Ben is already swimming when I wake. I can see him – almost on the reef.  A lean shape sharply drawing against a rising sun. I swim out to join him. I always imagine I will surprise my children by suddenly appearing in the sea beside them; they say they hear me coming from meters away, the jangle of an armful of silver bangles. They say the sound is reassuring and alarming in equal measure; as younger children it warned of my approach when they were up to no good. Hat told me she once heard a similar sound at boarding school and thought I had come to get her. It wasn’t me. Just a stranger with a similarly adorned arm.

It is Ben’s last day. This evening he will begin his journey back to London and work. When I started writing this blog he was a 15 year old schoolboy. He’s 25 now, pays rent and taxes. It’s true what they say: no matter how old your children are, you never stop worrying about them. Never stop longing for them to come home. Never, ever stop dreading their going. When I was at boarding school, the term’s start was heralded by a heavy sense of gloom, I’d wake with a tangible pit in my tummy weight.  I am beset with the same palpable sadness today.

So we swim, the two of us, the only people in the ocean, the only ones up even, no evidence of anybody else on the beach. And then we drink tea and have breakfast, a last breakfast, we save Ben the biggest portion of bacon. Lunch will be his favourite fish and chips. Little offerings to make this last day as easy, as memorable, as satisfying as we can. Before we bundle into a cab, take the ferry north to the city, weave our way through chaotic traffic, tuktuks, disorganised road works, pedestrians who dash kamikaze through lines of vehicles, we won’t feel the sticky heat of late afternoon, the aircon will buzz cooly. We won’t talk much. We will watch the world and think deeply.

And we will get to the airport and I will cluck about calling me when he gets there and does he have everything and can I give him money for a drink and Ben will hug me and he will smile.

And I will cry. Because I always do. Whether my kids are 10 or 15 or 25, I never stop worrying about them. Never stop longing for them to come home. Never, ever stop dreading their going.

And I always cry when they do.


2 Responses to “Departures”

  1. Ad dy Says:

    My daughter is also 25 and lives in a different part of London to me now to be closer to the hospital where she works. It is true I see her more frequently now as we can just pop on a train to meet up, but I still miss her and worry about her and get her to phone me if she is walking back late from somewhere. A mother never retires!

  2. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    that’s quite right Addy – a mum never retires … i think we imagine that because our children become more independent we may feel retired. but we don’t. and that’s a very good thing x

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