Every year, towards the end of December, my wife and I pack our bags and fly back to the U.K. It’s not that I miss home, particularly, but rather the fact that I am conscious of the fact my parents are in their seventies and whilst they appear healthy and in reasonable control of their faculties, once you reach a certain age you can’t take another full one for granted. It’s awful really. As everybody knows, time passes more quickly with every year one is alive. When I look back ten years, it seems to have been just a short time ago. When I think of the age I will be ten years hence, it is terrifying. In that short time, I will be what seems like a ridiculous age to be. My mind isn’t ready. But it never is, is it? We are all still youthful in our heads. However scary my forward thinking may be, though, at least I have that luxury. At least I can hedge my bets and consider ten years into the future. For my parents, and perhaps yours, ten years is a luxury they can pray and hope for but not accept as a given.
Right now I am sitting in Heathrow Airport having a pint before I head back to Japan. A few hours ago, I hugged my mother and watched her cry as she always does when I leave. ‘I wish you could be here more often,’ she said. And every time it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart because amongst those tears which are saying goodbye to a son who is heading back to Japan, I know there are frightened tears that say so much more. I know there are tears which roll with the fear that they are simply saying, ‘Goodbye.’