When you move away from your family and friends to retire or work in another country your relocation plans were probably accompanied by a sense of adventure, and a desire to experience a new way of life.
However, if your relocation to foreign shores was a result of a career opportunity and you are a trailing spouse you probably had little choice, so I’m curious: when the feeling of elation subsided was this sense of adventure replaced by a heavy heart and a longing for your homeland, family and friends? What about grandparents – how did they feel?
For retirees who moved abroad while their children were still single and enjoying the highlife, grandchildren were probably just dim rays of hope like distant stars in the night sky.Mum and Dad were taken for granted, superfluous to requirements and would be there, as they’d always been.
Our kids were independent and rarely had time for Mum and Dad further than a swift meal, which took longer for us to prepare and cook than it did for them to say, “Hello”, eat, and then say “Goodbye”. So, once our chicks had flown the proverbial nest travel beckoned and we followed the call of adventure – or was it?
What happens when your children settle down and you become a new grandparent? Suddenly there is this little person tugging at your heartstrings and you want to see them grow up. However, how can you when you are thousands of miles away?
Thanks to modern technology, via platforms such as Skype or Facetime, we can watch them grow from little rug rats, to toddlers and then little people. And, if you are lucky, they will begin to hold a conversation as they tell you about their first day and playschool or show you their latest drawing with the promise they will send you one to hang on your wall.
The first time our granddaughter saw me talking to her on the computer screen via Skype, after our last visit to France, she was reported to have been looking underneath the desk and behind the computer with a worried expression on her face. “Where’s Grandma?”, she said. “Is she hiding – is she playing games?” How can they comprehend you are there one minute, and apparently living in the computer the next?
Then comes the period of aggression and resentment such as shouting at the webcam or refusing to speak or acknowledge pleas to wave or even say, hello.
My grandson went through a period of just shouting, “No!” However, he has since learned to ‘high-five’ and makes gallant attempts to high five the computer screen in response to my efforts to interact. As time moves on, we progress, and now – prompted by mum and dad – proudly shows me the crafts he made at playschool.
My granddaughter, much to the embarrassment of our daughter, used to either completely ignore me, or shout at the webcam before walking out of the room. Again, times move on, and we have progressed to mummy propping up the Iphone for her while we have a chat on Skype about her own playschool activities.
The last time we had one of these ‘chats’ she was eating strawberries. When I asked if she grew them in her garden, she went off to pick me some, returning five minutes later with a plate of strawberries. She then proceeded to hold them up to the webcam for me to eat. Being one-step ahead, I just happened to have some strawberries to hand and pretended they were the same strawberries she was sharing. Her little face was a picture, especially when I told her it was magic.
Then we have the priceless moments such as when our son proposed to his girlfriend on Christmas day. We shared their excitement and was shown the engagement ring almost immediately – his fiancée still crying as she presented the ring to the camera for us to see.
Thank goodness for the webcam and the special moments I get to share with my family in real time.
by Carole Hill.
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