Stella Leventoyannis Harvey

“It may be that the satisfaction I need depends on my going away, so that when I’m gone and come back, I’ll find it at home.” Rumi

When I was a kid, I daydreamed about living elsewhere. I’d only ever been to Greece on vacation. But anytime we were there, I felt as though I was home. Greece was my first love and I’ve always pined for her.

I kept my dreams and schemes a secret. I thought it would hurt my parents’ feelings if I told them of my intentions. They’d made so many sacrifices when we immigrated to Canada. They chose Canada. Not Greece. Even though they’d had the opportunity to move to Greece (we were Greeks) after we left Egypt. They had their reasons. I’ve heard them a million times. Better opportunities, brighter future.

Pride (and it’s opposite, shame), not hurting your parents (or anyone really) and keeping things to yourself (secrets) are all elements weaved so tightly into my family’s fabric, nothing could possibly unravel them. You might ask, isn’t that true of most families. Maybe. I don’t know.

But ask yourself, who invented the Greek tragedy and you might have your answer.

Let me give you one example about what I’m talking about. My father, well into his forties the first time we visited Greece after immigrating to Canada, would not smoke in front of his father, even though both were smokers at the time. Why? He thought his father would be disappointed in him. And that was more than he was willing to bear.

Growing up with this and so many other examples as a backdrop, I never made my desires to live in Greece known. I yearned in silence.

But years have gone by and a lot has happened. My mother passed away. My father is 86 years old now and we’ve spent the last two months in Greece together. I’m older (ok, much older). So when he asked me a direct question, I had no choice but to be honest with him.

Don’t you miss home? He asked me one day as we were sitting looking out at the Ionian Sea, the sky pink against that incredible aquamarine blue water.

No. The word was out of my mouth before I’d gone through my typical gyrations of thought.

You could live here?

Tomorrow. Yes.

Canada is my home, he said. It’s where I’ve been longer than anywhere else. Where I bought a home, raised a family, accomplished things.

I’m not connected to things, I said. Never have been.

I didn’t say it, but I’ve often wondered if my need to be on the move, along with my inability to connect to places and things has a lot to do with our immigration to Canada. I mean when you’re a kid and you’re suddenly uprooted from everything that is familiar, it must unsettle you. Yes? You learn pretty quickly that nothing is permanent and there’s no point in getting too attached.

I’ve moved a great deal in my life and wouldn’t think twice about doing it again.

I told my father this.

I suppose people adjust, he said.

I’ve done that. I’ve been lucky to foster close friendships everywhere I’ve lived and yet, each time when I’ve had to, I’ve moved on.

Through the discussion (or rather the many discussions) I’ve had with my father on this trip, he’s given me a great deal to think about.

I missed my culture, traditions and my extended family in Greece my whole life. But, on this last trip I realized I grew up with my culture and traditions because it was important to my parents to maintain them. And while I was dreaming of elsewhere, my own family and circle friends in Canada grew. This time, I couldn’t leave them behind.

Not again.

What a strange thing to realize after a lifetime of being sure I knew what I wanted.

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