Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter's Memoir of Love after Loss

Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter's Memoir of Love after Loss

by Lisa Romeo


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Starting with Goodbye begins with loss and ends with love, as a midlife daughter rediscovers her enigmatic father after his death. Lisa has little time for grief, but when her dead dad drops in for “conversations,” his absent presence invites Lisa to examine why the parent she had turned away from in life now holds her spellbound.

Lisa reconsiders the affluent upbringing he financed (filled with horses, lavish vacations, bulging closets), and the emotional distance that grew when he retired to Las Vegas and she remained in New Jersey where she and her husband earn moderate incomes. She also confronts death rituals, navigates new family dynamics, while living both in memory and the unfolding moment.

In this brutally honest yet compelling portrayal and tribute, Lisa searches for meaning, reconciling the Italian-American father—self-made textile manufacturer who liked newspapers, smoking, Las Vegas craps tables, and solitude—with the complex man she discovers influenced everything, from career choice to spouse.

By forging a new father-daughter “relationship,” grief is transformed to hopeful life-affirming redemption. In poignant, often lyrical prose, this powerful, honest book proves that when we dare to love the parent who challenged us most, it’s never too late.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781943859689
Publisher: University of Nevada Press
Publication date: 05/01/2018
Edition description: 1
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 3 Months to 18 Years

About the Author

Lisa Romeo is part of the founding faculty in the Bay Path University MFA program, and works as a manuscript editor and consultant. Her nonfiction is among Notables in Best American Essays 2016, and is published widely in literary and popular media, including the New York Times, O The Oprah Magazine, Under the Sun, Brevity, Hippocampus, and more. Lisa is a former equestrian journalist, competitive rider, and public relations specialist. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and sons.

Table of Contents

Author's Note xi

Prologue 1

1 Last Words 3

2 The Hotel Hospital 8

3 Hard Days and Hands 20

4 What We Talk About When We Talk About Dad 35

5 No News Is Good News 47

6 At Sea in Las Vegas 55

7 What Happens in Vegas 67

8 Leaving Las Vegas 95

9 Conversations We Can and Cannot Have 116

10 The Brotherhood 132

11 Memento Mori 144

12 Crossing the Midline 164

13 A Country Full of Old Men 186

14 At Home in the World 201

15 Exit Zero 207

16 Epilogue 212

Postscript 217

Acknowledgments 219

About the Author 221

What People are Saying About This

Sue Kushner Resnick

"Lisa Romeo's writing is beautifully poetic. Her story is one that all daughters of difficult fathers will want to read."

Richard Hoffman

"Starting with Goodbye lives in the realm of the imagination where love continues beyond grief, where the living and the dead meet and sometimes know each other more deeply than life's demands and circumstances allowed. Lisa Romeo is a writer with exquisite restraint and precision, recounting a compelling, spiritually adventurous tale. A beautiful, honest, sometimes troubling, and triumphant book.”

Barbara Hurd

"Rich, intelligent, thoughtful, personal and investigative. What stands out is the voice, continuing to probe and wonder, open still to discovering what might be true about this interesting life. Just the kind of character we like to follow around. Intensely emotional without being maudlin."

Melanie Brooks

"In Starting with Goodbye, Lisa Romeo wanders through the territory of grief, its borders blurred and variable, an unexpected land with room to connect with and understand her deceased dad in a deeply profound way. Written with careful and unwavering self-reflection, unraveling memories and inviting readers to glimpse the particular tenderness and complexity of their relationship. Her story inspires hope that love and reconciliation can bridge the space between life and death."  

Laraine Herring

“This is a brave and vulnerable book, like The Year of Magical Thinking. The energy of this book is leaping off the page with internal struggle. The writing moved me—gorgeous sentences. I felt the narrator’s presence so strongly and felt so connected to what she was going through, and what she had lost. It so beautifully reflects the ‘stuckness’ of grief, with a lack of sentimentality that is powerful.” 

Allison Gilbert

“This book is a treasure. Lisa Romeo’s writing is an enormous comfort, reminding us that our relationships with loved ones never truly end, even in death.” 

B. Lynn Goodwin

“In precise prose and beautifully rendered detail, Romeo explores her life in the sandwich generation. With increasing depth and insight she develops the relationship she wished she had when he was alive. ‘Grief is how we work out what was wrong in the pre-death relationship,’ she says toward the end of the book. We’ve been with her on the journey that took her to each discovery.
Our connections with those we love don’t always end with death. Any woman who has ever lost a father, any child who has ever lost a parent, anyone with a hole in her life that she keeps grieving should read this book. Romeo’s narrative and analysis illuminate some tough issues and her ideas will spark insights into your own relationships.” 

Katrina Kenison

"Driven by curiosity, written with great tenderness, and executed with quiet mastery, Starting with Goodbye is a daughter’s love letter to her father. It is also a welcome reminder that our most intimate relationships don’t end with death but are transformed over time if our hearts are open, our spirits are attuned to mystery, and we are willing to carry on a different kind of conversation.” 

Christina Baker Kline

“Lisa Romeo’s compelling memoir is both a loving tribute to her adored father and a clear-eyed portrait of their complicated relationship. Reading it, you can’t help but reflect on your own familial bonds—but you may also find, as I did, that Lisa’s lovely writing and startling insights lead you into deeper territory, as she wrestles with questions of identity, mortality, and the vagaries of love.”

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