He promised us that everything would be okay. I was a child, but I knew that everything would not be okay.
That did not make my father a liar. It made him my father.
– Jonathan Safran Foer –
I was raised in a time when being a man included protecting and providing for one’s family as the primary breadwinner. This drive, not my alarm clock, is the reason I am out of the house before 8 a.m. Due to the changing economic landscape, I can no longer marry one job for life. My friends and I have changed jobs at least thrice, foraging for choice assignments on different continents.
I work 6000km away from where my family resides. Every other fortnight, at the end of a six-hour flight and one-hour cab ride, I turn my key in the lock of our home. Depending on the time of the day, the sound of “Daddy! Daddy’s home!” fills the hallway extinguishing any trace of weariness. Some months I spend more time with them because of national holidays or meetings, which are scheduled near the city where they live.
One evening, exasperated that my eight-year old wasn’t concentrating on his homework, I let out, “I’ll soon knock some sense into your head!” I didn’t mean it of course. He must have thought I did, because he replied, “No, you can’t,” and laughed while throwing his pencil in the air.
He was right. I could not have. We were on Skype.
Skype gives me the illusion that I am there for breakfast on weekends and dinner and bedtime on some weeknights. I am sometimes forgotten on the kitchen table, left staring at the white ceiling, when TV or something else captures my children’s imagination. Their vocabulary includes poor connection and weak signal and we have learnt to decipher the ‘omens’ of the Wi-Fi signal bars on our devices like fortune-tellers predicting the future.
This present-absence weighs on my heart. Am I a good dad? Am I missing my children’s growing years? Will they grow up resenting me? Have I exhausted the options for securing a job closer home? Beyond financial security for my family, what about my self-actualization and professional growth?
There are stretches of time when my colleagues, men and women who live with their families in the city where I work, hunch over spreadsheets and reports, late into the night. As I leave them behind and head to my small apartment, I contemplate the difference between 11km and 6000km. Is it the weekends?
Absence can make the heart fonder or ponder. If I am fully present when I am with my children, the memories we create as I drop them off at school or play with them in the park, might put paid to questions my absence creates. Nevertheless, their mum’s constant sacrificial presence, for which I am tirelessly thankful, reinforces the answers they seek.
One night after I read my daughter a bedtime story and kiss her goodnight, my lips leave a tiny film of moisture on my iPad screen. The sensation is cool, but my heart remains warm for a long time afterwards.
Skype Dad travels round the globe on business assignments, but is home at every opportunity. He shared his story with me in reaction to the post, A Man Just Like You and Me.
©Timi Yeseibo 2015
Photo Credit: Unsplash/ https://pixabay.com/en/leather-shoes-boots-tie-laces-691609/
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