Virtual grandchildren and lonely grandparents

By: By María del Carmen Muzio

Without having to resort to the figures from the last population census, just because they belong to the generation over sixty years old –that was a girl in 1959–, the current loneliness of this age group is palpable. When conversing with common friends, former classmates found by chance, most have the same common dominator: son outside the country, grandchildren born overseas. It has become, there is no doubt, a generational problem.

The main cause is easy to find: the emigration of young people in search of better opportunities. They are that generation grown up with Russian cartoons and films that became university students aspiring to a decent future. Unfortunately, the wall and the utopias fell.

Self-imposed exile in search of economic improvements has led to the splitting of families, to the loneliness of the parents – in some cases only one of the two remains – and also, to the fact of depriving them of the company and affection of the grandchildren.

This euphemistically called “third age” finds herself with her children living in distant countries, with unknown grandchildren whose mother tongue, in some, is not Spanish.

Thanks to the wonders of new technologies, grandmothers and / or grandfathers know their grandchildren through digital photos, that is, in a virtual way, an apparent and not a real existence. Many grandparents see them behind the screen of a cell phone or the computer –if they don’t have them, there is always the friend who offers himself– without being able to hug them, kiss them, give them the sweet things that parents gave to their own children; Anyway, they lose the blessed opportunity to be a father twice and to … spoil them, that’s what grandparents are for.

There is a lucky group that can travel abroad (opportunity now limited by covid-19) to meet the grandson. After the stressful travel procedures, including the plane flight, he arrives exhausted but happy, to meet his grandson, that child who wonders who is that lady or gentleman who has come to his house – even though his parents have told him – and it is a complete stranger to him (because he almost always has other grandparents from his country of birth); then, according to the time of the visit, the child can get to know his grandfather (a) and even become fond of him … and it is at that precise moment that the grandfather (a) has to return.

There is another option: the visit. They come for a week, or fifteen days, to enjoy the beaches, or any type of recreation, they have no choice but to carry their grandparents to get acquainted with their grandchildren. But the children are dazzled by an unknown world, so they pay little attention to the grandfather (a) who becomes another companion, that in the best of cases, because if the grandfather (a) suffers from some disease that limits him , then everything is limited to a simple home visit.

There is another third option: the grandfather (a) emigrates too, because what is he going to do alone at home … There he will save the children the money for nurseries or babysitters that cost a fortune, and his life will be limited to the care of the grandchildren already help at home. If the old man was during his life an active professional, this role at the end of his years will not be much to his liking, but perhaps he will settle. As long as he is healthy, everything will go smoothly. However, by the logic of life, he will fall ill and die. Poor grandparents, they will go to the House of the Lord, with the great guilt, on their shoulders, of having left their children in debt.

Without being pessimistic, this is the reality of most seniors. They, the children, leave with the promise that they are more useful to us outside of the remittances they can send us – unfortunately, some do not – and I wonder if the money or the objects sent with the phrase of affection, of encouragement, that the children offer in the daily touch.

“Cuba, take care of your families!”, Saint John Paul II exhorted last century during his pastoral visit to the Island. We pray to him to continue strengthening us in such arduous circumstances.

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