I arrived late. I hate being late; it’s my Britishness.
I’d been planning this trip to the airport for months, nearly a year, actually. It wasn’t for lack of planning that I arrived late.
I could blame it on being a first-time mother. I still hadn’t adjusted to how long it takes to do things, a common complaint from young women whose lives have changed. It’s hard to transition from young professional with the world as one’s oyster to simply trying to get out the door with clean clothes and the necessary items in relative harmony. Lip-gloss no longer makes the list.
I could also blame my tardiness on having to do it alone. There was no one to yell to:
“I’m just putting on a clean shirt. Can you please see that there is juice, nappies, and wipes in the bag?”
My husband would have swum the Atlantic to check on nappies, but that would’ve resulted in his deportation.
I could blame being late on the Monday Dublin rush hour traffic. I had no idea that thirty-minute commute would take and hour and a half. I had arrived in Dublin that morning on a rough ferry with toddler sick in my hair.
Olivia water-skied behind me on the smooth airport floor as I considered possible reasons why my husband’s flight could have been delayed, which would have made my lateness of no consequence. That list was discarded, incomplete and forgotten, the moment a shrill “Papa” escaped my daughter’s mouth. She’d seen him first. It was Papa, who she hadn’t seen for the last five months – other than on Skype, when his on-call shifts allowed. He was more handsome than a 24-hour flight should’ve allowed. He smiled with relief and joy, no trace of “Why are you late?”
The year’s stress, anger, despair, and exhaustion vanished as I watched our little girl hurl herself at him, the man I worried she might not remember or be too nervous to let him hold her like the last time we saw him. Five months previous, we had flown to Ecuador. An ear infection had taken hold on the 26-hour flight, and our little bubble of joy had faded, become thin, whiny, and scared.
But, she was no longer the nervous, fragile infant I hid my tears from in the Ecuadorian airport, fixing my gaze on the departure sign, refusing to look back at my husband. I knew the pain I would find on his face would be too much for my stiff upper lip. In that dreadful departure, I chose not to turn and give my husband any signal of love his eyes were craving.
I regret that cold, stern walk away. In that one gesture of self-preservation, I thought only of myself. I thought about how I was going to get through the long flight home, alone, with a 17-month old. I thought about the jet-lag and sleepless nights that travelling and illness had made of our routine. The selfishness of those worries left no room to realise the far greater hurt and despair: I wasn’t just leaving my husband – I was taking his daughter with me. Each minute of my daily struggle was a slap of stinging ingratitude in my husband’s face because each time I had to get up to comfort our daughter was another moment he couldn’t be there to father her.
But, in the Dublin airport, all of that seemed less unbearable. I walked over and put my arms around my little family and said:
“You’ve got the visa. I found out today. They’ve changed their minds and you’ve got the visa.”