The long-anticipated day has arrived. You step inside the check-in area and put your bag into the screening machine, then you pick it up on the other side and proceed to check-in. You skip the boarding pass kiosk as the waiting line is short at the moment. You get in line and wait and wait and wait. There seems to be some issue with those checking in at the three desks in front of you. Finally, you are called forward by a nice young attendant who provides you with your boarding pass. At security, you are told you can leave your shoes on but you should remove your pants’ belt. You do so at the risk of dropping your pants in front of a horde of people. You see, you’ve lost a few pounds and an inch at the waist. You set off the alarm and get frisked — complements of the metal in your shoes. Now in the clear, you shake off the embarrassment and board the plane ready to fly “the friendly skies of United.” Many hours later, with your derriere worse for the wear, so to speak, you alight from a third plane and are greeted by a welcoming brother and sister-in-law. You are happy to leave the “friendly” skies.

That was my itinerary on the first weekend of September as I journeyed to my homeland for a visit with my family after an absence of three years. That morning I enjoyed a full Irish breakfast in the company of my brother, Johnny, and my sister-in-law, Helen, in The Hob, a small restaurant in my hometown of Mountbellew. This was the first of many treats I enjoyed while at home in County Galway. There was a time in previous years that would have found me in the fields with my father, Pake, and brother, Frank, saving hay or bringing hay into the farmyard shed but the lateness of the season and the advent of more modern machinery meant that this particular work had already been completed. So I contented myself with sleeping in as late as 9 a.m. and visiting family and friends in the course of the day.

During my previous visit in 2019, I celebrated the marriage of my nephew, Jarlath, to his bride, Amanda. This time around I got to baptize their second child, Molly Elizabeth. What a joy! This time also I got to share in baby-sitting duties for nephew Shane’s three-year-old son, Tadgh, and two-year-old daughter, Robin. I fondly named them “Little Tornadoes.” They are two of a growing number of three-year-old and two-year-old children in the family circle. As a family, we are certainly obeying the Biblical directive to “increase and multiply.”

 As retiring quarterback Brett Favre once said, “All good things must come to an end.” So did my time in the green pastures of County Galway. On September 21, I boarded a plane bound for Heathrow Airport, the first leg of my long flight to Honolulu. Remind me not to do that again! After checking in my bag three times and going through security three times, I finally touched down in Aloha Land. While the skies had been friendly to the planes, the planes had not been entirely friendly to my body parts. I was happy to be on terra firma again. 


Anchor columnist, Father Killilea is pastor of St. Francis Church in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.