Impossible Comparisons: Old Age in Cuba and the MoviesAugust 30, 2013 | Print |
HAVANA TIMES — In Michael Hanecke’s Amour, a couple in their eighties, former piano teachers, lead a comfortable life, enjoying their twilight years together, until a terrible incident changes their lives: the wife becomes paralyzed and gradually begins to deteriorate physically.
The husband assumes her care, enduring all of the suffering that his wife’s degenerative condition entails. His daughter and other relatives, immersed in their own personal problems, remain distant.
Watching this film, I began to think about my parents, who are also in their eighties and supposedly enjoying their retirement after years of work, and came to the conclusion that any comparison is simply impossible.
Their story is an uneventful, personal story that would be interesting only to their closest relatives. They have been living with me for two years, ever since the home which they had paid for, cent by cent, was demolished after part of their building collapsed.
To date, they haven’t even been offered a place they can stay in temporarily, and the pertinent State institutions haven’t shown that they are doing anything. On one occasion, a doctor from our family clinic called and promised to do a house visit to conduct a check-up on them, but never did.
They’ve also had health problems. My father suffered a stroke and my mother fractured her hip. I am taking care of the two of them. My husband and 13-year-old son help me wherever they can, but I shoulder the greatest burden, being their daughter.
I can no longer work where I used to and have no help from nurses or assistants, like in this French film, in which the old man could afford to pay for her wife’s care. My parents receive a tiny pension that’s barely enough to put food on the table. It is only thanks to their grandchildren, who live abroad and send remittances on a regular basis, that they can get by.
In addition to having lost their home, they have lost part of their identity. Their habits have changed. Now, they are withdrawn and have to adapt to the habits of others, deal with a generation that is more rebellious and egotistical.
My parents and the characters in the movie have only one thing in common: they continue to love each other and, together, they share every moment of the day, reading and watching TV together.
My father helps my mother get out of bed and dries her feet after she comes out of the bath. My mother combs my father’s hair and washes his underwear. Their love has survived hardships that have lasted for over forty years.
Their routine varies little, save when they receive news from the grandchildren or recall what life was like in the past, looking at an old photo taken out of the wardrobe.
I cannot help but ask myself: why have they had to endure such hardships in these twilight years, when life, supposedly, should reward us with peace?