Wednesday, August 20, 2008

From the departure platform

I pull up to the curb on the departure platform--again. I crawl out of the car, and help drag bags out of the back.

Mid-day and 42 degrees Celsius. Sweat beads on Margje’s face and flows down Gordon’s as they wrestle luggage, stroller and babe dressed in their destination garb—black trench-style jacket over long slacks and blouse for Margje, with scarf around her shoulders ready for the mandatory head-covering of Iran. Long trousers and long-sleeved shirt in place of Gordon’s favored shorts and polo that announce his Afrikaans heritage. I take Eli-Anne from her mom for a last hug. Margje and I embrace and the tears flow. Then to Gordon for the cheek-to-cheek etiquette that gives way to a bear hug.

Though they’ve been out of their apartment and staying with us for the past ten days, we’ve all managed to ignore the coming separation. Such dear friends that Eli-Anne knows us as “Grandma” and “Grandpa.” Best camping buddies, dune-bashers extraordinaire, game partners and co-hosts with us of innumerable adventures and feasts. They stood alongside us as Daniel-fans and Cait-supporters, taking Eda in as family with the rest of us when she and Dan married in January; we stood with them as doting grandparents through invitrio, pregnant health crises, and their first year as parents.

I drive home (in Gordon’s SUV, now owned by Dan) and walk through a house so empty without Eli-Anne’s giggly, jumping explorations. Curt comes home and no 15-month old runs to hug his leg and crawl into his lap. No sharing of their days between the two men. No foursome in the kitchen pulling together something wonderful to eat for dinner.

Curt and I both grew up in mobile families. We’ve lived in transient communities before. We’ve moved a fair bit ourselves. But never like here. Expat life in UAE is defined by the frequency with which people come and go. Someone new to welcome and make place for; someone you’ve allowed in as a heart companion takes off on a different journey. When Gordon called to tell us about the job in Tehran, my heart cried out even as my brain told me that if they didn’t leave we’d be gone in a year anyway.

I’m thinking about that cracked-pot thing. With each dear leave-taking we crack a little bit more. Or maybe that’s a choice. Will we seal the cracks against the pain and form a shell that looks nice but is a hard surface that people connect with and bounce off, with nothing real coming through? Or will we allow ourselves to crack open a little bit more, so that the life of Jesus continues to pour through?

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