When it rains in Holland, it doesn’t always pour. On the edge of the Maas River, storm clouds quickly approach to bring in rain. The lowlands allow for moderate rainfall; falling frequently all times of the year with damp and grey conditions. I could also be easily talking about how 2013 was for me, despite one bittersweet ending.
When I look outside of my window in my pre-war apartment in Rotterdam and see the bright sunny disc in the sky, all I can do is try to soak up the sun. As the days get longer, I find myself in a strange place; unable to move forward and paralyzed from the past and watching the days go by from the comforts of my new home.
Yet, it is a welcomed break from a dizzying, rapid experience back in New York where I spent my days so quickly, I don’t know where the year went.
When Hope turns into Hopeless
This time around last year, I felt hopeful. I had a year to myself to wait until I would move to The Netherlands. With a fresh Bachelor’s degree in hand, I could start working, join the gym and look for new opportunities. I gave myself a month to settle down after a long trip to make plans for 2013, yet one day would change an entire year.
My dad’s recurrence of cancer startled me; the signs were there, yet the doctors did not warn us. I spent countless nights staying up until 3am researching life expectancy with advanced progression, and Catholic prayers to keep me calm and to hope for the best. I don’t think I slept much that month; frantic at every phone call hoping that it wasn’t any doctors or hospitals with bad news. Once my dad’s prognosis was settled, I was able to grasp on to hope and move forward.
Until my dad broke his hip in April.
If there is a moment in my life I never want to replay in my mind like some kind of horror movie, it would be the day my frail, then- 80 year old dad fell and broke his hip. It would debilitate him to a nursing home to this very day, all because he cannot return home. Why? I grew up in a 4th floor brownstone with no elevators. Exactly.
I would spend the next 8 months trying to get him home or to a new apartment.
And I did not succeed.
Where did the year go?
I spent hours calling doctors to give him more physical therapy. I would be watchful of this horrid nursing home that made COUNTLESS mistakes and failed to do its job. My mother and I visited him every day (Myself- every other day at times) because we did not trust his caretakers (With the exception of one who is awesome); feeding him, changing him, spending quality time with him, watching his symptoms and making sure he was care for.
I applied to dozens of senior housing apartments for my parents- because this would be their saving grace. If they had a new apartment, he could get out of that shithole nursing home that was over 5 miles from where my mom and I live.
I gave up a year of my life for someone who took care of me for 18 years of mines.
And I did not succeed.
Except for the very last 2 weeks.
In October, I applied for my visa to move to The Netherlands. It was my only chance; if I did not apply, I wouldn’t be able to for another year. I felt stuck between a rock and a hard place; how could I move when things are so unsettled here?
Myself included; I hadn’t been able to work as much as I needed to. I hardly went to the gym and I felt stressed, anxious and depressed most of the time. I was scared to be around my friends, I couldn’t travel, so how could I write about it? I gained an awful amount of weight going from hardly eating to binging when I was stressed out. And all I could do was be there for my dad- because I was all he had and I could not give up on him, even if I couldn’t be there for myself.
My boyfriend came over at December’s end to spend time with my family for the holidays. This would be the trip that he would take me back to his country so we could begin our life. I wanted so much to be excited for this, but I did not.
“I don’t have enough saved up as I anticipated. What if something happens at home? It doesn’t feel right. I’m not in a good place.”
But, I had to do what I had to do. For almost 3 years, we had been working on trying to live on the same continent and the opportunity had finally posed itself properly, despite the chaos. And then, we got a letter in the mail in late December:
“You have been selected for an interview for an apartment.”
2 weeks before my big move, my parents had not one, but two opportunities for low-cost housing in NYC. My bf and I spent those two weeks helping my parents with extensive paperwork, orchestrating interviews and making sure they would succeed at this chance.)
And December 30th happened; the day I would have to say Goodbye.
There are many ways to say Goodbye
For a man who has been through so much, his vulnerable kindness is what I’ll always value about my father. “As long as you’re happy, I am happy.” is what he always tells me. I’ve done everything I can for my father and even thousands of miles away, I still do. As I did with my boyfriend whenever we had to part ways, I did not say “Goodbye”, but “See you later.”
Saying “Ciao” to a place I was born and raised in, to my immediate family and to the comforts of dollar pizza, Spanish Harlem and its craziness and a friend who will spend time with you at a Mediterranean Lounge, even when its frigid and for a short period of time. I’m grateful for small moments of happiness during this transition and I will forever miss this place.
And here I am on the other side; waiting to break through. My parents are waiting to find out if they have an apartment. I am still waiting for my Residence Permit. My father awaits another cancer prognosis after some recent disturbing findings.
And I am still trying to find sunshine in these cloudy days.