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DADDY DIARIES: What it’s really like to be in a long-distance marriage

Wednesday May 29 2019

As we watch the distance between us and her expanding as she either disappears into the lounge or we head to the immigration counter, a hollowness beyond explanation fills our hearts. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH

As we watch the distance between us and her expanding as she either disappears into the lounge or we head to the immigration counter, a hollowness beyond explanation fills our hearts. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH 

HILLARY LISIMBA
By HILLARY LISIMBA
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I shared the story of my long-distance marriage on a YouTube video titled My Life, My Wife and Kilimani Mums and since that day, people keep asking me what it is really like to be in such a union.

LAUGHED AT MYSELF

For the uninitiated, I’m the imbecile that allowed his wife to go and work abroad, accepting to remain behind with the then one-year old son.

Crazy, right? I know! The truth is, sometimes even I fail to understand how I pulled through, moving him from a little breastfeeding brat to a young who now has the guts to differ in opinion with me.

What I know for sure is that apart from the resolve that I would do this by fire by force, I chose to approach it from a humorous angle.

I would try to see the funny side of everything, like laughing at myself every time I wiped him of poop.

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Things are easier these days, so much that every time I share my story I add so many light moments people think it is one of the easiest long distance marriages.

There is also the aspect of God’s Favor and Grace, otherwise it is not rosy and exquisite - like vintage wine - as we have made it look on the outside.

Someone actually told me that I make long distance marriage look so cool, and she had used me as an example to convince her husband to allow her sign for work out of the country.

I wondered why a man who was jobless had for months turned down his wife’s job opening because he did not want her to work in a different country.

STARING AT EACH OTHER

So they were both sitting in the house staring at each other the whole day and making more babies at night. As at the time we spoke she was nursing their last born, a fourth in a seemingly long chain that will not end if they continue huddling together every hour like polar bears.

While long distance is doable with dedication, my experience has shown that it is dotted with four key moments that those who consider it need to know.

The first is what I call Anticipation. It is the best moment in this setup, when my little one jumps on a wide body aircraft aware that at the tail end of the journey will be the mom he does not see as often as his peers do.

The excitement is usually so high that he never dozes for a single minute on the six-hour flight, despite landing the other side at 1am.

The same is experienced when he knows mom will be landing and we have a late night date at the airport until she lands. On both occasions, he falls asleep soon as he exchanges pleasantries with the woman his heart loves the most.

The second moment, which is Counselling, is the first in a series of three difficult ones. It happens a day or two prior to separation, where I have to take him on a father-son walk to explain in the softest and most comforting tone possible, that mommy will be away from us yet again.

It has to be quickly followed by a promise that she will visit or we go see her in not so long. Years later the question "Mommy is leaving us again?" never gets a satisfactory answer.

The good thing is he has come to understand that mommy lives elsewhere and we visit each other when time allows. It is not an easy thing to condition a child to, but it has somehow been done.

Then there is the Separation Anxiety. It happens the day of our separation. First, the hours seem to rush through, like they are on some lucrative marathon.

None of us usually wants to shower or eat. We avoid looking at the already packed bags as if we don’t know they are there, and conversation is minimal.

The positive side is that it has made us appreciate every minute we spend together, something most couples who live together take for granted.

Every tick of the clock brings the moment closer, stinging the sensitive parts of our hearts.

The final and most painful moments are the Goodbyes.

A glass door at an airport usually symbolises the end to great moments together, a sign of separation, yet another heartbreaking goodbye.

As we watch the distance between us and her expanding as she either disappears into the lounge or we head to the immigration counter, a hollowness beyond explanation fills our hearts.

Exit stamps in our passports are marks of the void that remains inscribed inside us. They are moments we sometimes doubt whether this long distance thing is worth it, and the truth is most times the answer is negative.

We have come this far because we all do our best to make things work for us and the baby, otherwise there is always reason to break down and put an end to it.

It is a path only those who have trudged understand the intricacies, and not for the faint hearted.

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