For years I lived too far from home to visit very often and had to make do with a three-week trip every 18 months or so. It wasn’t particularly hard. I was busy living my life and everyone at home was getting on with theirs. My life abroad was just what I did. I know couples here in Hungary who have all three kids living in another country. It’s become a norm, part of twenty-first-century living.
One of the drawbacks of living in say, the States, or Canada, or Australia, is that you dread the call. The phone call that comes with bad news. Coming close to what would be the end of my time in Alaska, a couple of good friends had received one. I can’t begin to imagine what the trip home was like for them. Had it been me, a fair few miles would have been eaten up in self-recrimination. Should have called more, written more, visited more.
That was then, in the days when the Internet was in its infancy, when the postman still brought real letters and Christmas had to be mailed in November. Today, Skype has made it all a lot more manageable. The Internet has made it easier to catch up and stay up with what’s happening at home. Free phone call apps make it affordable to talk every day. For the most part, those I know who are living away from home are religious about staying in touch.
This picture was posted on Facebook during the week. When I looked, it had 348 comments, most of them from parents saying how their kids never call unless it’s to look for money or help. They were waiting for a call just to ask how they were doing. A sizeable portion were from kids who’d lost their parents and would give anything to have them back so that they could call and visit. A rare few told of daily telephone calls and visits.
Then I saw a video along the same vein, but this time the kids were calling, calling to make excuses as to why they didn’t have time to visit their parents, to chat, to fix a phone. It ends with the entreaty to stop neglecting, to make time for those we love. It had 216 comments and 27k+ shares. I scrolled down through the comments and began to realise how far removed I am from other people’s reality.
You only have one life, use your time wisely. My mom is still with us, my dad passed away at 48 yrs old. We love, and we lost. My baby sister was murdered at 15 yrs old. My son was murdered at 17 yrs old. My brother lost his baby girl at 7 days old. Life is not fair. I have learned the hard way that you treasure whoever you have in your life because you never know when you will lose them. Just sayin’.
With this though, more of the comments were about letting your kids go – realising that they have lives to live, too. Don’t expect, they said. Don’t wait. You’ve done your job. A lot of these comments came from India.
Yes, there are families where the parent-child relationship is toxic and visits end in arguments and tears and so are avoided altogether. Happy families for many are something they see on TV. Remember that German ad that ran last year about an old man faking his death just to get his kids home for Christmas?
I don’t have kids, so I don’t know whether I’d be in the disappointed camp, waiting for calls that never come and visits that never happen. I don’t call home every day – if I did, my mother would wonder what was up. We email, we chat, I visit every other month. And each time I go home, my dad thanks me for making the effort. None of us are getting any younger. The time we have left together is limited. Staying in touch is important.