My mother calls me every few weeks. Usually late in the afternoon for me, which is super late at night for her, in Spain.
She talks to me about the family and whatever is happening in her life. She’s usually worried about something. But we rarely talk about personal stuff.
Some years ago I did ask her questions I never had before. Like how she felt when I moved to the United States more than 20 years ago.
She said she never quite believed that I had left. That no one ever thinks that their son is not coming back when they leave.
Today, my mother feels that the United States is as much my homeland as Spain and Seville. And hearing this makes me feel that maybe she understands what I’ve been going through.
Because my story of migration is unique in some ways, but also similar to that of many immigrants. And it brings up certain questions; like, what are the emotional consequences of emigrating to a different country? And does it take a lifelong emotional toll?
My two identities
The first time I visited the U.S. was in 1991, when I was 15 years old. My parents signed me up for one of those summer programs to learn English.
My father had become disabled after a stroke a few years before. My sister Beatriz remembers the years that had followed.
“I remember you couldn’t look him in the face,” she said of my reaction to his stroke. “When we were having lunch as teenagers, very young here at this table, I don’t know if you couldn’t just accept it; that you felt abandoned in some way by him.”
I barely remember anything about my father before he had the stroke. My mother always tells me that I was really close to him and that I would go everywhere with him. But I’ve wondered many times if he ever had the capacity to enjoy life. He was old fashioned and obsessed with work and productivity. Everything he did had to have a purpose.