Their lives have been turned around by 90 degrees
By Irina Pino
HAVANA TIMES — Emigres who are over 50 or 60 years old are exposed to huge changes in their lives. Their lives get turned around by 90 degrees, or maybe more even. That’s why their uprooting is usually like an incurable pain, although the situations vary.
A situation can be good, normal, or worse, but they always imply uncertainties about the future, new fears that need to be overcome. However, relatives of the person who arrives to a strange country promise them a life surrounded by material comforts.
It’s true that their outlook usually changes, but for how long?
Let me tell you about my maternal grandmother, who was a sad example of this. In the beginning, everything was happiness, she was happy, surrounded by her children and grandchildren, but then she slowly became a burden to them. Two of her children, my uncles, after having encouraged her to leave Cuba, didn’t want to take on looking after her, so my aunt had to have her in her home for years, before she was finally admitted to a Home, completely blind, after having had unsuccessful cataract surgery in both eyes.
People say you should emigrate in your youth. And if you can leave in your childhood, it’ll be a natural process because children are like sponges.
It isn’t the same when you are twenty or thirty, or even forty, but after sixty years old, it’s hard to take on new projects, even if you still have your wits about you.
I have met people who have regretted leaving in their youth, my aunt Aurora confessed to her sister, my mother, that she regrets not staying with her in Cuba, because now she lives in a rest home (just like my grandmother); she can’t walk, and her days are filled with great solitude. In spite of her children visiting her everyday, the impersonal feeling at an institution can never replace home.
It’s been proved that health only gets worse with sadness, and that’s what’s happened to my aunt. Her desire to live has been dimmed. She no longer has any plans.
A lot of people who leave Cuba sell their homes and all their belongings, so they can collect the money they need for their paperwork, but sometimes the sum they collect doesn’t cover the true value of what they had, spirituality has no price, and the four silly things you had, the used furniture, objects, books and trinkets take on sentimental value, which is never beaten by new things.
Their children are often heartless, in their eagerness for change, even forgetting that their parents also have their own desires, plans and hang-ups, and that it’s hard for them to let go of them.
Selling a property here in Cuba wouldn’t give you a sum that means much in a capitalist, developed country; in fact it might not even be enough to put down a down payment on a place to live in one of these countries. The money trickles away like water… and you can be certain there won’t be anything left from what you had from that house in Cuba.
Some people reading this article might laugh, joke, and even say that this is material for a cheap and tearful novel. Nevertheless, thousands of people have been beat down by this reality. I have a friend who sold her house for 10,000 CUC (equivalent to the USD), an apartment near the sea, in good condition, and now she doesn’t have a dollar left of its sale.
In her new country, she has worked cleaning flats, and is currently a babysitter for grandchildren.
A professional with a wealth of wasted knowledge, she is a woman who has been erased as an individual for the sake of providing for her children.
And what about her? What’s her future in a country that isn’t hers, where she has no friends, a place where she isn’t even fluent in their language?