The little New England town of Rockport was a favourite of Ross’s. He’d managed to finish a meeting early in nearby Gloucester and taken the opportunity to make the short detour up to this little fishing port. Early evening, midweek in Fall was a dream. Famous for its granite from the nearby quarries and then for its lobsters and artists, Rockport had a charm that still brought the visitors flooding in.
Gazing out to sea, he let out a long sigh. Somewhere, far across the Atlantic was home. His real home, not the apartment he rented in the old brownstone in Boston these last 10 years. Oh, Beacon Hill was a much-envied address all right, up there with the best. He had grown to enjoy New England but it wasn’t home. Yes, he had friends (the gorgeous Gloria included) but it wasn’t where his roots lie. He didn’t share a common history or culture with his colleagues, his customers or his friends. Language? Well, sort of.
His real home?…sometimes at night he would fire up Google Earth and zoom in to find that old farmhouse, searching for proof of his memories, looking to see if there had been any changes. He was 3,187 miles from home…as the crow flies…do they really fly that far?
He’d grown up on the farm in the Dales, helped with the sheep, played in the fields, fought battles with the lads from the town, walked the fells. Knew every inch of them…came in handy for winning those races (and beating the townies)! At sixteen, he left school and joined in with running the farm. If he was honest, it had been his Dad’s idea but he had been happy enough to go along with it. Many of his contemporaries had done the same; it was expected of them.
He enjoyed life full time on the farm at first. Summer was always a good time, even Autumn but with winter life turned hard. Then lambs were born, Spring came and soon it was summer once more; the cycle repeating itself. It had been interesting he thought, but could he do this for the next 50 years or more? The farm had been in the family for three generations now. Did he wish to create the next generation tied to the land. He wanted more and found himself wishing he had stayed on at school.
He started quietly asking around to see what jobs there might be available and found a role in the local office of a large national insurance company. Dad was livid & he was accused of destroying his plans to retire early –
‘In fact, how I am going to retire at all? Work until I drop?’
Mum tried to be conciliatory but life became difficult at home. With Autumn came the start of evening classes and he threw himself into a world of work and study. He met Elaine at college, later, and they seemed to click straight off and got a tiny flat together in town. She soon fell pregnant and a quiet (and uncomfortable) wedding followed. Susie was born and Elaine gave up work.
With his hard work, and qualifications (he found easier than expected) he started to climb the company ladder and it wasn’t long before he had a management role at head office in London. Travel was now a part of his weekly routine. Up at 5.00am Monday, train into York, then onwards down to London. Back on Friday night (by 9.00pm if he was lucky). They couldn’t afford to buy in London (and Elaine didn’t want to). So, they moved into Ross’s parents’ farmhouse (which was huge). Dad grumbled, but Mum loved to have Susie around. It seemed like 5 minutes before Ross junior was born.
The travel demands on Ross started to increase as his career moved ever upwards. Regular trips to Europe, Asia and the USA became a part of his life. Ross loved his increasing role and loved the travel. But even more he thrived on the challenges that he faced. It was like a never-ending race, to overcome challenges, to create & develop the right team, to watch them succeed. But, more than anything, to test himself against others. He loved learning and he loved winning.
But at home all was not well. The children were growing fast and Elaine was increasingly restless at the fact that he was never there. Dad had retired, managing to rent off the fields. Both he and Mum were growing more infirm and Elaine complained that she had not married Ross to become a nursemaid to her in-laws, in addition to bringing up his children unaided. Money being no longer a problem, Ross had moved his parents into a nursing home and his relationship with Elaine seemed to improve.
The following year two bombshells hit him hard. The first was learning that his company might be sold to a vast US corporation and he had no idea how this would affect him personally. He could be out on his ear.
The second was that Elaine announced she was divorcing him. Their relationship had not been going well for the last year or so. It was true that he spent long periods away from the farm and that he had never bought a place of their own. The latter point was true enough. But given the precarious nature of his role (and the current sale certainly underlined that), the fact that they had the use of the farm and he would inherit it all one day made him squirrel away as much as he could in savings for their future.
The issue that he found harder to deal with was their deteriorating relationship. The opportunities his career had provided, the education, the travel and the leadership had given him chances he had never dreamt of. To say that his horizons had been broadened would be a massive understatement. But for Elaine, life and her surroundings had never changed and this was producing a widening gulf between them. Yes, they had nice holidays when he could prize himself away from the job and she had a generous allowance, money to spend on herself and the children. She said that they were not a couple (not a team to use language he should understand) and that hurt him. But what hurt him the most was that she was leaving him for someone Ross knew (and disliked).
Despite every attempt at reconciliation, the divorce proceeded and, for the sake of the children, Ross did not contest it. Following the decree absolute, residency for the children was established in Elaine’s new home (which was within sight of the old farmhouse). Susie and Ross junior, both now teenagers, blaming him for everything, declared they wanted nothing further to do with him. As part of the final settlement, Ross had to sell the farm.
Then, in a blow seemingly destined to complete his severance from his family, Ross’s father died, followed a few weeks later by his mother. Grief stricken beyond anything he could have imagined, Ross tried to lose himself in his work, back in London. And then, following the last nine long months of negotiation, he learnt that the change of ownership had taken place. He waited for the final hammer blow, trying to imagine the reality of another severance in his life. Later that morning he received the call to the board room….and life changed again.
Ross learnt in the brief meeting with the new Chief Executive and the HR Director that followed, that not only was he valued but that a promotion to a new role in the US was his. Thus, a week later, he found himself in a beautiful office on the executive floor of the corporate headquarters in Boston. There followed exciting years; the learning had continued; the long hours had grown longer still and his success had continued. But now he was nearly fifty and there was a vast gaping gap, a chasm in his life.
The relationship with Susie and Ross junior had improved; they spoke on the phone and there was talk of their coming to visit him, perhaps at Christmas. That would be fantastic. But he was still a stranger in a strange land. With the light beginning to fail, he looked back out to sea. 3,187 miles over this vast ocean was really where he belonged. He sought the words to describe how he felt…
He was exiled!
He signalled to the waitress for his check.