages of support, including Natasha Allen, Ryan Colon, Lala Drona, Jessica Van Dyne, Marina Foo, Claire Jones, Allison Laughlin, Marissa Mann, Eric Ong, Elysa Coles Sicard, Lauren Torres, Jeffrey Meyer, Isaiah Prasad, Christian Cobian and Kelsey Simpkins. We loved getting to go through all your emails, and they helped us in this moment. A tear or two might have been shed. Special thanks to Alexandra Dickson, to Wyndham Juneau for reflecting on the Midwestern goodbye with Abby and to Daisy Wu for helping ID a song from my mom's cassette tape. This episode was produced by the three A's...

WENDLE: Abby Wendle.

MAMBO: Andrew Mambo.

LEE: Ariana Gharib Lee.

SHAW: ...And me, Yowei Shaw. It was edited by Liza Yeager.

LEE: INVISIBILIA is also produced by supervising editor Neena Pathak.

WENDLE: Supervising producer Liana Simstrom.

MAMBO: Executive producer Irene Noguchi.

SHAW: ...And my co-host, Kia Miakka Natisse. This episode was mastered by Josh Newell.

WENDLE: Our technical director is Andie Huether.

MAMBO: Legal and standards support from Micah Ratner and Tony Cavin.

LEE: And our senior vice president of programming is Anya Grundmann.

MAMBO: Theme music by Infinity Knives.

LEE: Additional music in this episode provided by Elizabeth De Lise, Connor Lafitte and Running Dog Music.

SHAW: All right. We have come to the moment to actually say goodbye and not just keep running down the driveway waving at you. Goodbye. And thank you to everyone across NPR who helped us make INVISIBILIA and share it with the world - visuals, marketing, RAD, engineering, IT, social, audience engagement, legal and so many more teams. And, of course, thank you and all the flowers to Alix Spiegel, Lulu Miller and Anne Gudenkauf for creating this weird, beautiful show and to former host Hanna Rosin and to all the INVISIBILIAns past and present who made it go with all your contributions.

WENDLE: Abby Wendle.

ADELINA LANCIANESE, BYLINE: Adelina Lancianese.

ALEC STUTSON, BYLINE: Alec Stutson.

ALEX CHENG, BYLINE: Alex Cheng.

ALICE YEH: Alice Yeh (ph).

ALICIA QIAN: Alicia Qian.

ALIX SPIEGEL: Alix Spiegel.

ANDIE HUETHER, BYLINE: Andie Huether.

MAMBO: Andrew Mambo.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Andrew Mambo.

ANNE GUDENKAUF, BYLINE: Anne Gudenkauf.

ANYA GRUNDMANN, BYLINE: Anya Grundmann.

LEE: Ariana Gharib Lee.

B A PARKER, BYLINE: B.A. Parker.

BARRIE HARDYMON, BYLINE: Barry Hardiman.

BRENDAN BAKER: Brendan Baker.

BRENT BAUGHMAN, BYLINE: Brent Baughman.

CARA TALLO, BYLINE: Cara Tallo.

CAROLYN MCCUSKER, BYLINE: Carolyn McCusker.

CHRIS BENDEREV, BYLINE: Chris Benderev.

CLARE MARIE SCHNEIDER, BYLINE: Clare Marie Schneider.

GUTHERZ: David Gutherz.

DEBORAH GEORGE, BYLINE: Deborah George.

ERIC NUZUM, BYLINE: Eric Nuzum.

HANNA ROSIN: Hanna Rosin.

IRENE NOGUCHI, BYLINE: Irene Noguchi.

JAMES KIM, BYLINE: James Kim.

JEFF ROGERS, BYLINE: Jeff Rogers.

JO NIXON: Jo Nixon (ph).

JULIE CARLI: Julie Carli.

JUSTINE YAN, BYLINE: Justine Yan.

KAREN DUFFIN: Karen Duffin.

KAT CHOW, BYLINE: Kat Chow.

MIAKKA NATISSE: Kia Miakka Natisse.

JAKE ARLOW, BYLINE: Jake Arlow.

LAUREN BEARD, BYLINE: Lauren Beard.

LEE HALE, BYLINE: Lee Hale.

LEENA SANZGIRI, BYLINE: Leena Sanzgiri.

LIANA SIMSTROM, BYLINE: Liana Simstrom.

LIZA YEAGER, BYLINE: Liza Yeager.

LULU MILLER, BYLINE: Lulu Miller.

LUIS TRELLES, BYLINE: Luis Trelles.

MATT MARTINEZ, BYLINE: Matt Martinez.

MARIA PAZ GUTIERREZ, BYLINE: Maria Paz Gutierrez.

MARK MEMMOTT, BYLINE: Mark Memmott.

MEGHAN KEANE, BYLINE: Meghan Keane.

MICAELA RODRIGUEZ, BYLINE: Micaela Rodriguez.

MICAH RATNER, BYLINE: Micah Ratner.

MICKEY KAPUR: Mickey Kapur (ph).

NEAL CARRUTH, BYLINE: Neal Carruth.

NEENA PATHAK, BYLINE: Neena Pathak.

NICOLE BEEMSTERBOER, BYLINE: Nicole Beemsterboer.

NIC NEVES, BYLINE: Nic M. Neves.

OLIVER WANG: Oliver Wang.

NOOR WAZWAZ, BYLINE: Noor Wazwaz.

PABLO ARAUZ, BYLINE: Pablo Arauz de Mexico (ph). Te amo, INVISIBILIA.

PHOEBE WANG, BYLINE: Phoebe Wang.

PRANAV BASKAR: Pranav Bhasker.

RACHEL CARBONARA: Rachel Carbonara.

REBECCA RAMIREZ, BYLINE: Rebecca Ramirez.

RHAINA COHEN, BYLINE: Rhaina Cohen.

SARA LONG, BYLINE: Sara Long.

SHIRLEY HENRY, BYLINE: Shirley Henry.

TAYLOR HANEY, BYLINE: Taylor Haney.

THEO GREENLY, BYLINE: Theo Greenly.

TRAVIS LARCHUK, BYLINE: Travis Larchuk.

SHAW: ...And me, Yowei Shaw. And last but certainly not least, thank you to every single one of you for listening over the years, contributing your stories, questions, corrections and ideas, for badgering your friends and family to listen to our episodes, for just hanging with us. If you want to keep hanging, you can always revisit the archive on NPR's website and wherever you get your podcasts. We're not sure what happens next for this feed, but you should stay subscribed for now. Who knows? Maybe magic will strike. And some of our team is staying on at NPR to keep telling beautiful audio stories, and we'll share them with you. As for me, I just started a newsletter, and you can find me on Twitter, Instagram, all the things. Just search Yowei Shaw. You will find me. We will put everybody's info on our website, so you can follow us to see what we make next. OK. We are actually at the end now. See you soon, somewhere out there.

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