This past weekend I was at a family reunion. It was not my own family (we are so small a reunion is really unnecessary) but it got me thinking about family, my grandparents to be exact.
If you've been following along, you might already realize my moving to the UK will not be my first foray into expatriatism. I have been an expat twice before in my life, both times in Germany. The first time I was going to school in a small town in northwestern Germany, called Oldenburg. The second, I was living in Berlin and sort of teaching English, depending on the amount of work I could or could not find at the time.
So this whole expat thing is not brand spanking new to me. While each time and experience is different, there are still some similarities that make the second and third time around seem far less intimidating. I am grateful for the comfort that comes from having "been there, done that".
This been there, done that attitude can also be somewhat of a negative as well though. That brings me back to my grandparents. You see, when I was going to school in Germany back in 2002, both of my maternal grandparents passed away (7 weeks to the day apart from one another - I blame PawPaw's death on a broken heart). It was probably, to date, one of the hardest things I've ever been through in my life. I am not even talking about their deaths per say. Don't get me wrong, losing a loved one is tough shit but losing someone while thousands of miles away is in a league all it's own.
I didn't get my goodbyes. My grandmother was on a ventilator in her last few days of life and my entire family was surrounding her the day they "pulled the plug", my entire family except for me, that is. I didn't get to hold her hand like my sister did. I didn't get to hear all her favorite songs played at her service or see all the people turn up to say their goodbyes. I didn't get to tell my PawPaw how much I loved him before he went. I didn't get to feel the closure one feels as their loved one is placed in their final resting place.
Besides all that, I felt a bit like I was in the wrong place all together. It was in those moments where I questioned my decision to move so far away at all. Was it worth it to be away from the ones I loved? Will people understand my not being there? Was I short changing myself or others? In the end I know that my grandparents, my Austrian grandfather imparticular, supported my decision to move abroad more then almost anyone else. They would have rather had me out in the world living my life then to have me home just so I could attend their funeral services.
So on the cusp of another transatlantic move, I am reminded of these things. I am reminded that I will miss out on things again. I will miss family events, both good and bad. I will feel left out and alone sometimes. And this time around my move is indefinite. I don't have any planned return date. So long as the Queen lets me, I plan on settling in the UK. This will mean even more lost moments. I know I am going to be building a wonderful life for myself in a place I love, with a man I love but the thought of missing special moments can be a bit hard to swallow sometimes.
I know that my loved ones will love me no matter where I call home and that is the one thing that keeps me moving forward and moving on. Family is family no matter where you are. For this, I am so very grateful.