I’m at the airport, waiting for a friend who’s coming back from London after two months of work. The speaker announces that the plane is half an hour late. Not having many options I decide to take a walk aimlessly. I wonder for a while until I reach the departure gates.
My attention is immediately captured by a child and what should be his father. I am kidnapped by the way the little one is glued to the parent. I sit on a bench and keep watching them. I can already imagine how this story will end.
After a couple of minutes, the father hugs his woman with a touching and deep gesture. They remain attached to each other for an indefinite time. When they come off, both have shiny eyes. He is a little less, while she just can’t hold back her tears. It’s a blow to the heart to look at her, it hurts me. She tries to hide the emotion by looking up and putting on her sunglasses. She doesn’t want the child to see her like that.
The father is holding back because now comes the impossible part. He lowers himself towards his little one, caresses his hair and pulls out a forced, hard-fought smile, while he succeeds in the very complicated exercise of keeping tears inside his body. I can get a very clear idea of the power of the knot in the throat she’s trying.
He hugs him hard and the son literally clings to his body. It’s a snapshot, a flash. There should be someone – for each one of us – who takes pictures or films certain moments of our existence. That gesture should be shown in schools to explain the meaning of parent, child, family.
It is impossible to think that those two bodies could come off. It would be like asking or expecting, that a natural event stops following its course. Ask the flowers not to bloom in spring or the water of the rivers not to feed the seas. You can’t do that.
The mother is forced to do what she does not want. She pulls the baby to herself with a quick gesture, somehow trying to reduce the pain. As if that was possible.
I read the father’s lips: “I’ll be back soon”.
The child knows that he is lying to him and bursts into a roaring cry. He turns around and hugs the legs of the mother. She looks at her man, gently caresses his face and tells him to go. In my heart, selfishly, I wish myself the good fortune to find such a woman.
He looks at the little one and then turns his back on his family.
The emptiness that is created is deafening. For a moment I think the whole airport has stopped and is watching them. I don’t feel anything. I can only feel the pain of those three people that increases dramatically every second that passes.
I know this kind of stories. I’ve already heard those words. I know how that child feels. He doesn’t understand why her father is doing something as terrible as going to work somewhere far away. He feels betrayed and is not wrong. But what he doesn’t know is that his father is doing such a bad thing just for him. So that he doesn’t miss anything now that he’s small and above all, so that, in a certain way, he can secure a future when he’ll be big.
That child will understand it, he will understand all this when he is grown up. But now he doesn’t care. Now he just wants to have his father there with him to play and go and eat ice cream together.
What the father doesn’t know is that he will lose pieces of his son’s life forever. He’ll let days, months and maybe years slip by. This will last until he can take it with him or decides to return. It may happen if the period of distance is prolonged for too many years, that that son will not be able to recognize him and will go into the arms of someone else when he will be back.
He will ask his mother, “Who is this man?”.
And then that father will take all the blame in the world. He will wonder if it was worth it to make his creature suffer. To live far from his family and then to return so as not to be recognized.
What all those who left their land asked themselves at least once in their lives: “but was it really worth it?”
Yes, as if a simple human being were able to answer such a question.
I take one last look at that child and remind of the story my mother used to talk to me. The photo of the three of us, with my father holding me in his arms a few days after birth next to my mother, who I asked her to kiss before falling asleep while he was away. When he came back and I told her to make him sleep under the bed, that man.
I didn’t call him Daddy anymore. He had become “that man”. It had been a long time since he left and I was just a child. I was not to blame, neither was my father. It’s nobody’s fault actually, it’s life.
I always wondered how he felt, but I never had the courage to ask him directly.
I go outside to smoke a cigarette and I pray that no father should be forced to make such decisions.