Coming to Terms with Loss: On Lisa Romeo’s ‘Starting with Goodbye’

Melissa Grunow
Jul 28, 2018 · 3 min read

Romeo’s grief memoir is a treasure box of tenderness, love, and nostalgia.


Lisa Romeo
Memoir | 240 Pages | 5.5” x 8.5” | Reviewed: Paperback
978–1–943–859–68–9 | First Edition | $19.95
University of Nevada Press | Reno | BUY HERE


Lisa Romeo will be the first to admit she wasn’t close to her father while she was growing up. He was a generous provider of family vacations, horses, luxuries, and countless opportunities, but they didn’t otherwise have a close father-daughter bond. She respected her father, loved him, hid his cigarettes in an effort to make him quit smoking, and appreciated the life he gave her. It wasn’t until after his death that she came to understand fully the lifelong influence he had on her life and love for others. Starting with Goodbye negotiates the loss of a father and coming to terms with who he was after his death.

Romeo’s prose is poignant and engaging, her mastery of human emotions peerless, not oversimplified or trite. Guilt, grief, anger, sadness are all present, but Romeo writes them in such a direct and engaging way that they appear fresh human experiences without falling into maudlin stereotypes. It’s a challenging feat to pull off, and Romeo does so with grace and fastidiousness.

“I wonder, I worry, I wish for — I don’t know what, not a way back exactly, but that I had been more able to speak up across the miles. When I dream one night that my father is slowly limping along next to me on a precarious walk around his Vegas backyard, I apologize for not speaking up, not picking up the phone more often, as he taught me.

‘Nah,’ he says, placing his warm hand on my forearm. ‘That wasn’t your job.’

But I think it was.”

Moreover, Starting with Goodbye is a rumination on American culture’s way of handling grief, which is to ignore it, forget the dead, not even mention their names for fear of stirring sadness. So often we are discouraged from speaking ill or honestly of the dead or speaking of them at all. Romeo doesn’t oblige this cultural norm, and instead presents her father as the complex and flawed person he was.

“A horse that eats everything you put in his feed bucket, which doesn’t spread his manure too far around his stall, and has no vices (like chewing stall planks or pawing the stall floor) is known as an ‘easy keeper.’ I know my father would not have been one.”

A mitigation of loss and a homage to a man whose legacy is forever-lasting, Starting with Goodbye is more than a grief memoir; it’s a treasure box of tenderness, love, and nostalgia.

The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.

Melissa Grunow

Written by

Author of REALIZING RIVER CITY: A MEMOIR (2016) and I DON’T BELONG HERE: ESSAYS (2018), book reviewer, word nerd. www.melissagrunow.com #amwriting

The Coil

The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.

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