Putting the Old in Old Country

Part of being in Portugal means visiting very old relatives in very old little villages. I’m an expert at that since my parents and I have been doing this practically every summer since I was a toddler. Naturally it is a very interesting and enriching thing to do mentally and spiritually, for the obvious reasons. But the sad and confusing thing underlying much of the emmigrant-family dynamic, is what happens to the elderly who stay in the country of orgin.

pt070602I’m referring to caring for the elderly… who will do it.. who can do it.. and how to handle it if you live on the other side of the ocean, or.. say.. europe. A daunting issue.. with lots of mixed feelings, guilt, fear, bittersweet moments. It is rather amazing to see how some families do it. While it is depressing to see how many elderly are left stranded in tiny towns, isolated from the world other than kind hearted neighbors who check up on them occasionally.

It leaves me planning in my head… daydreaming.. of how to handle different scenarios. And being one of the few younger generation located somewhere in Europe (as opposed to the US) I think of myself as the first line of emergency response, should anything ever happen here in Portugal. But what kind of emergency response would I be? How equipped am I to handle whats needs to be done in that moment of need?

But as I mentioned earlier… this is not just about me or my family. This is a global tradition.. handled in so many different ways. It is the way of the world that individuals or families migrate to a new country for professional, political, financial, health, etc. reasons. Lots of attention is given to that reality. But what of the older generation seemingly left behind. How do they cope with being so far from their children and younger family?