It doesn't get any easier.
Without fail G's last day in town always involves a small drama or some form of internalized tension. The tone in the house changes as his bag begins to be packed, the little travelers change mood and I begin to subconsciously make the mental list of what we thought we'd get done but didn't. And then there's the inevitable last minute drama to heighten the tension. Whether it's a flat tyre or a suitcase zipper that breaks, somehow we manage to go from a relaxed family holiday to a roller coaster of last minute jobs that need to be done.
I told myself it was going to be different this year. I didn't want to race to the airport at breakneck speed, only slowing so G could commando roll from the car to the departures terminal. I didn't want to have a petty fight about electricity bills or my annual obligatory speeding fine, or how much money I managed to spend on last year's holiday. It was going to be relaxed and chilled.
It was not.
G had three hours to get to the airport when I sent him a text from the doctors surgery. "Still not sure, possible appendicitis - having blood tests, will know more this afternoon". The first little traveler had provided all the excitement that collapsing/fainting can induce to a family breakfast. After an initial trip to the local surgery we left without any answers. Then the diarrhea began. I drove into town to our family doctor. In the midst of talking about whether we should do an ultrasound or blood tests I heard myself say "I have to take G to the airport this afternoon, when exactly will we know if she has appendicitis" I sounded like the mother from hell. Who tries to fit appendectomies in with flight times?
While I was at the doctors, G was at the beach house standing outside with the plumber, the plumber was wearing work boots, jeans and a shirt - G was wearing his Qatar Airways pajamas. It's hard to have a serious blokey conversation when you're the one wearing what looks like a grey onesie with an airplane logo on your chest. G wasn't all that fussed at the time though, the hot water service had decided all washing and bathing was now going to be done at a luke warm temperature - we wanted it fixed. Preferably before G got on a plane.
Meanwhile back at the doctors, I was busy coaxing the first little traveler into having a blood test. I know I should love her determined spirit and decisive personality, and I do, just not when she's refusing to do something I really need her to do. Finally, after thirty minutes of intense negotiations, as we held hands and stared into each others eyes I said the magic words "What colour shoelaces do you want me to get for your converse sneakers?"
We arrived back at the beach house in time to turn around and head back to the city again. It was time to get to the airport. There was one final thing left on G's to do's list that he was passing on to me, and instead of seeing it as one small thing, I saw it as the thing that was going to ruin my life. This happens every year - the one final thing, this year it was our heating, there was a problem with the ducting. Last year it was electrical, the year before that it was the gas.
It would usually be no big deal but I lose all rationality when it comes to waving G goodbye. Instead of just saying I don't want you to go, or doesn't this situation suck, I get grumpy about what's ahead. The cloud above my head became stormier as I read the instructions G had left regarding what needed to be done. I was going to have to ring A and tell them that B needed to talk to C about the warranty that A had provided and B had connected, but maybe D would agree to do the work. I decided it could wait until after we discovered if the first little traveler needed her appendix removed.
As we got closer to the airport the first little traveler joked that she wished G could break his leg so he didn't have to get on the plane. We all gave a half hearted laugh. And then there was silence while we all secretly planned exactly how we could break his leg. The second little traveler had her jacket over her face, she was in denial. The third little traveler broke the silence with "I'm going to miss you Dad". G took a deep breath and said "I'm going to miss you too mate".
We were late. As we screamed towards the terminal, G tried to make both he and I feel better by reminding me that he was going to be really busy at work, that people were away and that the "time would just fly". I pretended to agree with him and said all the cliches that we always say "it'll go so quickly". As we pulled up in the drop off zone, the travelers clambered over the seats to hug and kiss him. I looked at the sign above us and wondered exactly how many times we'd done this. How many drop off zones have we parked in while we said our one minute goodbye? We hugged, kissed, made the same dumb jokes, and then he was gone.
I got back in the car and looked at the little travelers faces. "Well guys, it's just us now - how about we plan some fun". The ideas started coming, a pajama day, a home-made ice-cream sundae bar, a sleepover with friends, a trip to the movies. Everyone began to get excited. "I wish Dad could have stayed" said the fourth little traveler "he would love the ice-cream sundae bar". Everyone decided that we could do it again we he got back.
As we hit the first set of traffic lights I noticed my phone was alight with a message "made it, boarding now".
"Keep your eyes in the sky guys, Dad's plane should take off soon".
It never gets any easier.