It’s January and the holidays are looking at our taillights. While it’s not a given, often those of us living abroad end up going back to our homeland this time of year. Even if not during the holidays, we all try to get back to our families at least once every year or two; maybe more, maybe less depending on distance, time, and other travel plans.
Yet regardless of how often we return to our roots, those trips home can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is nice to see old friends, visit old haunts, and revel in the delight of generations of family spending time together. The days are filled with energy and excitement; for most of the time, everyone is buzzing.
Then all of sudden it’s a day or two before leaving and the reality of the impending departure starts to settle in. You and your parents realize, though almost never mention, that you’re leaving soon. Either everyone grows a bit quieter or those conversations that almost never come up start to rise to the surface. There’s an urgency especially if your parents are older. An unspoken reflection takes place. Everyone looks a little longer, a little deeper at one another.
Perhaps the further away you live from your parents the more intense those last few days are. Then there is the matter of time. The clock is ticking. Every year that passes means everyone’s getting a year older.
No doubt I’m not the only one experiencing this. My mom likens it to a Ferris wheel. Our kids have just gotten on and their grandparents – our parents – are coming nearer their time to get off. It’s a circle. And it comes to the forefront as the end of the visit gets closer. Who knows when and if I’ll see my parents again.
That’s why I always like to leave in the morning of that last day. Why prolong the inevitable? The later in the day the trip, the more loitering and lingering in somewhat silent solitude fumbling for a way to pass the time. We all just want to get back to our regular routines.
During that trip to the airport, it becomes somewhat difficult to steady our voices and cover up the cracks. My parents never come in. First of all, O’Hare is huge. Secondly, and I repeat, why prolong the inevitable. They drop us off at the departure terminal, we get out, grab our bags, hug, kiss, and break away before the floodgates of emotion break loose.
It’s a bit hard, but it’s a coping mechanism, a way to survive and make it through the madness of check-in, security, customs, and a very long flight. Once back home, I find the courage to look in my rearview mirror.
By Dan Franch, January 2016