Thursday, September 20, 2007

Paying the price

In the comments for my previous post, Biddie was saying how hard it is to know that somebody you care about is not well, and you can't do anything, to which I replied "I know, and I can relate". It's something that has affected us from the moment we came here, and I see it as part of the price you have to pay for having left.

Many times we were told that a close relative or friend was ill, or having surgery (or both, like today). We would get the occasional phone call (or text message) to update us on the situation, but that was pretty much it. What else could they do? So, for us, it was a strange feeling of getting along with our lives as if nothing happened, when in reality we were waiting for the next phone call to bring us some news, whether they were good or bad.

There was a second kind of situations we had to go through. Sometimes, we would find out about something bad that had happened to a family member (sickness, surgery, theft, etc), only months -years?- after. When we asked 'why?' we would always get the same answer: 'we didn't want to worry you'... Well, instead they would make us mad; but we would have some retroactive anxiety too. And even guilt, thinking: "We were doing this and that, not knowing that this was going on back home..."

It's hard to accept, but you leave and everybody misses you; they cry, they have the secret (maybe selfish, but valid) hope that you won't do well, or you won't adapt and then you will come back. Once they start to suspect or finally realize that you're staying here, then they gradually move on and resume their normal lives. And the distance causes you to fade away, very slowly. First, they will phone you to tell you about everything it's going on; then, the calls or e-mails will be a little more sporadic, and finally, they will contact you mostly for birthdays, Christmas and things like that (and you will say "hang up, I will call you back, it's cheaper for us"). :-)

I see this as a normal process, and we're in those last stages. With the only exception of my mother-in-law and some of my brothers, we have that kind of relationship already. Sometimes it makes you sad, sometimes you just decide to get the best of it. We miss our family and friends, but when somebody -mostly Gaby's mom- comes to visit us, they stay for months! And I enjoy that time way more than the weekly Tuesday night dinner we had with her back then.

The same happened in 2005 with my Dad and Cristina, my step mom. They came here for the very first -and only- time on December 31st, and stayed until Feb 20 or so. You'd say "how boring, they came to Canada only to see snow and freeze to death". Well, no, we were lucky, because January was warm enough for us to show them some green stuff. My father had the time of his life that winter (one month and a half with each one of his two 'North American' sons) and I could see his life peak. Exactly one year later, he was gone... and that brings me to the 'other' part of the paying of the price.

When I left Argentina back in 2000, I said 'goodbye' to people I knew I would never see again. I imagined my grandparents would be two of them. On December 7th 2001, the phone rang as I was leaving home with Gaby, her mom and the kids. It was my brother Paco to tell me that my grandmother Haydée had passed away. Half an hour later, I was playing Santa at a daycare centre, and then I went to work. What else could I have done? I was 10,000 Km away.

Last year, I was at work when I got another phone, this time from my older brother. My father was dying, it was a matter of minutes. I called Gaby and asked her to pick me up, we were going home. Then we just sat by the phone, waiting for it to ring so we would know Dad had passed away. It took two hours. Once again, what do I do? I got 'threatening' phone calls from work, ordering me to stay at home until I was OK to work. I thanked them for caring about me so much, but I was already 'OK to work', what else could I do? I wasn't 'OK myself', though.

I still stayed at home until the following Monday, though. I do remember that the morning after my father died, me and Gaby went out for breakfast. We enjoyed our little time together, as we always do, but my mind was somewhere else (so was hers). At the same time we were having breakfast, my father's remains were being put to rest. I didn't get to go back home until a month later; it was something we agreed upon with my older brother, in order to make sure that my step mom and younger brothers would have our support for an extended time. He went right away, and once he came back, I left. To everybody's surprise (and joy), I took little Florencia with me; almost nobody in Argentina knew her, so imagine the revolution.

Her presence alone helped to ease our lives; it was early March, so we could still go to the beach, and we really had a great time. I spent two weeks in Necochea (my hometown), but I didn't go to see my father's tomb. I didn't need to, I had done my mourning already, and he wasn't really there. I had a great memory from the time we spent together here, and I paid homage to him in my own way, having two 'Songs my father taught me' concerts, one by myself and another one with my kids).

My Dad left me an unexpected present by departing: I got to see my grandfather Pepe again, something I never thought it would be possible. Pepe is the one who had me sitting by the phone all day today. He's almost 96, and just came out of the OR. He's doing well, luckily. But he's going to be 96 next Tuesday... It's a terrible thought, and I feel guilty for having them, but I know more days like today will come. With me sitting by the phone, unable to do anything else.

But pray.

(I'm lazy today, don't expect me to translate all this into Spanish. Bear with me, I'm suffering of 'fiaca')

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