The journey back to the land that is not my mother is set to begin. I don’t want to take too many short breaths because I know what will follow if I do – the tiny plane I’m aboard hasn’t fired up yet so the absent engine roar won’t muffle my pain.
Be strong my first born. My father.
Be strong my moko. My grandfather.
Only my father would offer me such endearments though. My grandfather would shake his head at my pending tangiweto and tell me that where I’m going is where the work is and any mokopuna of his knows to go, where the work is. So back to the land I’ve fostered, that is not my mother, I go.
But are you proud Koro?
Have I done well?
The tears are threatening my eyes, I’m trying to pretend my nose is only running because it’s so cold in Invercargill – and the plane fires up and starts moving.
The tears follow, so does the snot. As the plane zooms the runway seeking a clear place to embark I feel small fragments of my heart fall away – pieces that I will never get back, pieces of you and her – small parts of a huge emptiness that now stands; replaced.
Tihei. Mauri. Ora.
Moe. Mai. Rā.
And then the plane is in the air and I know that as soon as the wheels lift off the ground it will be the last time I return to this land, this land that is my mother. This is be my final visit where at least one of you has breath with which to greet me.
And I cry.