In which I ponder…love, family and distance

love-around-the-world

When we are young, we imagine we are invincible and, unless forced by circumstance, we rarely consider our mortality. In middle adulthood (I think this is where I’m at now, although some – including myself – might want to discuss whether I’m actually an adult, but I’m certainly in the middle of something), those of us who are lucky enough to have them around, kid ourselves that our parents are immortal.

I’ve not always had the greatest of relationships with my parents, in particular my mother. But the passing of time, and in particular the experience of parenthood has taught me to be more tolerant and more grateful for what I have. All parents are just doing the best they can at the time, with the tools they’ve got.

I love my own children with a passion and a depth I did not know was possible until I had them. And I can remember then having an epiphany about my parents – realising that they must feel like this about me too.

Moving to the other side of the world means that visits are infrequent, although I have been fortunate to have seen my family at least once a year during the 8 years I have been in Australia. The time passing between visits, though, means that those incremental signs of change and ageing that can go unnoticed when you see someone regularly are visited upon you starkly every time you meet.

For my dad, this has meant his hair has gotten whiter, and he’s become a little grumpier. His wit is still as sharp as ever and he is still in demand for his professional knowledge on boards and the like, and for his local activism and advocacy. Adventurous too – he just got back from Machu Picchu. We will gloss over the unfortunate incident involving alcohol related but apparently elegant (according to him anyway) pirouetting on the local station platform. Suffice to say, dad is not much different to how he’s ever been but during the time passing between two visits 18 months apart, my Mum seemed to get smaller, a bit frail and rather muddled.

However, it is one thing facing the mortality of one’s parents, which is in the natural order of things. It is quite another watching your brother and the rest of your family deal with a terminal diagnosis for his beautiful 11 year old son when you feel you are too far away.

I’ve learnt through the experience of emigrating that love, family and friendships recognise no borders, particularly in these days of technology and easy (ish!) travel. In many ways I feel as connected as I was when I was only round the corner or a few hours drive away. Social media allows us to continue to have a window into the lives of people thousands of miles away on a minute to minute basis, and Skype and texting and other applications mean that chatting is frequent. But there are some ways of expressing love that do not translate well across hemispheres. The loving touch, the hug, a much needed cuddle. Picking up a prescription and dropping it round, helping out with the shopping, turning up with an unexpected bottle of wine…how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

I can’t help wondering if I am on the right side of the world. I love Australia and I have made a life here, but when the inevitable happens, will I feel I loved Australia so much it was worth sacrificing time with the people I love – and who love me? Will my annual visits provide enough memories to sustain me when they are gone? Am I doing enough to support my family?

I’m not sure that I know the answer to these questions but I do know that I am not the first, and will not be the last, to consider them. They are the dilemma, the pain and sorrow of immigrants all over the world. I suppose I just have to hope that I have enough time to decide.

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My nephew has been diagnosed with Battens Disease and you can read about his brave struggle here.

2 thoughts on “In which I ponder…love, family and distance

  1. Great blog Wendy and one I can relate to, even though no one in my family has a terminal illness. It’s tough and not something I particularly thought about when I migrated here in my mid 20s. Nearly 20 years later all those things you mention are sneaking up on me.

    Liked by 1 person

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