My Virtual Village
By Nadine Finlay
Alone. Loneliness. Away. Distance.
These words surround me. They used to be in the back of my mind, like silent passengers in my life, coming to the forefront only when asked, “Where is your family?”
But since the birth of my son, they have been key players in my life.
My move to Australia was for love. I fell in love, packed up my life and moved across the world. I knew it would be difficult to be this far away, but I was used to being away from my mum and my sister, as we lived in different countries. So I knew, with the help of my husband, I would be OK.
What I didn’t expect was how it would feel at Christmas and birthdays and the birth of my son and my nephews. How my family would feel not seeing my son grow up. How I would feel not seeing my nephews grow up. Not being able to kiss, touch, hug, cuddle, comfort, help. How difficult it would be to show love from a million miles away.
My son has come to expect his morning video calls with my mum. For him, this is a part of his routine. He tells her about his days, shows his toys, gets mad at her, walks away, comes back. It’s like she is in the room. This is their routine since he was 9 months old. He does not know life without it.
He wakes up on mornings he knows we will be at home and sets up his routine. Sits at the table for breakfasts and asks, “Has Gaga called?” Gaga is my mum, his grandmother. Even from miles away, her presence surrounds us like a warm bubble of love.
If he gets cookies…one for me, one for Gaga. If I make a coffee…one cup for me, one cup for Gaga.
We even worked out a virtual babysitting system! I can run upstairs to get something while they are skyping and she will text me if he needs me! It’s the best.
He has playdates with his cousin, too. They play virtual hide and seek, try to outdo each other with toys, games, things they’ve learnt. It’s their reality and I am grateful every day for this gift. He feels loved...connected.
One of my favourite memories is watching them come to the realisation that they had the same toys and liked the same things. Something that would be so simple to see in person, became a huge revelation across the water.
My son slowly brought his most prized Hulk into view. MY nephew gasped, wide eyed and ran to his room, returning with his prized Iron Man. For the next ten minutes it was the virtual recreation of the Avengers vs Justice League. The best. Moment. EVER.
My sister and I can only hope when they finally meet again in person, the beauty that is their similarity will see them to friendship. The same friendship we share as virtual sisters.
Now I have a new nephew. I cannot touch. I cannot hold. I cannot kiss. My heart aches for him. My heart aches for my son to meet him.
My heart will always ache.
But it will not break. Because distance means there are loved ones out there to be distant from.
It is the silence in the bus, on the way to work. It is the quiet at night, when your thoughts consume you. It is wanting to share the good stuff and hear the voices of the people you love, feel their warmth, watch them grow old. The yearning to share your new haircut, funny stories, cool things your son does. The need for a shoulder when bad things happen. The comfort of support when you need help to get through a rough patch.
My husband is my rock. My son my muse. Together they surround me with life, ebbing loneliness away. We fill our lives with people who support and love us. We are fortunate to have friends who get it. Who have similar experiences. Who make us feel wanted and loved.
We are not lonely. We are not abandoned. We will always be away and always be at a distance. But we will never be distant. Our small family has arms spread far and wide making us some of the lucky ones.
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