I decided to translate the following piece by Elizabeth Fuentes (a Venezuelan journalist and mother) because it reminds me of my own mother and the look on her face every time that I leave the country and someone else has to pick up the pieces of her broken heart.
Because It’s really hard to leave, but it’s harder to stay.
ORPHAN PARENTS – by Elizabeth Fuentes (In Spanish: Padres Huérfanos)
“Dead mother walking” is how I would describe it, a bad translation of “dead men walking”, which is how people call those who are condemned to death when they walk towards the electric chair. This is obviously an exaggerated comparison, but it’s what I mentally repeat every time that I say goodbye to my daughter and start walking that part of the airport where there is no way back, and I turn around to send her a flying kiss pretending that I’m ok and she answers pretending to be strong, while my son-in-law, my other son, hugs her strong because he knows what is awaiting when she gets home, to an empty room.
All my nephews have already left. The last one just left to Australia, which is like saying never again. “There is no consolation for this”, I tell my siblings as I have said it so many times to those friends who have experienced the same pain. There are no longer young people in our family reunions, just parents like myself talking about our absent children, the nest emptied in advance, about how expensive airplane tickets are, about all the hazards that we have to go through to cancel our credit cards on time before the next trip. My daughter, I joke, fills the fridge and all the cabinets with great things so I don’t have to spend a penny. She doesn’t understand that, for a Venezuelan, going to a Whole Foods is as unusual and exciting as going to the MoMa; and that going for a walk at any time or getting drunk at a bar until 2AM, is nowadays a human right only for the most privileged.
The young people that I know –professionals, smart, and determined– introduce the verb “to leave” as naturally as the word “kidnap”. One of them told me, very nonchalant, that when they need extra alcohol in the middle of a party, they send the person with the lowest income to buy more booze or ice because he is not “kidnapable” (there is no incentive to kidnap him). But not all the young leave for “mercantilist” reasons, as wrongfully said one of the many health ministers in our country: the helper in our house told me that she wanted to send her son –a well-mannered boy– back to Colombia because the slum where she lives is full of drugs, murders and revenge.
Every day I hear a story worse than that of the previous day. Such as the middle class losing its children, the must humble getting murdered – a pain to which my airport ritual cannot be compared. Because my farewell is nothing compared to the waiting in front of a morgue.
My daughter is terrified every time that Venezuela appears on the news: beheaded prisoners, robberies to entire movie theaters, assaults to churches, narcotraffic, a nonsense president threatening everyone, cash kidnappings, street riots, and people almost killing each other for a kilogram of flour. Sometimes she asks me to stay with her and never come back to this hell.
Then I imagine myself speaking English with a strong accent, without friends, without history, without much to do, always aware of the country and all my friends via internet, every day angrier with this awful fate that has been imposed by the shameless group of people that claim to govern our country. Because these people do not belong to the right or left political wing. On the top of being incompetent and lazy, they are indecent, as simple as that. This is how my mother described people without a home education. Doubtlessly bad, these shameless people hide behind four slogans while they benefit from each other –friends, family, comrades– with positions, commissions and multimillionaire contracts; turning a blind eye to the assault and to the daily spending of the public funds to buy armored cars, maintain their foreign accounts in dollars, their brand-new wardrobes, and all the benefits of travelling for free and abusing power.
I do want all of them to leave, just like an Argentinian slogan; from the shameless who don’t renounce, to those who do not have the balls to kick them out. It is time for all of us to start sawing their floor, vote by vote.
Even though, in the meantime, we could create the Day of the Orphan Parents. How about making it December 6? When Hugo Chavez was elected president. We could silently take over the squares and put mourning flags on our balconies, cars, motorcycles, and slums.
I want all of them to leave, so maybe my daughter can come back to visit her grandmother’s tomb by the park because, until then, I’ve banned her the entry to this country.