Kids go to the US. Without me
FRIDAY, July 9 – They were awfully nervous, and so was I. Sitting there at Schiphol airport, in a small room next to the passport check, where all children traveling alone are handed over to the flight service of our national airline. As I sign the papers, it feels like I’m giving up my children.
It’s just a formality, but still. For over eight months they were under my wing and now the two of them are off to the States. Without me. All this is racing through my mind, but outwardly I maintain a reassuring smile. ‘Everything’s going to be fine, kids. This isn’t the first time you’ve been on a plane. Before you know it, you’ll be giving Grandma and Grandpa a big hug.’
Sander is the big brother. ‘I know, Papa. Don’t worry.’ He looks around in all directions. He’s nervous too.
I go over to the two KLM stewardesses who’ll be keeping an eye on the boys and, in a whisper, explain the circumstances. They are clearly dismayed. ‘It’s good to know, sir. We’ll inform the crew.’
Then, the moment has come. Sander gives me a hug. He’s trying to be strong. He’s the big guy. We give each other a kiss. ‘I love you, Sander.’
‘I love you, Papa.’
It looks as if Eamonn’s not going to let go of me. He’s trying to be strong, just like his brother, but it’s all too much for him. He holds onto me, sobbing. In the end, he accepts the inevitable. We separate and he stands there watching me as I turn and walk away. I decide not to look back. My shirt is soaked with his tears.
Less than ten minutes later, I’m barely on my way home – the phone rings. It’s Sander. ‘Papa, you’re not going to believe this. We’re in business class! I told the stewardess about what happened to us, and she asked if we’d like to travel business class.’
I hear Eamonn exulting in the background. We hang up. I cry tears of relief.