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From Feast to Famine - Until we meet again!

Published Jul 6, 2015 | Updated Feb 19, 2020

Almost four years ago we emigrated from Ireland to Canada with our two young children. They were surrounded by loving grandparents, doting Aunts and Uncles and adoring cousins. We knew nobody in Canada. Ireland was in a deep recession and we were another fleeing family seeking a better future.

Prior to leaving I wrote this poem for both sets of Grandparents.  It was hard to write and harder to give.  The guilt that we were “taking them away” had set in and it has never really left me.


Oh Nana and Grandpa we love you so

But it’s off to Canada we must go

We hate to think that we’ll soon be leaving

They’ll have to take us Kicking and Screaming


This is not a Goodbye but a little farewell

As we’ll see you soon and that will be swell.

We know on a plane you both will hop

That is correct ain’t it pops?


A long journey it will be

But the both of us you will see.

We’re sure you’d also like to see Mom and Dad

Visiting the four of us won’t be so bad.


We’ll have a bed ready for you both

We’ll make you welcome when you take off your coat.

There will be no point coming for a week or two,

Sure stay for a month – that will do!


Or maybe you’ll decide not to go

And you’ll stay in Canada ain’t that so?

Wishful thinking we both think,

But God loves a trier, wink wink wink.


We’ll finish this ode by saying we love you,

You’re a great Nana and Grandpa, ain’t you two?

We will stay in touch on skype were we can see your face

And in our memories you will not erase.





The Airport Relationship

Prior to emigrating I had a wonderful relationship with Dublin Airport.  It allowed me to travel the world in my twenties.  It was an exciting place.  Our relationship became sour in 2011.  I have since formed a relationship with Edmonton International Airport, it is bittersweet. It has taken me back home twice, however, it is unrelenting and always takes me back to my new home again.  It doesn’t care if I want to stay or not.

Each year it delivers familiar smiling faces but just a few short weeks later the departure gates gobble them up leaving us alone again. 

I found myself at the dreaded departure gate again.  It has got easier.  I used to cry before our family even arrived, the reason, I was thinking they would have to leave.  As time progressed I was able to control my emotions and cry while they were here!!!  My sister and my two nieces came to visit two years ago, three days before they left I was in Southgate Shopping Mall and yes you’ve guessed it I just started to Cry.  I am trying to become stronger for our kids.  Last night Nana Kathleen’s visit came to an end and we all said our goodbyes.  I held it together.  Out of her earshot, Ryan, my youngest aged two, said “Goodbye Nana Kathleen, she not hear me.  I wuv you.  I want a hug”.  Guess what…………

The Guilt

I was heartbroken leaving as I felt I was taking our children away from a very important aspect of their lives - their extended family.  We didn’t know a sinner in Edmonton.  We were taking them away from the love of their Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and cousins.  You cannot replace this love, it is invaluable and as natural as the air we breathe.  It forms us as individuals. My daughter left with an Irish accent but now only her adopted expressions from Mommy & Daddy indicate she is not 100% Canadian. 

I am a mother.  I cannot be their grandmother, Aunt or cousin.  I cannot replace that dynamic relationship.  A grandmother like a grandfather provides a different kind of love for their grandchildren.  It is unique and should be savoured.  There is nothing like the team of an extended family around to support your developing child.  It is a cocoon of love and adoration and lots of chocolate treats. I often feel myself and my husband are just not enough?

Technology’s role

Once our visitors depart they are then replaced with technology - Viber messages and Skype.  There is a generation of children who think it is normal to have a relationship with special family members through the medium of a computer.  Don’t get me wrong, I know how lucky we are as a generation, but I can’t help but think that this is an artificial relationship.  Powerful but artificial.

The feast became a famine

We have been blessed to have a lot of our family come to visit, they decided to ditch skype and see the real deal.  Magical moments have been created and treasured.  The problem is that it is not consistent and I struggle with this aspect.  I feel a certain amount of guilt that we have effectively taken our kids away from this unconditional love.  Out of 52 weeks, our kids may experience only 2-4 weeks of a portion of their extended family. 


Location Location Location

Google informs me that a mere 6,368km lies between Edmonton and Dublin.  Dublin is always ahead of us, by 7 hours in fact.  An average flight from Edmonton to Dublin would set you back $1,000.  It is therefore neither close nor cheap to experience the human touch.  Technology is free and reigns supreme.

Having a baby away from home

In 2012 I became pregnant with our third child Ryan.  We made a Canadian.  My third pregnancy was worlds apart literally and figuratively from my first two.  My husband was out working, I was running around after two small kids with an expanding belly.  Credit to Jamie who was able to put my shoes on me.  I had no family around me.  I had made good friends, whom were all Moms also running around after their own kids. Outwardly I was managing but inside I had so many reservations.  I worried about what was going to happen once I went into labour.  I prayed it was going to happen one weekend afternoon, not 3am mid-week.  I asked one of our friends would she mind taking the kids when baby number three decided the time was right.  She was fabulous and set my mind at ease.  I sought help and I got it with open arms.  The thought of who was going to mind Laura-Leigh when I had Jamie never crossed my mind, it was a given, it was a family member who lived locally.

Ryan was born in January of 2013 and some of our families visited that year and in 2014 which was magical.  We took Ryan home for the first time in January of this year approaching his second birthday and it was his first time meeting a lot of his extended family.  Most of his family had not met him.  They heard about his milestones as opposed to experienced them first hand with us.  Understandably it took him days to actually form a relationship with “these people”.  One of the hardest moments was when he was sick and he wouldn’t go near anybody else except me.  The room was full of family but they were strangers to him.

A puzzle with missing pieces

Our lives would be different if our extended families were still in our daily lives in the flesh.  I have absolutely no doubt of that.  I think our kids would be slightly different, they would be exposed to these really important relationships which would have an impact on their personalities. 

My life would be different.  On a selfish note, there would be a lot more breaks from the struggles of parenting.  I think I have really aged since I touched down on Canadian soil.  Perhaps I would look younger had I stayed at home?  Perhaps with more “time outs” for myself, my sentences might actually make sense.

Our Future

I turn forty next year (how in God’s name did that happen?!!!).  I have absolutely no idea how long more our journey in Canada will last.  My heart is in the Emerald Isle but my kids are growing up here and I am conscious that when/if we go back the timing has got to be perfect.  I have heard so many stories from previous generations of people returning to Ireland but not settling and returning to their new home.  Will I be one of these? 

With every day that passes here, it is one less day to spend with my extended family.  It is one less day that my kids don’t get a cuddle from Nana, chocolate from Grandpa, time spent with Aunts and Uncles and sleepovers with their cousins.  The guilt it appears is here to stay.


We are blessed with a fantastic circle of friends whom our kids adore.  I often find that the new friends we have made have some of the same qualities of friends and family back home.  Destiny plays a strong part.

I cannot imagine life without the cellphone, Facebook, Viber and the technological God that is Skype.  However, as wonderful as modern technology is, you cannot replace human touch.  You cannot replace a kiss on the cheek, a warm bear hug – your family in the flesh.  There is simply nothing like it.

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Comments (2)

July 17, 2015, 7:32 p.m. Flag

Lovely to read your story Lisa. I left Ireland in 2013 with my husband and daughter and are making our lives here. It is always hard to leave family but we make our choices and hope they are right. I look forward to reading more of your stories.


August 10, 2015, 8:45 p.m. Flag

Hi Ann, thank you so much for first of all reading my blog and secondly for taking the time to write. We are not alone, there are a lot of people in the same boat. Canada is a great place so we chose well, distance is the hard part. I wish you and your family the very best of everything here. :O) Go raibh mhaith agait.


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