Leaving home never gets any easier for any of us long-term emigrants

I was home to Cork for a funeral in recent days. It was a profoundly emotional week and I was prompted to write my first ever blog post on the bus up to Dublin. It seems to have resonated with a lot of Corkonians, both living there and living abroad.

Leaving home never gets any easier for any of us long-term emigrants

Leaving home is something I’d expect to be getting used to at this point. I’ve been doing it for 21 years.

That first time was the worst. Right before leaving for the airport, my dad and I took a walk down a country boreen by his house in Waterfall and I waited for him to ask me not to go.

I would have changed my mind so easily then. But he didn’t.

Instead he talked about the power of youth and opportunity, and the importance of being brave with your life. I sobbed and sighed all the way to Shannon.

It was the early 1990s, the Irish economy was bad and US immigration officers were probably well used to the sight of heartbroken Irish youngsters.

Leaving Cork has become only marginally easier over the years.

This time I was home for a funeral. Leaving my father behind, knowing that he is now not only bereft of me (and my sister and brother), but also his main partner in crime, his sister Rita, is so difficult.

I am at that awkward age now where funerals in my parents generation are becoming increasingly commonplace, and I can’t help but think about how leaving that first time has taken so much time from us already.

Whatever the reason for a visit, the rituals of leaving remain the same.

The day before I mentally check to see if I have met up with everyone I intended to and eaten everything I meant to. If not, action plans are put into place.

The night before I start to gather the mess that is flowing out of my suitcase since the day of my arrival.

The expansion is fueled by too many trips to Penneys and Dunnes (shoes that I absolutely did not need, but were only €4 - you’d have to), tons of Cadbury’s Twirls, Crunchies, Flakes, boxes of Barry’s Tea Bags, Sudocrem and the all-important 20 pack of Tayto.

Zippers strain and not just on my luggage.

The fear of the weighing scale at the airport is totally trumped by the fear of the one in my bathroom in Orlando.

Not only has the luggage expanded but there has also been a personal expansion; the inevitable result of 10 days of “seize the day” style indulgence in Clonakilty sausages and pudding, Tom Durcan spiced beef, crusty bread rolls, brown bread, trips to KCs in Douglas and an immodest number of pints of Murphy’s.

The ritual of packing is a good distraction from the reality of departure.

It used to be that my aunt Rita would come over the night before I left and give moral support as I engaged in the ritual. Not this time though; Rita is in St. Finbarr’s Cemetary now.

Dad has always preferred to avoid that part of the proceedings so we can stay in the moment for a while longer.

Packing complete, Dad and I sit by the fire watching TV as if nothing out of the ordinary is happening the following morning.

This visit, I did do better at hiding my tears from Dad as he drove me to Patrick’s Quay to catch the bus this morning. I held it together singing Neil Diamond loudly with him on the way into town.

“Thank you. I love you,” I said, grateful for the time crunch because I could not bear even the suggestion that he might have tears in his eyes.

Off he drove alone, and I swung my bags onto the bus.

If my father was a selfish man, I imagine that he might have felt more inclined to ask me to stay this morning than that first time I left him. He might have suggested that we turn around and go home for a cup of Barry’s more readily.

But he’s not, and now I have a husband and children and a life on the other side of the Atlantic.

It’s a good life, and I am blessed to have it, but despite my 21 years away it has become increasingly obvious that my spiritual home is the one by the Lee and it looks as though leaving is never going to get any easier.

The link to my blog is https://corkwoman.wordpress.com/.

Cathy Tobin

2924 Sylvan Avenue


Florida, USA

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