Within a week of meeting G, I began what has now become a fourteen year ritual of getting ready to say goodbye. Over the years the goodbyes have taken different forms. Initially, when it was just the two of us, it was simply a matter of missing him, of not wanting to be without him.
In my first pregnancy I fell down the stairs in our apartment in Perth as we were making our way to the car. I was taking G to the airport. It was our first experience of it no longer being just about us, that there were now three of us in the equation. He wasn't just saying goodbye to me, there was someone else involved. He didn't want to leave, and as much as I kept saying that everything was fine, I was quietly running through the scenario in my head. What if something terrible had happened when I fell. What if I lost this baby while he was gone and I was on my own when it happened. Who would I call? Where exactly would I go?
It was fine, we were fine.
When the first little traveler arrived safely six months later, we were all back on a plane within eleven days. We waved my parents goodbye at the airport and began our new life in another country. Just the three of us. Each time G would travel and have to leave us, the "what ifs" would return. What if there's another coup? What if I need to call an ambulance and they don't come? What if I can't get any money out of the bank again? What if the phone stops working for three days like it did last week? Suddenly life as a single parent in a foreign country seemed a little more daunting. There was a matching horror story in each country that involved an expat woman who was home alone with her children. The French woman who was killed in her home in Jakarta. The home invasion that went wrong in Kuala Lumpur. The car accident that wasn't an accident in Libya. Stories you were told, that somehow managed to stay stored in the back of your brain, only to be remembered at 1am when a strange noise was coming from the back yard and you were up feeding a baby.
Over the years as the little travelers have grown and faced their own obstacles, G and I have continued with our intermittent goodbyes, and the "what ifs" have stayed. What if he has another asthma attack and I have to take them all to the hospital with me? What if she needs another ear operation? What if the doctor tells me I have to be admitted for the procedure? These things have happened and we've got through them. It was fine. We were fine.
Tonight is G's last night before he heads back to Qatar for a month without us. He's taken the little travelers to swimming lessons and the library on his own today, a break for me, serves as his last fix. He's an experienced and wounded traveler, he knows he will have to hold on to today's events for the next few weeks. He will want to remember the face of each swimming instructor, the books that were borrowed from the library. He will discuss these details while on Skype with the little travelers, he will be in one country while they are in another.
It is G that will find the next month harder than anyone. He will return to a family home that is missing its vital ingredient, a family.
My "what ifs" are so much simpler here. What if the hot water man doesn't come to fix the hot water service? What if I can't find a carpenter to cut a hole in the wall. These are problems that can be solved. The supermarket is just down the road, the winery around the corner; but most importantly, friends and family are a mere phone call away.
To my gorgeous G who will worry about us unnecessarily, it will be fine. We will be fine.