Abhaile

Dates determined, prices quoted,
Flights booked, announcements mailed,
Tasks delegated, voicemails recorded,
Suitcases packed, passports checked,
Pockets patted, Passports double-checked,
Taxis taken, terminals identified,
Seats assigned, passes printed, bags checked,
Barcodes zapped, ID’s verified,
Shoes removed, bodies scanned,
Bags x-rayed, liquids confiscated,
Belts rebuckled, laces retied,
Phones charged, boarding lines formed,
Babies accommodated, first class prioritized,
Carry-ons stowed, seats taken,
Seat-belts fastened, electronics subdued,
Chocks pulled, airplanes pushed,
Taxiways taxied, permissions granted, engines engaged,
Take-off speed reached, aircraft rotated,
Altitude gained, cruising speed attained,
Drinks poured, pretzels munched,
Strangers assessed, polite nonsense exchanged,
Magazines skimmed, headphones donned,
Music selected, dinner served,
Taste buds assaulted, trays cleared,
Aisle seats disturbed, bathrooms visited,
Socked-feet bared, eyes covered,
Seats reclined, awkward snoozes snoozed,
Oceans traversed, descents commenced,
Sunrises broken, clouds parted,
Lush fields revealed,
Window droplets formed,
Approaches finalized, seat-backs uprighted,
Wheels landed, gates assigned,
Jetways attached, muscles stretched,
Doors opened, thank-you’s muttered,
Piers walked, passports stamped,
Conveyor belts located, bags retrieved,
Trolleys loaded, customs’ status declared,
Uncles texted, rendezvous’ arranged,
Airports exited, jackets zipped,
Set-down areas patrolled,
Familiar faces seen, hands shaken,
Bags trunked, traffic jams avoided,
Driveways entered, doorbells rang,
Parent hugged, tears cried,
Kettles boiled, kitchen seats taken,
Teas brewed, breads sliced.
And I am home.

Thoughts of work begin to subside,
Siblings call and visits follow.
Nieces and nephews recount their successes,
Their seldom seen uncle impressed and proud.
Currency folded into small eager hands,
Scant compensation for games never seen,
For music never heard, for feats never told,
For heads never kissed, for ribs never tickled,
For questions never asked, for advice never offered.
Kids struggle for ease with this peculiar uncle,
The one who just visits, the one who must leave.

That awkward first meeting with friends from back when,
Too busy with their lives to be familiar with other’s,
The pub is the same, but it too is jaded,
And like it the friends sit robbed of their youth,
Their hair softly graying, their eyes weathered by life,
Their bellies hang proudly over belt buckles in shame,
Disguised momentarily until it is time to exhale.
The shame of asking how old are their kids?
The frantic note-making of how many they are,
The rudeness of tallying the girls and the boys.
Unexpected accounting of a life now half over,
Pausing conversations with imaginings not shared,
Thoughts drifting away to what might have been,
To decisions and regrets that stubbornly linger.
A story recounted gives comfort to those who forgot,
Their long-ago presence dignified by his memory,
A memory clearly cherished, one that has endured,
Reassuring those present that part of them stayed long after they left,
Its recollection a triumph over countless events unseen by the others.
Doubts are dismissed as their ease is restored,
Friendships renewed as old times are relived.
By the end of the evening, their goodbyes are adieus.

As the days follow nights, a routine develops,
The arrangement’s duration must stay unsaid.
Time spent together is enjoyed as it is,
They jealously repress any urge to address it,
Allowing its dividends to quietly accrue.
The ballet of breakfast, as a lonely mother feeds her son,
Her presence revived and once again crucial.
He no longer takes her presence for granted,
His appreciation for time amplified by her age.
So rashers are flipped, sausages are rolled, puddings are fried,
Eggs are turned, teas and breads are served.
A perfect symphony conducted each morning.
One afraid to ask if the full orchestra is needed,
The other afraid to suggest that it’s not,
Both content with the comfort that the ritual provides.

Half a life elsewhere creates its illusions.
A new clock starts for sights when first seen,
Their ups and their downs, their to’s and their fro’s,
Invisible to all not present to see them,
Hair that was never dark, skin that was always wrinkled,
Newborns upon introduction, their lack of history a deception,
A deception that confers on their new observers a mistaken youth,
Never forced to refer to them in large numbers of years,
Numbers surprising to say and scary to hear said.
Memories from childhood enjoy no such favors,
The longevity of home lays bare all their changes,
As saplings of memory now tower over houses,
The strong fathers of neighbors now suddenly frail,
The willful boys now gradually bald,
The beautiful girls now doting mothers,
The peeling of paint on the school’s old railings,
The businesses boarded and no longer bustling.
Going to watch games that can no longer be played,
Seeing the babies now players and remembering playing with their fathers.

Going home adds a lifetime to all that is seen,
All faults found in others rebound and disturb.
Home is a mirror that will not lie about age,
An age life has given without our consent,
An age that our judgments confirm is now real.
Home has an age nowhere else can surpass,
It judges on a spectrum that can never be matched.
A filter on the world that works in only one place,
On one set of faces and one set of railings,
On one set of moments and one time of life.
And so it endures, a home like no other,
No matter how long it is not part of one’s life,
It waits in the distance always ready to resume,
To show just how much things have changed yet unnoticed,
First the things that are seen and then the person who sees them.

Thoughts must now turn to the packing of cases,
Receptacles of happiness turned into boxes of sadness.
Logistics of departure carefully calculated,
The coldness of times and traffic and airports,
Helps both interested parties stay consumed in the task.
Figuring out when they must leave to arrive to depart,
The reason for planning, an unspoken presence.
Final goodnights are exchanged without flourish,
As if not making them special will save them from being the last.

At the very last breakfast, questions long thought are now asked,
The weight that they carried betrayed in their timing.
How was it being home for the first time since he died?
How hard must it be constantly surrounded by absence?

Both know that emotions will stay even until,
That horrible moment when suitcases are kerbed,
A fate that draws closer hearing aircraft depart.
The car pulls to a stop and both open their doors,
They begin those last steps to the rear of the car.
The trunk is first opened and the cases extracted,
The trunk is then closed and with it his visit.
A son turns to his mother to bid her farewell.
He tries to talk gaily of how soon he returns,
She talks how his presence has brought so much joy,
And gives her best wishes to his family abroad,
Her tears for his absence that she knows now begins.
Turning from her embrace, he wheels away his guilt,
She returns to her seat, and takes a deep breath,
He turns while still walking to wave a goodbye,
She waves back to her son and presumably departs,
A presumption he makes unable to watch.

I am leaving home.

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