Last month I made a quick weekend visit back home to New Zealand to conduct some fieldwork and have a nosey around at the Pasefika Festival (Auckland). As always, my accommodation is my dad’s crib in Otara (yeeyah-choice-eoowwwwww!-nahbro!). I always enjoy the time we spend together – even though most of the conversation is about how terrible his aufaipese (choir) is sounding these days and what song am I up to with my aufaipese in Melbourne and oh-by-the-way can you notate a pese for me please lo’u afafine (my daughter) before you head back home etc….
Since being widowed six years ago with the sudden death of my mother, I have watched my dad transform and – dear I say ‘blossom’ – into the independent pensioner (lol) that he is today. The week after mum’s funeral, my sister and I took dad to the ANZ bank in East Tamaki so that he could find out his bank details and learn how to withdraw money from the ATM (which, for some reason, had Chinese translations but no Pacific Island ones?). My mother was the financial boss in her marriage – my dad had no clue whatsoever what bills were due and when. So he had to learn all of this real fast. Over the years, bit by bit, dad has been looking pretty slick (in a good way) and stylish (if you ask me). The aviator sunnies are a constant accessory (even indoors), a request for a ‘leather’ jacket purchase from Kmart seemed pretty-damn important last time he visited Australia, and the mobile phone bill? Oh my life, this guy seems to have international numbers showing up on his bill more than the local ones – thankfully, none of these are from Nigeria, Somalia or any place that sends through scam mail (they’re all from Samoa – which is kind of the same thing a ea?)
Living in another country – away from your elderly parents, is a worrisome thing. Many of my friends, who have left NZ for Australia, are in the same boat. As much as we love our new beginnings here, there is also that nagging thought at the back of our minds: is mum/dad okay? Will I ever see them again? Can I afford to go back home if something happens to them? If these questions go through your mind, you are not alone – welcome to the club. There’s no easy way to overcome the feelings of guilt that you have when you first announce your plans of ‘leaving the nest’ and moving overseas. For me, the only comforting thought is knowing that I can at least help my dad out financially – something I was not equipped to do when I lived in NZ – and making sure that I’m reachable at all times. I may not be easy to reach when friends and other family members call, but I’ll always make time for dad’s calls/texts/facebook messages (yep, he has facebook lol). Sometimes he likes to call to hint that a big fa’alavelave is coming up, most times he calls to ask more about a particular photo I posted up on my facebook page and wants to know what the event was – especially if the event was musical, then there are the times when he just can’t get the hang of a new pese lotu (church hymn) and needs me to sing one of the voiceparts so that he can learn it – via the phone lol (try doing this while standing in the long line at the bank – good times).
To those who are living their lives faraway from their parents: Fa’amalosi….
Ia manuia xx