Many of us dream of escaping to the countryside. Others, like a dear friend’s daughter who met her husband-to-be on a gap year in Australia, set off for a new life in a completely different country.
Every ‘fresh start’ means leaving the past – and people – behind; being geographically separated from our loved ones is something more and more of us learn to live with. However, it was when my lion-hearted mum - the woman who always puts on a brave face - broke down and sobbed as I kissed her goodbye, that the enormity of moving 250 miles away from her in Surrey to west Wales, really hit me.
With hindsight the timing was cruel, not even a year since we had lost my dad to pancreatic cancer, but Dad’s death, so soon after my husband had been very seriously ill, had left me reeling, raw and unable to resist the lure of pursuing our dream of building a rural idyll
Our escape to west Wales was initially coloured by guilt about all those we’d left behind, especially our close family, but nearly ten years down the line I can say that we’ve found ways to cope with our ‘long distance love’. Firstly, we have lots of visitors; we may not see our loved ones as frequently as we as we used to when we called in for flying visits, but we see them for longer.
Spending days at a stretch together means there’s plenty of time to catch up; Ma’s helped me cut out new curtains, patiently taking over and unpicking when I’ve effed and blinded at bad seams. We’ve gardened together or at least Ma’s used her considerable skills and love of gardening to help tame the jungle beyond my window.
We’ve talked about Dad and laughed at memories both good and bad
We do the things we’d stopped doing, the things mothers and daughters are supposed to do. Ma even surprised me a couple of years ago by getting herself an iPad which has been another useful way to stay in touch. In many ways being apart has given me a second chance to appreciate her, for which I’m truly grateful.
New technology has certainly helped bridge the geographical gulf and provides another way to make separation bearable. When my stepson and his wife told us of their plans to move, with our toddler grandson, to Canada what else could we do but support them in their quest to make a better future?
Although not everyone has, or indeed would like, an iPad or tablet, frequent video calls have worked well for us
It’s nearly as good as being in the same room and we’ve been able to share in the excitement as the Canadian branch of the family has found employment, chosen a car and built a new house - the only difference is that we can’t cuddle our grandson.
I’m very happy to say that we can, however, cuddle the newest member of our family; my daughter and her husband have just had their first child, a daughter. Now, although we all live in Wales which many people think of as a tiny country, my granddaughter is still some ninety miles away. With one daughter living in Cardiff, one daughter now living in Bristol and our remaining parents and younger stepson in the south east, the downside of being so far-flung is that we cover an awful lot of miles, especially now that our parents are too precious to let them travel long distances on public transport.
However, it was well worth the recent long return trip to bring my mother to meet her first great-granddaughter. It’s not just distance, but some eighty years which separate Ma from the new arrival, but the two were brought together in a very special moment on a sun-filled day when we were able to take lots of photographs for the future.
‘Friends are like stars,’ the saying goes, ‘you can’t always see them but you know they’re there.’
For many of us that’s increasingly true of family too; we may not always see them but wherever life takes them it’s certain that our love goes with them.