Monday, September 18, 2017

The price of (ex)patriatism

For some people, the grass is definitely greener on the other side. Such adventurers leave their place of birth and circle of family and friends to settle in some far off land. The motivations for such a move may include income, climate, culture or lifestyle. Whatever the cause, expatriates plant their roots far away from parents, but ultimately pay a price for their act of freedom.

Some costs are relatively temporary.  Difficulties involving language and cultural interaction decrease over time, depending on the level of integration chosen. Ex-patriots generally attain a reasonable standard of living by local standards even if the income numbers may not compare with those of their land of birth. If they arrive young enough, immigrants can start their own family and enjoy their grandchildren in their old age. All these issues are manageable and tolerable.

However, there is one cost of residing abroad that cannot be mitigated. As parents age, expatriates find themselves distant and unable to physically help. Of course, telephone and Skype provide affordable communication.  However, the simple acts that elderly people appreciate cannot be provided from a distance. They include trips to the doctors, help with computers, picking up heavy boxes and even sitting together and watching a football or baseball game on television. Isolation and physical weakness are companions of old age, especially in the American context and after the age of 90, as is the situation of my parents.

Having just returned from a bi-annual trip to my parents, I am much more cognizant than ever of this price. I do not regret my life choice nor do my parents reproach me for it but nothing in life is free. Yet, I have never been more aware of the price of the cost.

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