Reflections of a returned Canuck
We’d heard that it’s harder to go back to the country you left than it was to leave it in the first place.
Diplomats, world travellers, missionaries, all said that when you leave home, and live abroad for as little as two years, the return is more painful than the departure.
Now that we’ve done it, I find it true. And yet, it doesn’t seem to cover the full truth.
20 years, 4 months in Good Old Blighty.
Born there. Not quite a Cockney. St Mary-le-Bow is 8 miles from the old Chiswick Maternity Hospital, just a shade too far to hear the bell. I found out recently The Who’s Pete Townsend was born in the same hospital. Well that explains my rockishness.
Raised my kids there, and left one behind. My youngstest was just a month old when she passed through Immigration at Heathrow. What were we thinking? It’s a good thing we can’t see very far into the future, or we’d never have any adventures.
I remember my adrenalyn surging as I watched the Canadian men’s hockey team win the gold at the 2006 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. I was all by myself. Wife was out, kids were in bed, and ice hockey in the UK . . . well, nobody gets excited about it. So I shrieked with joy by Skype with old pals from Guelph.
It was very big stuff.
But after the game was over, I was all by myself again. And feeling very homesick.
So often I would think, Man I wish I was home. All the trans-Atlantic flights for Heathrow would fly over our place in Yate. I’d look up from the comfy easy chair in the sitting room, I mean living room, and look up at the contrails. I downloaded the Flight Radar app to identify each one.
Two hours, and I could be at Heathrow to hop that plane home.
We holidayed in Cornwall one summer, and got all the way to Land’s End. I looked west, and pointed . . . .
. . . . over There.
Where is that?
Tell me now, cuz I’m still homesick.
And I knew it would be this way. I knew it would.
(That makes it easier? HA.)
I’ve now been back in Canuckistan 438 days. Maple leaf flags everywhere.
(What is it with these big humungous Canadian flags on the 401? Are we under some kind of pressure to compete with the Yanks, or something? They’re a big ridiculous. The flags, I mean. Although, some Yanks . . . )
And the best way to describe the last year is:
Oh. We’re back in Canada? Oh. Um, yeah, I see. Right, OK. I’ll get excited now, I guess.
Life is a unique and lonely experience.
Nobody else can see through the same eyes, travelling the same miles, in the same shoes, as you can. Try as you might to explain it, you will fall flat.
And the loneliness of it all, the inability to communicate what I call life to someone else, makes me all the more curious when someone else tries to tell me their own weird combobulation of disjointed mosaic pieces.
My old grandad was a Phrustrated Philosopher.
What is life? he’d ask.
Yeah I know there’s organs in our body that work in beautiful synchonicity, and there’s DNA that contain all the code for our bodies and brains, yadda, yadda. (I’ve edited that a bit. I don’t think Grandad did yadda yadda.)
But the Magic.
The Music, that thing we call LIFE.
What is THAT? How do you explain THAT?
(Good luck with the answer, but great question.)
He was something, my old grandad. Once he’d warmed to a subject, he made you think. Good English-born lad like myself. Sussex.
Lost him our first year in England. In fact, lost five family members in our first five years in England. Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang.
My grandparents, I expected. They were all in their nineties, and had all had good innings. (Ha, ha. See?) My dad, I did not expect. That knocked me for six.
I recovered quickly, because we had no unfinished business between us. I knew he was fiercely proud of me, indeed of all us kids. He was very happy with the way we’d turned out.
Got any unfinished business between you and your folks?
Put it right. While you can.
Trust me on this. I’m unendingly grateful that my dad died proud and pleased, even if prematurely. I did right by him. That’s a real rock you can stand on.
The answers don’t matter as much as the questions.
That same olf Phrustrated Philosopher was also a Lay Reader in the Anglican Church in his latter years. He used to conduct Sunday services in tiny churches in rural Quebec, where the congregation was too small to support full-time paid clergy.
Among the collection of sermons he kept at the ready, was one entitled Four Questions for Easter.
The questions were (all pulled from the Bible):
(1) Where are you?
(2) What are you doing there?
(3) Where are you going?
(4) What is Truth?
The quality of your life depends directly on the questions you ask.
And the answers don’t matter as much as the questions.
Easy questions? Empty life.
Hard (or un-answered) questions? Satisfying life.
Nothing wrong with un-answered questions. There’s no shame in that.
But don’t be caught with un-asked questions when the ref blows his whistle.