Like many, I used to imagine a future where, once the family had left home, I’d be free to fulfil some personal goals. What I never anticipated was that just a few years later our whole family would move thousands of miles away - for good.
Our elder son has lived in New York for fifteen years, since being sent there by his company for ‘six months’. More recently our younger son took his lovely wife and our long-awaited granddaughter, then 18 months-old, to live in New York and has now moved on to California.
Our granddaughter is five now and our grandson, who was born in Manhattan, three — an all-American boy, complete with passport. There’s a new little grandson expected ‘momentarily,’ as they say in The States. We visit as often as possible and Skype most weeks but you can’t do hugs on Skype.
How do I feel? I keep replaying my grandmother’s favourite song, ‘You Are my Sunshine’ in my head. It feels like they’ve taken my sunshine away. Life goes on: I joined a new choir, swim regularly and keep our social life ticking over but our nearest and dearest are 3,000 and 6,000 miles away; even, ridiculously, 3,000 miles away from each other.
It is the modern dilemma of a global society; we have many friends in similar situations. One worried terribly when her granddaughter in America became anorexic; another couple spend a few months in Australia every winter with their daughter who lives in Melbourne. Someone else has one son in the U.S.A. and one in Denmark.
We know we are lucky. We all make an effort to meet up for special occasions and having family abroad does have an upside — we’ve come to love New York and now we’re getting to know California, too. I’m pretty certain we would live in one or the other if not for little local difficulties like visas and health insurance. But it’s hard to stay positive when we miss them all every single day.
Sometimes life seems like it’s just one long goodbye. You almost get used to them not being there and then it’s time to Skype again. Somehow we’ll go on synchronising present-opening with time differences, blow out a virtual birthday candle or two across cyberspace and make it work.
Janice Bhend is an editor and journalist. You can add your comments on this post here.