Coming home

There is something delightful about seeing friends and family being reunited. Standing in an arrivals lounge, or in a station foyer, a whole spectrum of emotions is on display and for those being watched it is as though the rest of the world doesn’t exist.

And, of course, for those actually involved, the emotions are that much greater, with sentiments felt that will have been acquired over a lifetime. At my age there is little more joyous than welcoming home a loved member of the family who has been away. And in any such episode there is often a piquancy stemming from a sense of anxiety; perhaps the person I am planning to meet might not arrive, or has changed out if all recognition.

And is if to confirm the emotional power of greeting, there is little more miserable than the converse situation when a carefully planned meeting fails to materialise. From my experience as an adolescent, the feeling was felt most acutely when being ‘stood up’ when a new or close girlfriend did not turn up for a date. In those days systems for offering excuses or explanations by mobile phone and texts had not yet been invented, so standing and waiting uninformed was the only option. The particular incident is as clear as though it were yesterday. I had arrived early at our rendezvous, all spruced up and excited. It was a wet evening, with the meeting place a bus stop. Katherine was not on the first bus so I sat down and waited for the next. I never knew for how long it was reasonable to wait but on this occasion it would have been almost an hour. After three more buses passed I gave up, and wondered slowly home feeling thoroughly dejected and disconsolate. Next day even my family got involved but I was inconsolable.

It is these feelings that are rekindled now when I watch people meeting, and naturally it all feels that much stronger when the meeting involves me personally. On Saturday I went to Heathrow to meet my wife. She had been in Moscow for a week to learn Russian. I had stayed at home. There was a time when I would not have been fazed by being alone for even weeks, but that is not the case now. On this occasion, despite the fact that my days were filled with, for example, writing, working on my French, gardening, and meeting and eating with friends or from time to time watching the TV or listening to the radio, I still felt thrown. At night sleeping was difficult and in the day I likened myself to a boat without ballast. We spoke to each other every day by phone, text or email, but nothing offered a solution. It seems that within days I was suffering a classical case of emotional, as opposed to social, loneliness.

On the way to the airport the mixture of anxiety and excitement returned. Would I get there in time? Would Rohan arrive safe and sound? Had I got the right arrival time and terminal? And threading through all this was the exciting prospect of being together again and having all of the familiar routines re-established. And these emotions were heightened as I waited in the arrivals lounge and watched those from earlier planes being greeted.

There was a young family with their home made poster saying ‘Welcome home Daddy’. When he appeared the three little girls rushed up to him and he was not sure which to kiss first. And finally, as seems often the case, it was the mother’s turn and in their embrace their two bodies melted into one. Then there was a young man running up to his girlfriend and the subsequent hug in mid-air (he was about 50 cm the taller) that lasted minutes and involved at least two twirls. Next the father who greeted his grown up daughter with a loving kiss while essentially ignoring her probably-new husband. I suppose neither man was quite sure what to do. Finally, and after an age, out through the door came Rohan. Kisses and hugs over the barrier soon followed and then our journey home hand-in-hand or arm-in-arm, as baggage allowed.

A week is a long time in family life!


Photo: Coming home ©Mustafa Dedeoglu

2 comments on “Coming home
  1. Harold says:

    Joe, how well you express the anxieties associated with meeting, or leaving, friends and family. Having read, Coming Home just now, I feel I could have written the piece myself!

  2. Ellen Lingwood says:

    I am very touched by this post. I suffer terrible “emotional loneliness” when separated from my husband. I hate it. I am good at being alone, indeed I relish time spent at home alone. But! That is with the proviso that my husband will be home later. I am glad that I am not alone in hating “emotional loneliness” . It seems rather pathetic when we have been married for years and I am in my 50s. Perhaps I am not pathetic at all just a Grey Hare!

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