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And then there was one

Posted in Life & Love

Magritte - Empire of lightThere is a light mist in London, which is well suited to my arrival.

Aircrafts and airports are the perfect form of insulation. Nothing can happen beyond the roaring of an engine and the silly movie on the screen in front of me. Nothing can happen among the throngs of humanity moving as one and the blaring lights of the duty-free, beckoning shoppers.

The officer at Passport Control gives me an informative crash course on how to tap a passport after disembarking, to get rid of the magnetic field that might prevent it from working at the automated kiosk. I am riveted and entirely lost in his words – I bet he couldn’t believe his eager audience after a stream of silent passengers wanting to get on with it.

The perfectly thin and perfectly blonde woman from San Francisco, sitting next to me at Pret a Manger, enquires on whether I like the book I am reading. We chat amiably. I gulp down the strong coffee that might, or might not, wake me up.

I feel nothing. I am in transit, suspended in travel gelatin. I go through the motion of being perfectly pleasant and perfectly polite. I even helped my seat mate unload her two suitcases from the carousel. We say goodbye: Lynn, her name, is taking a coach to Exeter and then on to her sheep farm in Devon. She told me all about sheep, and lambing, and how she could never eat lamb now. And that sheep are highly intelligent animals. She also told me she was in California to spend the last remaining weeks of her brother’s life – he was hit by an RV while biking.

What exactly would be the chances of sitting next to someone who travelled to bury her brother on the same day I am traveling to bury my father? I might not believe in god but I believe in synchronicity.

When the flight touches down on the slick Heathrow runway I turn my cellphone on. I am dreading any messages. Among the difficult and weird decisions one is forced to make at the end of a family member’s life, answering the question of whether I want to know if death has come while I was flying, via a text message, is one of them. I choose the technological option but now I dread turning the phone on. Do I really want to see it black on white, on an aseptic message?

As I walk through Heathrow’s interminable corridors, the message I don’t want to read comes through. So, this is it. This is how it feels, or doesn’t feel as the case might be. I keep on walking, I help Lynn with her luggage, I change terminals, I chat with the officer at Passport control and the lady from San Francisco and order coffee and pee and keep on reading my book as if nothing had changed. The airport and the throngs and the coffee keep me together. Traveling is a suspension of life and devoid of responsibilities other than trudging from point A to point B as instructed by kiosks, screens and disembodied voices.

There will be familiar faces at the other end waiting to hug me and take me home. There will be things to be dealt with, more decisions to be made and the strangeness of not seeing my father’s slight frame. There will be all that and more. For now, surrounded by strangers, I am left to digest the news in peace, unencumbered by what needs to be said and done and felt. There will be time for all that. Plenty of time.

Image: Empire of Light by Rene Magritte

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27 Comments

  1. Such a sensitive, poignant, personal post. My sincere, if extremely late condolences. I’m bingeing on C&S posts from way back. Hope 2017 is a healthier, kinder year for you.

    January 7, 2017
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Than you Manu. A very happy 2017 to you too.

      January 7, 2017
      |Reply
  2. So sorry for your loss. Even when expected, it’s never easy losing a parent. Suddenly, we’re forced to accept that if they weren’t immortal, probably we aren’t either.

    December 4, 2016
    |Reply
  3. Sue
    Sue

    My heartfelt condolences to you & your family. I’ve made the same journey twice and you have described it so well.

    December 1, 2016
    |Reply
  4. Oh, I’m so sorry to hear the news. It’s a journey I’ve often dreaded myself. You describe the “suspension of life” that is travel beautifully. A sort of chance to compose yourself for what awaits you on the other side. The banalness of reading a book strikes me as so authentic and something I would do in the same position. I suppose there might even be an element of bracing yourself for the responsibility that awaits you; you might be expected to lift others up or be strong or help your mother cope or… Sending my support too for what it’s worth.

    November 29, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you Jackie. For the record, the book was a Tana French mystery. Mindless and engrossing.

      November 29, 2016
      |Reply
  5. Sending you some love.

    November 29, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you Leonor. I feel sad we didn’t get to meet but hopefully soon, on either shore.

      November 29, 2016
      |Reply
  6. So very sorry to learn of your loss. You’ve been on my mind lately and I had hoped your Dad would rally. Thoughts and prayers to you and your family. ღ

    November 29, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you Monika. I knew going in that there was no coming back from what was ailing him which, maybe, made acceptance a little bit easier.

      November 29, 2016
      |Reply
  7. Such a poignant post. You have my thoughts and condolences.
    Also, I share your sentiments on planes and airports – they sometimes feel like an entirely separate world.

    November 29, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you so much. I do believe they are separate worlds. What I haven’t figured out is if we get to be more like ourselves in them or less. Food for another post.

      November 29, 2016
      |Reply
  8. I am so sorry to hear this very sad news. It reminded so much of my flight from Los Angeles to Cape Town to bury my mother last year. One of the worst times in my life. At least you had family there to meet you on arrival in Italy and help.
    Sending you big hugs.

    November 29, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I cannot even imagine losing my mother. She and I are so close. What a horrible trip back to CT it must have been. Thank you for the hugs.

      November 29, 2016
      |Reply
  9. petal
    petal

    What a beautiful and apt description – I am so sorry – it always seems so strange that life goes on for everyone around you when something like this happens – when you are so devastated you kind of expect the world around you to acknowledge it and it doesn’t – it just keeps of churning, busy with whatever is concerning each individual at that particular moment in time. My condolences to you and your family and strength for the months and years to come. With love from Cape Town, South Africa.

    November 29, 2016
    |Reply
    • Beautifully said.

      November 29, 2016
      |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you so much. Your love and wishes brought back to sunny Cape Town, its wind and its oceans. Lovely thoughts.

      November 29, 2016
      |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you Arlene. Thought of you when I was in Rome. Maybe next time we should share a cocktail.

      November 29, 2016
      |Reply
  10. Meri Mastro
    Meri Mastro

    I feel sad . . . I am sorry for your loss and send sincere condolences to you. I am reminded of the recent deaths of my dearly
    beloved brother and sweet loving mother . . . and the emptiness that remains. Prayers for you and your family.

    November 29, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you Meri. I guess we are at the age when deep loss is inevitable. No wringing out of it.

      November 29, 2016
      |Reply
  11. My sincere condolences to you and all your family. I remember the flight home to bury my father back in 1985, when I was 23, and you describe this so exactly. It’s never easy, but there’s definitely a relief in the mundane business of traveling that helps to ease that burden and prepare for everything waiting at the other end.

    November 29, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you Susan. I always thought living so far away would make the trip horrible but, as you say, there was a strange comfort in having that time alone and so removed.

      November 29, 2016
      |Reply
  12. winstonmoreton
    winstonmoreton

    Condoglianze

    November 29, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Grazie Winston.

      November 29, 2016
      |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you for the hugs Fiona.

      November 29, 2016
      |Reply

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