This post is no easier to write now that I’m back in the States. The final few days were bittersweet. I loved the final sweet moments with great friends, driving and walking to my favorite spots in town, and soaking in as much of Galway as I could. At the same time I hated those final moments with friends and visiting those favorite spots in and around Galway.
On Sunday, July 3rd, I added some of our items to Irish online sale sites gumtree.ie and donedeal.ie. My timeline was very short, and I only received one contact, which didn’t result in a sale. I had a final meal at Chez Murphy and gave Ciarán and Caitlín my parting gifts. I drove out to the Glenlo Abbey Hotel, chatted with Tim on Viber, then continued sorting and packing before taking a break to do something I’d been wanting to do all summer: ride the ferris wheel at the carnival on the Prom.
I waited until twilight (my favorite time of the day), paid my 4 euros, and enjoyed the 4 rotations on the wheel. I imagine the 2 young men running the ride found it humorous to see a middle-aged woman in a pink raincoat grinning nonstop throughout the ride, on which there was only one other bucket in use: a family with 2 small children. I didn’t care, though. It was fun and I loved being able to look out over Galway Bay, Salthill, and the Claddagh from the top of the wheel!
After the ride I drove back home and continued packing, finally packing both suitcases and ensuring they were under weight for Wednesday’s flight. I donated some of the remaining items, and packed the rest for storage. A final chat with Tim on Viber, and I crashed into bed.
Monday was a day packed with final errands. I delivered to and later picked up all the bed linens and towels from the laundrette, disconnected the cable internet service, and packed all the items to be stored. That afternoon I had a scheduled computer learning lesson with Iris to be followed by early dinner with the girls. On my way to Iris’ apartment I noticed the great number of big ships in the docks, including a wooden tall ship and an Irish navy destroyer. We decided to have our final dinner together at the place where we all met: Busker Brownes.
I drove the girls there, and they enjoyed the Hereford Beef & Guinness Stew, while I savored the Lamb & Apricot Thai Spring Rolls and the Spinach/Ricotta Ravioli (my first choice had sold out earlier in the day). We lingered over dinner, tea, and conversation and as I left to get the car to pick up the girls and deliver them to their respective homes, Marguerite charmed the barman for several Bewley’s biscuits. I had been looking all over Galway for a package of these amazing ginger biscuits that are served with tea, but with no luck. I wanted to take some to Tim as part of his birthday present, so Marguerite flirted a little bit and wound up bringing me 10 biscuits! Sweet!
After dropping the girls off and saying our goodbyes until next summer (if not sooner!), I returned home and loaded the 3 tubs, 3 boxes, 2 table trays, clothes horse, and laundry basket that I was storing into the Fiesta and drove to Yvonne and Eric Hannagen’s home, where they kindly let me store these items. Afterward, we enjoyed a last cup of tea together and I gave them my parting gifts.
On Tuesday, I took the final bags of garbage to the dumpster at Mary’s, delivered some documents to their shred bag, and returned a few other items. Yvonne was there, cleaning her office in preparation for being out until late August, and it was great to see her again before I left. Ciarán presented me with a card along with some fun and thoughtful gifts, including a Mary’s black & red scarf, a tea towel imprinted with the map of Ireland, and a brass plate with the words Céad Míle Fáilte (pronounced Cade Meal-uh Fal-tuh), which means a hundred thousand welcomes. Perfect! No knick-knacks without purpose to clutter up the RV!
I snapped a picture of Mary’s in my car’s side mirror, drove home to pack the car with my suitcases and backpack, checked each room of the house one last time, and then left for Dublin just before 1pm. As I was turning onto the N6/M6 I was thinking about how the weather matched my spirits.
The sky was as bleak as my mood the day I drove out of Galway. Even the DJ on the classical music station must have known what was happening, for as I turned onto the N6/M6 motorway toward Dublin the most beautiful, haunting melody began. I burst into tears at the desolation in my heart from having to leave this place and its people whom I love so dearly. Was it merely the place and people? Or was it the realization of an idea of place, home, and friends who become family?
The song on the radio was achingly beautiful and although I had never heard it before, I knew it was a song about goodbye. I recorded it with my phone and then learned the name of the song: Ashokan Farewell, written by American Jay Ungar and performed by the Nashville (TN) Chamber Orchestra (listen). It perfectly reflected my feelings at that moment. Don’t get me wrong, I was really excited to be reunited with Tim, but I was really sad to leave Galway.
I stopped one last time at the Galway Plaza to refuel, then drove across Ireland for the last time, arriving at the Holiday Inn Express at the Dublin airport shortly after 3pm. I checked in and unloaded my bags, then returned our trusty Fiesta to the Cars On Demand location just past the airport. Donal, the owner, gave me a ride back to the hotel, where I wrote some blog posts, repacked my bags for the next day’s flights, and walked over to the Crowne Plaza’s restaurant for a dinner of goats-cheese starters followed by Wok-grilled beef strips with basmati rice. A quick chat with Tim on Viber, a final check on airport shuttle departure times, a two-alarm setup for the morning, and that was it for my last night in Ireland.
Wednesday morning I arose at 7:30am, an ungodly hour (!) to catch the 8:20am shuttle to the airport. The lines at check-in and bag-drop were not long, and soon I was filling out my U.S. customs card and making my way through security, then through U.S. Preclearance security, where I was flagged the first time. Apparently they felt that a physical pat-down and a wipedown of my carryon items was necessary. Not exactly a pleasant experience. I made my way to the gate, stopping for a quick sandwich and pain au chocolat to buffer my spirits and soothe my stomach, before being paged to the Aer Lingus check-in desk for my flight. Apparently my double-punched boarding pass signaled that I was flagged yet again, which meant that before I was allowed to board the plane only after a man in a suit double-checked my passport and identity.
I like to think that my reward for the extra hassle in the airport was the empty aisle seat beside my window seat, which meant that I had my little row all to myself for the 8-hour flight to Chicago. Woohoo! Little blessings. 🙂 Plus, the Aer Lingus cross-Atlantic flight was, as always, very good with great service and decent food. I took a few videos to capture my last views of Ireland (video1, video2, video3). I loved seeing the small, rock-wall-lined fields below! The photo of Chicago as we were landing stood in stark contrast to the landscape I left behind.
In Chicago I made my way from Terminal 5 to Terminal 1 for security check, at which I was again flagged. This time it was the duty-free purchases I had made in the Dublin airport that caught the attention of the fine TSA workers. From there I made my way to my gate, which led through Terminal 2 and finally to an obscure corner of Terminal 3. While waiting there for my flight to Fargo, a friendly woman approached and sat next to me. We struck up a conversation and it turns out Cynthia used to do organizational consulting work (in-house), lives in Texas (Houston), and has recently recareered as a life coach. We connected on each of those levels…remember that my dissertation was about well-educated Baby Boomers who had recareered. She was meeting her brother and mother and together flying on to Springfield for a family event. What a small world!
My 2-hour flight on Canadair to Fargo was uneventful, except for the fact that I was seated in the last row of the small plane, directly across from the toilet. Easily 10 people on the 12.5-row plane (2 seats on each side of the aisle) used the toilet during that flight, and some of the smells that wafted out of that little room an arm’s reach away were, let’s just say, not exactly pleasant. The upside was that I once again was alone in my little row. I took a photo from the window just minutes before landing to show the difference in field sizes between Ireland and the upper Midwest.
At Fargo, I was nearly the last person to deplane, and when I eagerly and finally reached the main greeting area, my sweet husband was waiting for me with a bouquet of flowers to welcome me home! It was so great to hug and kiss my husband, after a 69-day separation! Even now, many days later, we are continually rejoicing in being able to reach out and touch each other, hold hands, and just talk to each other without the interference of communication technology.
I have to say that my body is not very welcoming of the U.S. food. My first meal back was Mexican (and it was extremely salty!) and I have been having skin reactions to the chemicals and other junk that unfortunately seems to be prevalent in our food these days. I miss the untainted food we enjoyed in Ireland!