6. c. Those Left Behind

Yesenia, a student in 7th grade, worried constantly about her elderly grandfather who was in and out of hospitals with both physical and mental ailments.  While living with him, she had always been a most loving child to him and he had corresponded with nurturing care, lots of tender attention and all the little trinkets that his meager income could afford.  One day, his health deteriorated and he went into a depressive state that necessitated psychiatric hospitalization. In the small town, where they lived, that was not possible, so he was sent to a more distant city. Yesenia struggled with her feelings of love and compassion for him and her inability to watch his growing deterioration and finally, her relief at leaving such a painful situation to come to the USA.  However, her strong guilt feelings and having left the old man never ceased.  She begged her father to send him money to help with the healthcare expenses, but father and son had cut all contact long time ago and his father was not ready to forgive this man, who in his eyes had been a horrible parent to him. So, Yesenia laid awake many times, wishing she could help, if only she was old enough to work, while also harboring great resentment towards her father, unable to understand his refusal to help. The slow work of encouraging her to forgive herself in the first place, before starting to look at his father in a more compassionate way as a much abused child, was the only road to starting to mend her relationship with this father, which was complicated even further by her jealousy of his new family in the USA that he never left.

Jorge left his town to come live with his mother and her husband,  leaving behind his little sisters in the care of extended family and an alcoholic father.  Following the departure of their mother to come to the USA, these girls had found in Jorge a steady protector who would walk them back and forth from school, play with them and calm their many fears. Even though Jorge had always been involved in trouble at school and at home, his devotion to these little girls back in his country was sound and heartfelt. Even when invited to come, the girls did not want to leave their relatives to join a mother they did not remember. So he constantly worried about them and shed many tears narrating his walks with them holding on to his hands and remembering their tears as he said good-by. Again the work of self-forgiveness was slow and hard.

Like these, many of the newcomers attention is painfully divided between their lives here and those they left behind who they feel needed them.  Sometimes, they cannot share these feelings with their family in here, either because they do not want to seem ungrateful, or because their feelings encounter jealousy in the parent. So, their worries and pain just grows. It is then hard for them to feel free and worthy of enjoying life in this new environment, when feeling the guilt of leaving loved ones behind in difficult conditions. They need so much to hear someone say “you are not a bad child”, “you had no choice in this situation, because you are just a youngster.”  “Maybe one day, when you are an adult, you will be in a position to help them and you really made a part of their lives much better.”