Dr Hinemoa El­der

Mak­ing your con­nec­tion at the air­port, and in life

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS - Hinemoa El­der

Air­ports. I find them strangely fas­ci­nat­ing. Peo­ple com­ing and go­ing, ar­riv­ing and de­part­ing, wait­ing, a sense of di­rec­tion. Dis­place­ment, es­cape, refuge, ex­pec­ta­tions of some­thing bet­ter, hol­i­days, work, asy­lum. So many sto­ries.

There is a weird sense of trust, a kind of mag­i­cal think­ing, that even­tu­ally you get to where you are go­ing. And at the same time there is a cer­tain stress in the air.

Above all, iden­tity is cur­rency. You need ev­i­dence of who you are, where you are from and where you are go­ing. That and wait­ing, you have to be ready to wait.

Air­ports are not home. And they are not where you are go­ing to end up. We might as­sume no­body lives there, but that’s not quite true. There is a Brazil­ian man who has been liv­ing at Sao Paulo In­ter­na­tional air­port for the last 17 years or so. Wikipedia de­scribes him as a hav­ing ‘‘psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems’’. He ap­par­ently took refuge at the air­port be­cause of con­flict at home. I won­der about the idea of the air­port it­self as a long-term refuge.

Again, like life, not to stretch the anal­ogy too much, it’s fair to say we are all ex­pe­ri­enc­ing de­grees of psy­cho­log­i­cal dif­fi­cul­ties at home, just like the man at Sao Paulo air­port. You could point to ev­i­dence that the cur­rent ‘‘air­port of life’’ looks like it was de­signed to pro­mote dis­tress and dishar­mony. And we are not im­mor­tal. Even­tu­ally we have to get on the flight, we have to leave the de­par­ture lounge.

I have a photo of our Mum and me at an air­port. I think it must be Auck­land. She brought me home to meet the whanau. From Herekino to Tauhei, La Jolla, Cam­bridge, Manch­ester and Ta¯ maki. She passed through a few air­ports in her time. So I think about our Mum in air­ports and I think about her life and her pass­ing. It was 27 years ago, when I was preg­nant with my son. There is a sad pat­tern there, be­cause her Mum, my grand­mother, also died of breast can­cer, when Mum was preg­nant with me. Yes, I know, I get my mam­mo­grams and so far so good, thanks for that.

I’m now at the age when my mother got sick and died. Our Mum was ‘‘taken’’, as they say, far too young. You could say her flight out of here was resched­uled. She was put on an ear­lier flight. It feels so wrong. She was so full of life. She played bas­ket­ball for Vic, she loved rock and roll danc­ing, she used to roller blade to her hos­pi­tal ap­point­ments at Green­lane. She would bring cut up car­rots and cel­ery to school when she picked us up. This was in in­ner city Manch­ester where all the other kids had Curly Wurlys. I was so en­vi­ous. Now I re­alise she was way ahead of her time. The only per­son in her wha¯ nau to go to univer­sity. She could draw a horse free-hand, that ac­tu­ally looked like a horse. For some­one who was so healthy, so alive, it is just so wrong to go on the early flight.

The best thing about air­ports is the cud­dles, kisses and the tears, the out­pour­ing of real emo­tion, re­minders of how much we love oth­ers and how much we will miss them, the ap­pre­ci­a­tion of be­ing dropped off and picked up, of be­ing con­nected to peo­ple out­side of the air­port. Let’s make the most of that con­nec­tion, those mo­ments. You never know if your flight may have been resched­uled.

And be­fore I for­get, can we all stop say­ing how busy we are please? More on that an­other time.

Child and ado­les­cent psy­chi­a­trist Hinemoa El­der PhD is a Fel­low of the Royal Aus­tralia NZ Col­lege of Psy­chi­a­trists, and Pro­fes­sor of Indge­nous Health Re­search at Te Whare Wa¯ nanga o Awanuia¯ rangi, and Ma¯ ori strate­gic leader at Brain Re­search NZ.

Waiho i te toipoto, kaua i te toiroa. Let us keep close to­gether, not far apart.

I think of Mum when I’m at air­ports – and here’s the two of us. Auck­land, I think, when she brought me home to meet the whanau.

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