Home and Awake or The Parachute Bursts

It's always interesting to come home after being away for a couple of months. Monsieur and darling daughter met me at the airport. My flight home was very comfortable as I traded some points for Business Class nonstop on Lufthansa. Flat bed seats, amenity kits and a quiet area of the plane make for a more relaxed arrival. After the three of us had a light dinner, Monsieur and I returned to the a freshly cleaned apartment with lovely white freesias in a vase on the table. Monsieur is probably a better housekeeper than I am.

After going to bed at 10:00, I awoke to find that it was only 12:27. I played fun trivia, I read blogs, I researched articles on Canadian and German urban planning. Materfamilias suggested that  I read Straphanger by Taras Grescoe. I visited his website for about an hour. And then it happened!. My computer needed plugging in and I realized that my European two prong plug does not work In Canada. I sent my other plugs home with Janet in April. I could not charge my computer. After all my online diversion, it was only 3:17 a.m. I had no choice but to roll over and go to sleep.

Two hours later, Monsieur and I are both up. He's used to having the apartment to himself and now that I am home, his day to day routine will change. He is working on a music project and some strata council issues. He has lined up quite a few gigs during the summer so practise and planning will be a part of his regime. I empty my small suitcase and hang up my clothes. I have laundered and hand washed as I have gone along so this takes just a little time. Unfortunately, since I have gone away, we have lost a storage locker and gained 4 Rubbermaids of books from my mother. There is nowhere to put the suitcases.

As I am a book person, much of my life is centred on story. Church windows tell me the stories of the saints. The tales of the Hapsburgs and of the composers have filled my days in Central Europe. My mother has many books, some dating back more than seventy years, and I am appalled at the thought of them going into a dumpster (recycling or not). I have spent a major part of my life developing and weeding library collections. This is my area of professional expertise and as a retired person, sometimes we just need the acknowledgement of our skills. I will be going through the books and trying to find suitable homes for as many as possible.

 At long last, it is 7:00, I can phone Maman. Except Maman is much less than enthusiastic about seeing me because she is preoccupied with her move to an apartment and has still not severed her ties to her former home. Besides, I forgot, this is Wednesday, day of the sacrosanct lunch with my youngest brother. Insecure adult children with siblings can all probably relate to the dynamics of family. I am the eldest, born shortly (8.5 months after my parents' marriage) and joined 14 months later by a baby brother. My sister is 4.5 years younger and my youngest brother joined the family 9 year after me. Thus, my moment in the sun was brief and I was too young to have been aware of it.

Maman suggests that she will call me after her lunch and that we will make a trip to the "old place".   So now, I have six hours to kill. It is already 2:00 in the afternoon Europe time and I hit the wall midafternoon wherever I am. As most of my friends still work, I call a couple of retirees but reach their voice mail.  How do you handle jet lag (travel letdown)? My mother claims that it doesn't exist but the sadness that I feel is real. Much of my time since my dad died in January has been spent planning, anticipating and enjoying my travels and the ending has been abrupt.

My approach to feelings and unmet needs is "name them and claim them." This may sound narcissistic but once we can get these sentiments out, we can acknowledge that  they are transitory and will evaporate into the air in a short time. But, I am still left with the problem of a pleasant diversion to help me through the transition day. By this time I have had only spasmodic sleep for the last 48 hours and I have not taken my medication.

I decide to cook a Hungarian dish for dinner and to call my daughter to go for lunch. We live near a pleasant fishing village where we enjoy lunch together whenever daughter has a day off. Shopping for a few groceries and a nice salad help me to feel happier. Finally, it is time to visit Maman but it is already 10:00p.m. European time.

My mother is sad about her losses. She doesn't want a "new life" and she is a very different person from me. She has moved into an apartment complex that is called "The Village" She lives across the street from a library branch and 100 metres from a boardwalk on the river.  At the Seniors' Centre across the street, there is restorative yoga, tai chi and all the company that she might wish for. She seems to be fixated on moving small inconsequential items from place to place rather than moving herself forward. She claims that she doesn't need to walk outside because "she gets plenty of exercise walking the halls and doing bullwork".  My hopes for my mum are that she will enjoy walking to buy fresh bread and vegetables,  attending Music at the Cannery, and reading on her enormous terrace by the river. I must have her mixed up with my "dream mum". She will always miss Dad but, at 81, every new day counts. We have words!

I enjoy travel by myself because basically I can avoid other peoples' issues. I can care for others but I don't have to become enmeshed. At times of stress, in enmeshed family systems, unkind words are often said. As far away as I have been in distance, I have still heard "who helped", "who didn't help",
"who wants what", "who doesn't want what" and the story varies depending on who tells it. According to Family Systems Theory,

The basic relationship patterns result in family tensions coming to rest in certain parts of the family. The more anxiety one person or one relationship absorbs, the less other people must absorb. This means that some family members maintain their functioning at the expense of others. People do not want to hurt each other, but when anxiety chronically dictates behavior, someone usually suffers for it.


  1. I find this such a moving post, and I recognize so much of what you're saying about that re-entry phase. My husband and I were apart all week during his last 5 years at work, and for several years before that he worked in Ottawa while my job was on the island -- we commuted to visit each other every second weekend or so and there was always an adjustment. Now, I still miss the time completely to myself, although he's not at all needy and we enjoy each other's company.
    I had/have a "dream mum" as well, although I came to recognize by the end that there was more of her in my "real mom" than I'd been able to see or she'd been able to express. . .
    Who'd have thought there'd still be so much to learn at our age?!!

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