Away

My Mother casually while putting on her makeup said “we are heading out this weekend for work, you can stay at the neighbours.”

I looked at her, my eyes welled up. They were leaving me alone in our big house, in a country I had been calling home for a couple of years. We had lots of household staff, but no matter how much you filled the house, it always felt lonely. I was 12, and absolutely terrified.

My Mother didn’t seem to really care, I think she was tired. To be honest, both my siblings were away at school and this posting along exciting politically and enjoyable on so many ways, was aging everyone.

I went down for breakfast, silent, not really understanding why both of them had to go. My Father, no matter what he was doing, always had breakfast and dinner with me, NO MATTER WHAT.

I sat down. The maid brought me my breakfast, she patted me on the back, knowing what I had been told.

My Father looked worried, he stated “Now, we are going into dangerous territory, if anything happens to us, do not leave this house until your Aunt arrives.” I nodded. I knew the drill. Technically, if an Ambassador dies, the family must vacate immediately to let the new Ambassador in. It is an archaic rule, that actually still exists today. My Father had drilled it into me since we arrived at this posting, who to call, my rights, and never leave the house until my Aunt would arrive from North America.

Some how, this hit home more so than the other times. I always had my siblings with me, I was never alone.

My Mother had arranged for me to stay at the neighbour’s house, they had become best friend’s with my parents. I loved them just as much, and spent hours at their house and vice versa.

This time was different. I didn’t want to go over there. The one maid and our cook knew I was terrified. So, they came up with a plan. I came home from school the first day my parents were gone, the cook made me all my favourite food, they made a picnic for me on the floor.

The put in my favourite movie, and we had a sleepover on the floor. I wasn’t scared that night. I felt loved. It was our secret, they weren’t supposed to cross that barrier of staff and boss, but they did, for me. To this day, I still think of that weekend with great fondness.

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Stepping Out

It is a strange and rather twisted thought. The moment I realized that for over 30 years, I was attached to the Foreign Service, and had never felt like myself. The realization that the one thing I was addicted to, was actually hurting me.

I never slept, I had odd reactions to simple tasks, and felt more comfortable in an airport lounge, than my own apartment. I kept lots of secrets from my new husband, and felt like I had more in common with those I went to work with everyday.

One morning I woke up with intense pain, I crawled to the washroom, not only threw up, but was bleeding severely. I whimpered, it was the most intense pain I have ever had. It was new exactly, I had suffered from severe menstrual cramps since I was “blessed” with my period, and my cycle was always wonky.

I knew something was really wrong. I cried out to my husband, he ran towards me, and calmly told me we needed to go to the hospital. I replied, it’s o.k. just call my doctor. My Doctor was the only constant I had over the many years we had moved, I always came back to the exact same GP. I knew he would get me to come in at 7am for an emergency appointment. I could barely move to get some clothes on.

I got into our car, I looked at this amazing man beside me, and realized. I didn’t want to chose a strange life of secrecy and no friends outside the department over him. My Father died early because of his career, and I didn’t want the same.

Throughout the few days I stayed home and went to medical appointments, my husband stayed by my side, and no one from work checked in, not even my so-called friends. When we got the grave news that it may be incredibly difficult to conceive, it was a secret that we as a couple shared, I never told anyone.

It was from those days I realized, that no matter how much I loved working in the Foreign Service, it would never make me feel like me, I would always be playing a part.

That decision was the most difficult and the easiest to make.