Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Being Here vs Being There

What would you do if your best friend, your mother, your father, your brother or your sister was very ill?  What if they really needed you to be by their side?  What if you were told they only had hours to live?  And you lived a 10-hour plane ride away?   Or longer?  Would you go numb?  Would you freeze or would you panic?  Would you stay calm and know exactly what to do?  Or would you spend that plane ride with your insides twisted in knots, wishing you were there already, when you had five - no - seven more hours to go before you're actually "there"?

This was the dilemma a friend from New Zealand faced today and it was a sobering thought for me - although I've been fortunate enough so far to not have had this happen (touch wood), I remember the moment my dad called me at college to tell me that my mother, 3,500 miles away, had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and needed to undergo surgery the next day.  I asked if I should/could book a flight home.  He told me no.  He told me she was going to be fine.  But she needs me, I thought.  I spoke to her and she assured me she was fine, but I knew, I knew she was scared.  At least a bit scared.  Because I would be.

She was brave and recovered well.  I was in the middle of finals.  I wanted to go home.  But I didn't.  And I regret it to this day. 

It was my decision to live here, miles and miles away from "home" but even so - even so - I hold back bitterness, resentment, when my friends go home for weekends to see their "mum, 'cos she's feeling poorly" or their "brother, as he just got his A-level results and we're so chuffed for him" or their "dad, 'cos it's his 60th and I've planned a surprise party for him".  I sit with my friends' families, eating dinners with them, drinking wine with them, laughing with them and I think of mine - my dad putting up the Christmas tree early in anticipation of my return last winter, my mom collecting Macy's vouchers to use when I come back, my brother asking me repeatedly, "Jaime, when are you coming home?" - and the bitterness rises up inside of me, like bile, collecting at the back of my throat. 

I remind myself every day to let go of this bitterness, this resentment, as I've chosen, in this moment, to be where I am - regardless of whether or not I return to the States, to New York or Boston or San Francisco or Washington in the near or distant future.  I have no right to feel this anger or resentment.  I try to be grateful for what I have: Skype to speak to my mom everyday, mail order wine service that delivers to my dad's office just in time for Father's Day, and Facebook to keep tabs on my brother. 

But my friend's predicament today has reminded me that this isn't enough - that no matter what, family and friends always come first.  Because they're actually all you've got.

Photo source


  1. i feel bad for complaining about being a mule with sinus now :(

  2. i feel bad for complaining about everything, in general, now. puts everything into perspective, other peoples' pain.


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