First my uncle left, then my siblings, now my son
Last month Ben was 30, which opened up a well of memories. We sent him a card, slotting in 30 odd photos from the history of his life here with us – our wedding photo, the first scan image, his first birthday with the chocolate cake, his communion, graduation, and 21st birthday. The process of putting it together was as much a therapy session for us as it was a present for him.
The card reinforced his presence in our family history, but as I posted it off in a box filled with King crisps, Curly Wurlys, and Barry’s tea bags, the parcel became a huge symbol of his absence, a substitute for getting together as a family to celebrate another decade of his life.
A life abroad
Ben is fiercely Irish. He watches all the rugby matches, wears green on St Patrick’s Day and keeps in touch with what is happening here through the online newspapers. He worries when anyone is ill and finds it especially difficult and lonely when a family member dies.
His status in New Zealand is subject to continual renewal of his visa and he often jokes that he might be home sooner than I think. It has been five years now, so I am not so sure any more. Today he manages a busy bar in the Viaduct Harbour area in Auckland. He is happy there.
Boxes of his old life still gather dust in the attic, and his dress suit hangs in plastic in the wardrobe. I have been instructed not to throw anything out. I even keep the polling cards that arrive here in the post, to use as marking pages in recipe books that remind me of him when they fall out.
Thankfully our younger son Sam still lives here in Dublin. I would hate for him to emigrate, but only for selfish reasons. If he can realise a better life for himself elsewhere, then so he should. He has met a beautiful woman and they have set up home together, but he frequently mentions America.
Your children are only with you on loan. No parent envisages a day when the one-way ticket is bought and a route is chosen, possibly towards the other side of the world. No parent wants to consider the possibility that their child may not come back.
Next year Ben will be home for a family wedding, for the first time in three years. We will “gather” and celebrate and someday soon I hope, we will wing our way out to him for a visit. It is a journey I can’t wait to take.