Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

‘The last one of my children is emigrating this month’

‘We’ll stand with similarly-aged couples at Dublin Airport in the coming weeks, watching eagerly as waves of young people pour through’

Tue, Dec 10, 2013, 08:16



The last one of my children is emigrating this month. He is just waiting for the paperwork to come through. The other two are already abroad. We were at an extended family lunch in Dublin when I overheard him say when he expects to start his new job in Germany. After lunch I kissed him goodbye and went into the supermarket to do some shopping. I was standing in the long queue to pay when the tears started sliding down my face. They come at unexpected moments, since he didn’t get the job interview in the summer and started applying to go overseas, whenever I am reminded they are gone.

He told me once that the Government say we need science students but we have very few science research jobs. When they were growing up I always encouraged them to study and do well at school. When college came we worked hard to pay for the fees and their living expenses in Dublin. I assumed as they have done everything our education system has asked of them they will have a good future here. I would have said our Government tells us we need maths, science and languages. They have maths, science and languages.

I thought they would live somewhere in Ireland and I would see them often, and I would be part of their lives. I had visions of grandchildren and a happy old age for myself and my husband. Family gatherings around the barbecue like you see on television shows.

My brother left for Perth and my best friend for Adelaide the 80s wave. I see them once maybe every five years. We Skype but we are not part of each other’s lives. Their parents were not either, once they left. They didn’t get to spend the time together that’s needed. Visits are not the same thing.

Christmas is around the corner and I know from previous years what to expect at Dublin Airport. We will stand with massive crowds of similarly aged couples all looking eagerly at the arrivals opening. Christmas carols will be playing, and huge signs lit on the road outside the airport will say ‘Welcome Home’. We will be early, watching eagerly as wave after wave of people in their 20s pour though, pure happiness lighting up the faces as they spot each other. The hugs, the kisses, the joy. We will check the board and we will wait for what seems like ages between “landed” and our turn to be overjoyed.

When they leave again the airport will be full of people just like us, couples in their 50s and 60s with a young person in their 20s. The music playing will be songs about the sadness of saying goodbye. ” Come a little closer, put your head upon my shoulder, and let me hold you one last time, before the whistle blows.”

As middle aged couples walk back to the car park women will be wiping their eyes and men will have a bleak look on their faces.

I never foresaw it, I am a professional woman, I don’t have an apron, but yet I have become the proverbial Irish mammy saying “we export all our best things”. My sadness reminds me of Peig Sayers and “mo bron mo bron”. I really hated that book, yet still I have become that person. I am that broken hearted.

The author has asked to remain anonymous.

Read the stories of other parents of emigrants:

Emigration: the parents’ experience: ‘Emigrating is tough for those that leave, but it can be heartbreak for the parents and family who stay in Ireland’

First my uncle left, then my siblings, now my son: ‘For generations, Irish families have been saying goodbye to loved ones. But no parent wants to consider the possibility that it might be for good’

Preparing for my son’s return: ‘My son is on his way home for a few weeks after almost four years away, but I can’t help thinking about the goodbye already’