For weddings and a funeral.

The Irish Times has an emigration section and I submitted this a few months back. Haven’t heard a thing back so publishing it here. This blog has low standards, I’ll publish anything.

For weddings and a funeral.

I knew there’ll be weddings when I left. Some lad from school would tie the knot and I’d miss the get together with the old gang. One year there were 4 weddings spread over three months, I had to choose one so I made it to the sister’s and missed the close friends. Photos on FaceBook don’t do much.I knew there’d be christenings. Another niece or nephew I wouldn’t see till they were walking and talking. I wouldn’t recognise them the next time I set eyes on them, grown a foot or two and they wouldn’t know me, not remember my last visit.

But it’s the funerals I never knew l’d miss. The early morning voicemail when I turned on my phone. Get home. The doctor said to call the family. The priest was in already.

A mad rush to find a flight, anything heading in the general direction, damn the connections in Heathrow that take hours,  or the layovers in Chicago, the bad weather, the delays holding me here. Just hold on a minute longer. An hour longer. Let me get back on time. Let a tailwind get us in early.

A late arrival at a hospital bed. On time, there at the eleventh hour.

And the clock strikes twelve and one and two and still he’s there. Asleep on the bed he hung on for all he could and my hurried week off work is slipping by and by and I wonder if I’ll have to head back before it happens. Before the end.

It’s then the thoughts slip in, unbidden, unhelpful and shame-filling. If it happened now the funeral would be on Thursday, today he might be buried on Friday. Today and I’d rebook my flight. Today and I’d just miss my flight and get another one.

I arrived at the hospital at six in the morning on the way to the airport. A last minute visit to say goodbye, sure and certain that this is it. There’s no real response, years of fighting cancer and this latest blow leave him to groggy at this early hour. Struggling to remember my name. A brief flash of recognition before he fell back asleep.

My life on the other side of Canada won’t wait. Things were dropped suddenly, work to get back to. I can’t hang around forever, I don’t think the dole would have me.

Will he be ok? Will I get home again? Will I make it on time if I get the phone call again? Or will I be sitting at thirty thousand feet with a tiny beer watching bad moves while my voicemail fills up to tell me I went an hour too early. A minute too soon. Should have stayed another day.

If it’s next week, or next month, can I drop all and get home again? Will I end up sitting wondering if this is the time it will happen. Should I be on a plane or will or will I get the phone call too late. Be stuck. No flights. Life keeping me from getting there.

I knew I’d miss the weddings, I never thought of the funerals.

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