I can’t stop thinking about the mother of the young Israeli who was traveling in the Andes in Western Peru and after feeling unwell, took a bus to get medical help in the capital, Lima, but died before she was able to get there.
The instant messages between mother and daughter, during the last hours of her life, became public. In them the daughter wrote that she was in trouble and the mother, who got the messages few hours later, expressed her hope that by then her daughter was doing better. Those comforting and familiar words of the mother make this tragedy so real and personal.
The accessibility of different modes of communication such as WhatsApp and Skype, makes staying in touch with the traveling kids much easier. As today WIFI could be found even in the most remote places on the globes, it seems that the youngsters have not gone far. Indeed many of them keep in touch with life here in Israel, and in turn their parents almost participate in the journey.
Being able to communicate with the young people makes those remote places like Asia, Australia or South America seem much closer, more familiar, and perhaps a little less threatening for the parents who remain at home.
But drawing conclusions from the ease of communication is risky. Moreover, this feeling of being physically close to the kids is an illusion, since in time of trouble there is hardly anything that a parent could do to reverse or improve the situation.
It seems to me that this ongoing contact with the traveling kids and the pretend proximity could be a source of constant anxiety which could adversely affect the quality of life of the parents.
In contrast, in the pre internet days I too left Israel in my early twenties and traveled with my husband to the US to attend graduate school. Living abroad at that time meant being disconnected from everything that was going on in Israel. Every week I wrote a letter to my parents and reported all the details of our new life. Since my parents were far away and I didn’t want them to worry, my letters had a specific formula: I sent them my love and always reported that everything was fine, even when it wasn’t.
My parents wrote back very similar letters, they missed me and thought about me and everyone in Israel was healthy and happy. We were committed to an unspoken contract: there was nothing to worry about and every one was fine. Nobody asked too many questions, especially since we limited ourselves to the much shorter and cheaper aerogrammes. This arrangement helped us be more productive during the day and sleep better at night.
I don’t suggest that life was better in the pre internet/letters writing generation, but at least it was quieter and less tremulousness. I cannot imagine the agony of a mother who realizes that her daughter is in trouble and there is nothing she could do to save her. So perhaps sometimes it is better not to know.