The plane started its descent and the emotions really grabbed me. I was returning to where I lived 5 years ago. It was well planned but was I ready for it?
As we were descending I could again see the familiar landscape of my home from 5 years back. I had been back several times since but only for brief visits. This time was very different – I was coming to stay.
I had a big concern – would Isaac accept me? I had not spoken with him for quite a while – planning and preparing for this move had absorbed all my energy and mental strength.
And was it the right thing for me to move back? I had been through this train of thought numerous times over the last year and I had not got closure. When I lived here before I was very settled and never thought I would be away at all – now it was coming back for good and that created emotions inside me.
It was, however, too late as I was committed and almost there.
Many years ago it was new and wonderful to travel to a country far, far away from where I grew up and that I had prepared so much for. Not because I needed to move there. Not because I was escaping from something. Rather because it was done by many of my peers at a young age to experience another culture and still be able to have a comfortable life due to a well-paid job with a good education. Many others did it for some years before settling back in the old country – why shouldn´t I do it!
I was born into a family that had no international experience. Both my parents came from middle-class families that went back generations in the same communities that they grew up in. My father came from a small family farm half a day´s travel from where we lived, and he was brought up to work hard and contribute to the daily chores at the farm. The farm was too small to support a livelihood on its own, and so my grandfather worked as a carpenter in addition to running the farm with its cows, pigs, sheep and chicken. Truth be told: it was really my grandmother that did the largest portion of the work at the farm.
Every year my parents took myself and my little brother to the farm for their 3 weeks of summer holiday. We also visited at times outside of the holidays.
I created a strong bond with my cousins who all were at the farm at the same time in the summer. The main house was not large so do not ask how we all were able to sleep and live there all at the same time. Grandmother was the one that made the magic that created spaces and beds to sleep in. And it was not important to us that we had to live crammed together – it was an incredible experience to spend the summer close in with my cousins. It was never a boring moment during those weeks. I am so impressed with our grandparents that they endured us all and actually supported most – alas not all – of our activities.
And there were even more cousins! My mother´s sister had 3 boys. They lived in the same town as we did, and hence we spent a lot of time together with them on a regular basis.
Although I do not keep that much in contact with my cousins today as I did when growing up, I will always appreciate and cherish being part of a big family.
When I finished high school I went out into the military for the compulsory 18 months service to the country. I knew I wanted to study engineering but at that time it was not clear to me what kind. The time in the military gave me the breathing space to decide. So when I left the service I knew what I wanted to do and I subsequently applied.
After university I started working in a company in a city close to home. I enjoyed the job and the people I worked with, and I considered my life was as good as it could get.
Then my boss one day asked me if I would be interested in a 2-year stint with the parent company in the U.S.. I had always lived my life close to where I grew up, and so the idea was new to me, but caught my interest. I told him I had to give it some thought.
I had no partner I lived with – I had no serious relationship at that time, and I therefore concluded that it would be interesting to try another culture for a couple of years. After that time I would be back. So I said ´yes` to the offer.
The company I worked with produced software for the local market – the software was based on that from the American mother company. My job would be to learn a new system they were developing and lead the adaptation to my home country market.
My parents, who had never travelled abroad and who had been very comfortable always living near the place where they grew up, were supportive, yet I sensed their sadness for me leaving. “But it is not for good”, I told them, and that was always my intention.
So I flew to Boston, found a place to live near the job location, which was in a small town north of the city, and started work there. One thing I noticed immediately was the openness and positivity towards newcomers that was shown to me. It made it so much easier both to get going with my work and to feel accepted and welcome very quickly. The head office was located in a setting that invited to outdoors activities. The ocean was less than an hour´s drive away and the mountain area to the north was an excellent area for skiing in the winter and trekking in the summer. Both were important to my daily life.
I quickly got to know the people in the company. It was an organization filled with young people, and it seemed like one common spare time interest really was outdoor activities. So I joined in.
And that is how I met Sandra. She was in the group I went skiing with on weekends. She worked in a different department from mine. She was a very down to earth, outgoing, super bright and confident but in a relaxed and quiet way. In the group outings she took part in she was – like the others – a no-nonsense friend that always had something positive to say and often was in the forefront during our group trips. I liked her.
Almost 3 months into my stay this was the status. I felt very much at home and enjoyed my job. Then out of the blue one day I got a call from Sandra asking if we could meet up for coffee in the cafeteria.
We met, and to my surprise she invited me to go with her to a concert that Saturday. It was unexpected on my part, but I liked being asked and of course I accepted.
We had a fun evening that Saturday. And what I liked about it was that there were no hidden messages from her, she was just “one of the guys”.
But I felt there had to be a reason for why she invited me, although it did not immediately appear other than she clearly wanted to get to know me better. I liked that approach. I actually became interested in her as well. I let her set the tempo.
She was in effect the one wooing me.
We continued in the outdoors group, but in addition we went out together now and then, both with others and just the two of us. Then one day she said to me laughingly: “John – I am afraid I am falling in love with you. What shall we do?”
I was caught off guard by her frankness, but at the same time I was not totally surprised, and she sounded so honest. And then it fell out of me like I had been prepared for it: “It is mutual, Sandra” I said with a big smile and hugged her.
And this was the start of a wonderful relationship.
I decided to stay on, and luckily my company agreed with this. For a period of time I commuted to help with the startup of the new system in my home country.
I moved in with Sandra. She had grown up in the area but had during her studies spent time both in Asia and in Europe and so she had seen much more of the world than I had. But I was very content with living there and I had no plans to move back to my home country on a permanent basis. We both found that she and I had so much in common. I got to know her family and they and I accepted and liked each other. It was like living where I came from in a way. I felt both very comfortable and very happy.
After about a year together Sandra became pregnant. She told me she did not want to get married.
The child was a boy – Isaac she named him.
I continued living with her and Isaac. We were in practice really a very normal family.
7 or 8 years passed. I was back home every year – Sandra and Isaac came with me a couple of times also and got to be very much accepted and loved by my family.
Then tragedy struck back home. My father suddenly passed away, leaving my mother alone with no one close to help her. I had no siblings and she had no close family.
I felt it my duty to go back to help her with the transition now that she was on her own. A very capable woman in her earlier years but time had put its marks on her and made her less resilient. She also showed early signs of dementia. So there I arrived back in my home town the day after my father had passed away – I did not make it in time as I had little warning. She was very happy to see me.
I had of course lost contact with the few friends I had here from way back. As usual it was my own not-so-social being that did not exactly go overboard to maintain the relationships from afar. I was far more into the here and now and did not spend so much energy on friends on distant shores.
To this day I do not know if I made the right decision to move back to help my mother and to leave Sandra and Isaac. As time goes on I am more and more in doubt that I should have done this. And what was wrong with my feelings for them if I thought it OK to leave them after the relationship we had built and the fact that we had lived together for years?
At the time I was driven by the shock of my father´s death. I made the decision fast. At that time I did not think other than I was going to stay till after the funeral and help her getting organized to live on her own. But it soon showed that she could not manage daily life without help, and I felt compelled to stay on for a while.
But what did that do for my relationship with Sandra and Isaac?
Was it really necessary to leave them for a long time?
Could I not arrange with someone to look after my mother on a daily basis and I could visit her with a few months interval?
Could I expect anything from Sandra after that?
How could she trust me?
These thoughts rushed through me constantly while I was grappling with the fact that I had to make a decision soon.
I decided to stay for a while. It was sort of non-committing to both my mother and Sandra and Isaac. I felt spineless in my own mind by not staying with them, and I could not really explain to myself why I made that decision. It left them in effect abandoned by me. In the aftermath I still to this day do not understand why I did not arrange with homecare service for my mother. Yes she did have the ability to make me feel guilty if I did not serve her myself. That brought up very vivid memories from growing up – she was certainly a very caring mother but at the same time she expected full support for her by other family members or she would induce you with guilt. These feelings sat so deep rooted in me that when I was in her presence even as a grown man I was deeply influenced by them in my decisionmaking in everyday life.
And so this way 5 years passed. I did visit Sandra and Isaac with a few months interval, but the relationship with her slowly became more uncertain.
Then my mother died, and I decided to move back to them. However, it was not clear how that would work out, Sandra seemed a bit wishy-washy about getting together with me again, but I was adamant I owed Isaac to be at his side while he was growing up, even if Sandra did not want to live with me anymore. I had mixed feelings already when preparing for the return, and when I had arrived these feelings really hit me.
After having gone through immigration and picked up my luggage, I walked out towards the crowd of people waiting for arriving passengers. Had anyone come to meet me?
There was no one there. Neither Sandra nor Isaac. I became concerned. Maybe I did not deserve better. I waited for almost an hour – then I called her. There was no response.
I decided to call one of our mutual friends that I had kept in touch with to try to find out if she knew.
After a short wait I got the call back with the most unbelievable and heartwrenching news. It turned out Sandra and Isaac had indeed been on their way to meet me at the airport, but they got into an accident on the highway and were both killed.