Mom is gone. We watched her turbo-prop plane slowly climb and bank into the powdery azure sky above Boracay Island’s gleaming White Beach. In 40 minutes she will be in Manila – the first step in her return to the western world.
We had just returned home when I heard her plane overhead. I raced to the roof – waving my bright orange T-shirt wildly above my head. Mom’s seat was 20th row; near the rear, on our side of the aircraft. I wonder if she saw my silly second sendoff.
Less than an hour earlier, outside the Boracay airport in Caticlan, Malay, Aklan, Panay, Philippines we had all hugged goodbye. My wife, Ellie, cried – even after mom had long disappeared into the COVID-secured, safety-sealed terminal.
We had waited together almost three hours on the nearly abandoned airport roadway with mom’s local friends Talette and Tess. It was really nice of these ladies to come and see her off. The flight was 90 minutes late. At one point we all got soda pops at the only restaurant still in business near the tiny tourist airport which recently reopened to a few, mostly empty, daily flights.
Her actual departure was an unforgettable surreal moment, seeming to play out in slow motion – now frozen in time. I felt numb. My rail-thin, deeply tanned, silver haired, slightly hunched, indomitable mother waving goodbye — her face obscured by a surgical mask and large plastic shield. I remember Ellen saying, “I wonder if we’ll ever see her again”, through her tears.
My dear ‘vagabond’ mom, Diane, is 81-years-young. We celebrated her birthday this past February in Dumaguette, Negros Oriental, Philippines. That was our last stop in ‘normal’ times. The 2020 pandemic interrupted any further travel plans a few weeks later. We’ve been ‘stuck’ living comfortably in Malay ever since.
Now mom will return to an America wracked by coronavirus and racial strife and political ugliness and uncertainty. Anything could happen. I’m trying not to wonder if we will ever see her again.
The 10 months we spent living, traveling, and experiencing life together is a period I will never forget as long as I live. The original plan was for mom to tag along for three months as we hopscotched around several central Philippine islands – an extended winter vacation for her. None of us could imagine the ensuing worldwide havoc the virus would cause.
Thankfully, mom Diane and ourselves have been healthy and safe and relatively unaffected by the pandemic – save for the pause in our ongoing, early retired travel. We’ve enjoyed a tropical beach paradise the whole time. And, we all also feel that we were meant to be here – directed by fate – to help those around us in this difficult and unprecedented time.
Mom has been greatly engaged in efforts to assist local Filipinos who’s tourism related livelihoods have been decimated by the coronavirus crisis. Mother has donated thousands – matching dollar for dollar our contributions and those of generous overseas donors who follow this blog.
As reported, we’ve provided food, wages, medical care and medicines, building supplies, small business seed money, children’s learning & play opportunities, general charitable donations of all kinds, even funeral expenses. The need here is unending as the world continues to wobble. Mom has been a huge help.
Further, I know for a fact, mom has made numerous other contributions and monetary gifts on her own. She has been, and continues to be, an inspiration for me and Ellen and anyone she meets. Her faith and strength and spirit are unequalled. We are honored to call her mom.
Last night we had a small ‘going away party’ for mom Diane. In attendance; about 25 friends and folks we’ve helped, including members of the indigenous Ati tribe.
Earlier this week mom and I hiked together one final time up into the nearby hills where the disadvantaged Ati live. It’s where we have helped reconstruct a hen house and egg business, enabled electric power for the first time, and improved drinking water access. It brought me joy to review with my mother the progress and accomplishments she has been a big part of.
We were not surprised to hear mom say in recent days that she would like to return to this exact area again in the future — once the coronavirus is conquered.
The favorable climate, friendly people, low cost of living, abundance of nature, easy English communication, and strongly catholic culture are enticing. Plus, mom has made some great friends and she wants to continue to help the less fortunate. Thanks for the example, mom. Us too.
Lastly, truth be told, we are more than a little anxious about mom’s return travel trip. It will take her a few days to get from our rural Philippine seaside apartment back to Cleveland, Ohio. We ask those reading this post to keep her in their prayers as she negotiates the uncertainty of pandemic travel through Manila, Tokyo, and New York City – then a long car drive.
Of course, we are eager to get updates from mom as she makes her way across the world gone crazy. And we will report any and all developments, good or bad, here on this blog.
As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer.
Life is NOW!
Thanks for reading, “Mom Diane leaves Earth Vagabonds for America.”
What to read next:
- Meet the world’s most incredible traveling mom (written in 2019, after Mom Diane joined Earth Vagabonds in Vietnam for a month)
- Mother’s Day on COVID-19 lockdown
- Cleveland.com Q+A with Earth Vagabonds, including Mom Diane