This has been one of the best years of my life, with a great deal of international travel, and it's been a hoot. I hate to see the year come to an end. Unfortunately, I've been so busy with so many things this year that I haven't exactly been posting soon after events take place. Just last month, I finally succeeded in posting Part III of my trip from last July to Lima, Peru. Now, I'm just getting caught up with my three week trip back home to visit with family in the Midwest this past summer in late August and early September.
In one way, my tardiness seems apropos, when one considers that this is the Christmas season, and a time when one especially thinks of family. For expats, no doubt Skype and emails help family members to keep in touch on a regular basis in a way that was impossible even a decade ago. Last night, Christmas Eve, I was Skype videoing with my two brothers, Leo and Ron, and my sister-in-law, Carla. I felt like I was watching one of those morning talk shows, where everyone is comfortably sitting around and discussing the topic of the day; except I was part of the interaction as well.
Over my almost five years of living in Cuenca, I have discovered many varied family dynamics at work between expats and their families. Anyone seriously thinking of moving to another country should definitely consider these dynamics, and how they might apply to your situation. Some expats here in Cuenca, almost all of whom are seniors, have long disassociated with family members, either voluntarily or involuntarily. Or the move to another country becomes the final nail in the coffin of negative or indifferent family relationships that existed for a long time. Some expats regret the turn of events. Others are content to be disassociated with the negative patterns of family member behaviors; particularly of their children, where such examples as drug and alcohol abuse, or possibly serious financial problems or economic dependency may cause some expats to feel this is not how they want to spend their retirement years. Other expats have a different set of values that embroils them to return home temporarily or permanently, and help out with various problems of their children. Some folks, not to play the blame game, just don't have much in common with their kids or their kids with them, and may have generally lacked for a myriad of reasons a close relationship. Some children attempt to make their parents feel guilty about a move abroad, or may feel that they have been abandoned by their parents; while other expats put guilt of abandonment upon themselves. Other expats find the move to another country easy, because they and their children may already be scattered all over countries like the United States and Canada. Others find that their children are so busy with their own lives and careers, that they actually don't have much time for their parents, and parental relocation may not be much of a problem.
On the other hand, other expats find it difficult to be separated from their children for a long time, and unless they have the financial wherewithal to visit home two or three times a year; these are the expats most likely to eventually return to from whence they came. Some expats, after moving to a new country, now find that for the first time grandchildren enter the picture; and women in particular, now want to return home. Others expats are just the opposite; as one woman once told me, she and her husband had no intention of being tied down by frequent baby-sitting of grand kids, the way she and her husband had tied down her mother under earlier circumstances. Different attitudes and family dynamics at play, which result in different outcomes by the participants. All of which need to be seriously considered when folks make a big decision to live in another country. Similar dynamics also come into play as expats live behind not only their children, but other family members as well.
As I went home to the Chicago area for the first time since my mother had passed in September of 2013, the highlight of my three weeks at home was the week I spent with my mother's family in Wisconsin Dells and with her brother who is now ninety-one and lives in Dubuque, Iowa. The Dells adventure was especially memorable, because a family reunion was planned that took place on a boat on the beautiful Wisconsin River that has over geological time carved awesome rock formations through the sandstone of the Upper Dells. Where there is beauty, there is also commerce, as the Dells serves as the playground of the Midwest.
I had always been close to my mother's side of the family. Especially to my grandmother and grandfather, and my mom's eight brothers and sisters. Coming to beautiful farm country as a youngster, and visiting an awesome set of uncles and aunts, and looking forward to spending time with my ubiquitous cousins was always a pleasure for me as both a youngster and as an adult. My uncles and aunts, whether blood-related or by marriage where always for me an inspiring and fun group with which to spend time and listen to their stories.
Today, besides my mother's brother, Harry, and his wife, Jocille, in Dubuque, Iowa; only my mom's sister Dorothy, who is eighty-four and the youngster of her generation, and who just retired this month from her real-estate career, and her husband, Bob; and Bonnie and Lucille, two of my aunts-by-marriage, are all that remain of the seventeen aunts and uncles. All of them, except my Aunt Phyllis, who died at the age of eighty-two, lived at least just short of their eighty-fifth year. Longevity must have been a family gene trait of the Webers, and they appeared to choose spouses with the same trait. This was the generation that lived through the Great Depression, fought in World War II or Korea, were self-reliant, not afraid of hard work, kept working well into their eighties before entertaining any idea of retirement, and attempted to instill the same values of personal responsibility in their offspring. They were of a stock of Germans, Swiss-Germans, and Norwegians.They for the most part embodied all the traditional values that at one time made America great.
While I was older than my Aunt Dorothy's six children, I spent a lot of time with them whenever I was visiting the Dells. Especially as my cousins in my age group became teens, and had more of their time taken up with jobs and high school athletics. I still refer to Bob and Dorothy's kids as the Wick kids--three girls, and then three boys all in a row. The three girls and their husbands were all responsible for organizing the Family reunion down the Wisconsin River. Penny and Tom, Robin and John, and Debbie and Fran. Fran when a young college man had also worked summers as a tour guide on the Dells boats during the three hour trips on the river. He shared by way of a microphone, some of the renditions that he told the tourists on their river tours, and remembered them by heart as he delivered them the way he did soooo many decades ago. (Yea, were all getting old now, but we have a lot of good memories (lol). No matter how much geographic distance among us, there is still a tie that binds even when some of us like myself live in other countries.
I lost my camera in Lima (Isn't that the name of a song?). My cell phone was a piece of crap, so I did not take any photos while I was home. However, my cousin, Belinda Weber, sent some print photos. With my son, Marc, visiting this month; he scanned them for me. I share them below:
Some members of my late Uncle Duke and my Aunt Bonnie's family: Belinda, Ken, and Sally.
The middle photo above is my cousin, Holly, who along with her sister, Barb, are daughters of my late uncle and aunt, Rollie and Ruth Weber; and also in the photo is my cousin, Debbie's husband, Fran Sweeney. The bottom photo above is my cousin Ole, and his sister, Robin's husband, John Lenhert.
The next morning many of us met at Perkin's for breakfast. Harley, Belinda's daughter; her mom, Belinda; Fran in the back row; Robin to the front; Terese, Ole's wife in the back; Debbie and her mother, Dorothy; Bob and Dorothy's son, Bob Jr. in the back row; Uncle Bob, Dorothy's husband; and Sally.
The middle photo above is Ken and Fran. And the third photo above are sisters, Belinda and Sally.
Below in the top photo are my cousins, brother and sister, Eric and Penny. The middle photo below are cousins Holly and Ole. The third photo below are Dorothy; Holly's sister, Barb, and Barb's husband Ed.
Below in the first photo is my cousin, Bob Jr, Dorothy's youngest; and one of my cousins, Robin and John's (Oh God help me.) identical twins, Cory. Otherwise, it's his brother Sam, but I think Sam joined us the next day (no I was wrong, it's Sam! His brother Cory joined us the next day); and my cousin, Ken. In the second photo below are Ole's wife, Terese, and Penny's husband, Tom Diamonte. In the third photo below is my Uncle Bob, and his son-in-law, Rob, Debbie's husband.
In the first photo below is my brother, Leo's wife, Carla; and my cousin, Debbie. The second photo below sports my cousin, Ole; me; and my cousin, David, and his wife Diane. David is the son of my late Uncle and Aunt, John and Phyllis Weber. And the bottom photo is me.
The first photo below is not of relatives, but friends I visited while at home; Jim Biancotti, Peggy Kolaric, and me. My friend, Ken, was also present, but didn't make this particular photo. Maybe, he was taking the photo.
Above in the second photo is another group photo outside of Perkin's Restaurant the following morning after the reunion. The photo includes Holly, Barb in the back, our Aunt Bonnie, Debbie, Ed; and in the back row are John, Sam, Cory, and Fran. Returning to the front row next to Ed are Terese, Carla, Dorothy, Me, and Bob, Jr.
Unfortunately, I can only work with the photos I have, and I have no idea why my brother, Leo, is not in any of the photos. However, he was at all the events too. My cousin, Penny and her husband, Tom; their son, Joe, was also present the day after the reunion.
I wish all of you, and all of my family a Merry Christmas and a Hopeful New Year.