Keep Your Eyes in the Sky

It doesn’t get any easier.

Without fail G’s last day in town always involves a small drama or some form of internalized tension. The tone in the house changes as his bag begins to be packed, the little travelers change mood and I begin to subconsciously make the mental list of what we thought we’d get done but didn’t. And then there’s the inevitable last minute drama to heighten the tension. Whether it’s a flat tyre or a suitcase zipper that breaks, somehow we manage to go from a relaxed family holiday to a roller coaster of last minute jobs that need to be done.

I told myself it was going to be different this year. I didn’t want to race to the airport at breakneck speed, only slowing so G could commando roll from the car to the departures terminal. I didn’t want to have a petty fight about electricity bills or my annual obligatory speeding fine, or how much money I managed to spend on last year’s holiday. It was going to be relaxed and chilled.

It was not.

G had three hours to get to the airport when I sent him a text from the doctors surgery. “Still not sure, possible appendicitis – having blood tests, will know more this afternoon”. The first little traveler had provided all the excitement that collapsing/fainting can induce to a family breakfast. After an initial trip to the local surgery we left without any answers. Then the diarrhea began. I drove into town to our family doctor. In the midst of talking about whether we should do an ultrasound or blood tests I heard myself say “I have to take G to the airport this afternoon, when exactly will we know if she has appendicitis” I sounded like the mother from hell. Who tries to fit appendectomies in with flight times?

While I was at the doctors, G was at the beach house standing outside with the plumber, the plumber was wearing work boots, jeans and a shirt – G was wearing his Qatar Airways pajamas. It’s hard to have a serious blokey conversation when you’re the one wearing what looks like a grey onesie with an airplane logo on your chest. G wasn’t all that fussed at the time though, the hot water service had decided all washing and bathing was now going to be done at a luke warm temperature – we wanted it fixed. Preferably before G got on a plane.

Meanwhile back at the doctors, I was busy coaxing the first little traveler into having a blood test. I know I should love her determined spirit and decisive personality, and I do, just not when she’s refusing to do something I really need her to do. Finally, after thirty minutes of intense negotiations, as we held hands and stared into each others eyes I said the magic words “What colour shoelaces do you want me to get for your converse sneakers?”

We arrived back at the beach house in time to turn around and head back to the city again. It was time to get to the airport. There was one final thing left on G’s to do’s list that he was passing on to me, and instead of seeing it as one small thing, I saw it as the thing that was going to ruin my life. This happens every year – the one final thing, this year it was our heating, there was a problem with the ducting. Last year it was electrical, the year before that it was the gas.

It would usually be no big deal but I lose all rationality when it comes to waving G goodbye. Instead of just saying I don’t want you to go, or doesn’t this situation suck, I get grumpy about what’s ahead. The cloud above my head became stormier as I read the instructions G had left regarding what needed to be done. I was going to have to ring A and tell them that B needed to talk to C about the warranty that A had provided and B had connected, but maybe D would agree to do the work. I decided it could wait until after we discovered if the first little traveler needed her appendix removed.

As we got closer to the airport the first little traveler joked that she wished G could break his leg so he didn’t have to get on the plane. We all gave a half hearted laugh. And then there was silence while we all secretly planned exactly how we could break his leg. The second little traveler had her jacket over her face, she was in denial. The third little traveler broke the silence with “I’m going to miss you Dad”. G took a deep breath and said “I’m going to miss you too mate”.

We were late. As we screamed towards the terminal, G tried to make both he and I feel better by reminding me that he was going to be really busy at work, that people were away and that the “time would just fly”. I pretended to agree with him and said all the cliches that we always say “it’ll go so quickly”. As we pulled up in the drop off zone, the travelers clambered over the seats to hug and kiss him. I looked at the sign above us and wondered exactly how many times we’d done this. How many drop off zones have we parked in while we said our one minute goodbye? We hugged, kissed, made the same dumb jokes, and then he was gone.

I got back in the car and looked at the little travelers faces. “Well guys, it’s just us now – how about we plan some fun”. The ideas started coming, a pajama day, a home-made ice-cream sundae bar, a sleepover with friends, a trip to the movies. Everyone began to get excited. “I wish Dad could have stayed” said the fourth little traveler “he would love the ice-cream sundae bar”. Everyone decided that we could do it again we he got back.

As we hit the first set of traffic lights I noticed my phone was alight with a message “made it, boarding now”.

“Keep your eyes in the sky guys, Dad’s plane should take off soon”.


It never gets any easier.

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  1. We do this every year too, but the other way. Usually we leave home before my husband to head home home and arrive to air conditioners which do not work (in insufferably high Texas temperatures), toilets that run incessantly and the accompanying excessive water bills, along with a myriad of other repairs. And this year the satellite tv was not working. But this was preferably to the year where our home had a mouse infestation. Good fun. Enjoy your last weeks at home home! It will be fine. You will be fine.


    • Oh Stacy, you have officially reached legend status. Having lived in Houston, I can’t imagine arriving in Summer with no A/C and a few friendly mice. I arrived here a few days before G to make the beds and get things sorted. I opened the shed door to get the bikes out and noticed all the rat poo – I promptly closed the shed door and decided I’d leave that little discovery for G. I can do mice, but I’m not so good with rats. Four trips in to see Telstra to get our internet connected with no luck had me reaching for the wine bottle. Kx

    • The mice were the worst! I can’t bear anything with a tail and we had friends from KL to stay who were in Houston for the husband to receive treatment at the Medical Center for a brain tumor. Worst hostess ever! At least the air worked that year. A great deal of wine was consumed for purely medicinal reasons. 🙂

  2. No. No it does not.

  3. Same with us, but my husband departs more regularly than once a year. This year alone he has been away working interstate, in New Zealand, he has just arrived back after a month in the States, and leaves again next Monday for a month in the UK for the Olympics. He is freelancing now, as he left his last job because he was sick of the constant overseas travel and being away from us, and now he has to take the work when and where he can get it. He is going for a meeting about a job in Sydney tomorrow, which will involve a LITTLE travel, so I am keeping fingers and toes crossed that the salary is in the right ballpark!
    It never gets easier, even though we have done this throughout our relationship of 11 years, but we are lucky to have a very strong marriage and kids who while they miss their dad, know he loves them and have a great time with him when he is home.

  4. You are so strong! I loved reading your story and could totally imagine you trying to juggle all the demands that were hitting you right at the same time, especially with contemplating surgery and a departure time, not to mention caring for your other children too. I hope you have someone to help you through these times.

  5. I’m a newbie to all this… We are at year 2 of expat life and in the process of a move. From kuala lumpur, Malaysia to Doha, Qatar! He is Doha already and we’ll be Joining him in about 8 weeks time but seems like forever! Still I’m hoping wont have to do it Again anytime too soon as the current move involves little travel and is a long term thing… Assuming that is that we like doha! X

  6. This blog is really very attractive blog, because it gives us knowledge about which type of problem occur when you are in hurry, So thanks for posting this blog and keep updating that type of blog. Sydney Plumber .

  7. And the appendix???

  8. Abolutely brilliant. We are right there now too. It’s so exciting for them (mostly), so heavily dissapointing for us. Nevertheless, what doesn’t kill your marriage makes it stronger – and if a marriage can survive this, when 78% per cent do not, it’s a bloody brilliant marriage methinks!!

  9. Read this as I remembered our last goodbye at Heathrow, the tears, the dumb jokes, (we have to stop leaving like this!)and wondered as you do, how many more times?

  10. Oh yes … brought back memories of the most recent time we did this. So hard, and it’s difficult to explain it to anyone who doesn’t do it on a regular basis … but you nailed it.

  11. Another heartbreaking post, Kirsty. (And so glad all’s well on the appendix front).

    I’m such an ultra newbie expat that I haven’t even moved yet, but my wife has just relocated to Doha and I’m following with the kids at the end of August. Hearing that the departures don’t get any easier is tough to take.

    Anyway, your blog inspired me to try and wrestle my own expat experiences into some kind of sense, for which many thanks. Here’s my take on our parting of the ways last week. Different airport, same sensation:


  12. NZ to Perth says

    Great post. Been there, done that! It’s all a bit full on while it’s happening, then things take on a different kind of momentum until you’re all back together again. Hang in there 🙂

  13. Feeling for you all. My then 14 yo was thought to have appendicitis, but blood test was clear. They assumed it was some sort of ovarian cyst that would hopefully clear up on its own. It did.

    So with you about watching the airplane in the sky. But more often than not, as you would be used to, It was the family and I who used to watch the houses and cars get smaller until you can only see water, as our relatives and friends watched our plane get smaller.

  14. Anonymous says

    stumbled across your blog, it’s 2 am and my 5 year old woke up crying (again), my 2 yr old still sleeps with me so miss 5 expects daddy to sleep with her….hence, leaving me wide awake now…LOVE your blog!!!Moved over to sydney from singapore when I married my hubby and live on the central coast…not an expat wife, but one never really feels like the insider, i don’t know, been here nearly 9 years, maybe at some point, it might change…..anyway,I applaud you for your honesty and your bravery and you sound like an amazing person!! Thanks for sgaring…

  15. Blokey conversation in a onesy. Hilarious Sydney Plumber

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