March 18, 2016

On Selfish Empathy

My mom is having a hard time in Venezuela. She broke down and cried a little today during breakfast. It’s happening a lot lately.

It used to be canine matters that set her off: a street dog too close to cars, an abandoned thin puppy, even a lost dog poster. We would laugh at/with her about her craziness. She’s known to stop on highways to pickup a stray dogs, and her car smells like a drunk sailors cabin because she carries dog food in case she sees a hungry dog1.

But now it’s being set off just by her telling me about the previous day.

Things are pretty bad in Venezuela. The country is probably going through its biggest economic crisis in the last 80 years. My dad closed down most of the family business two years ago, so they’re suffering the crisis as consumers — and with the erosion of savings — but there’s no business to bankrupt anymore.

In comparison with the rest of the country my parents are very well off. My mom has to deal with lines here and there, but since they’re empty nesters, they are fine with what they find and usually bring supplies on their trips to visit us.

Still, my mom can’t help to absorb and own the worsening misery she sees everyday. She keeps blowing her budget helping not only dog foundations, but buying medicine for a nice old lady she met pharmacy line, or buying books for a gardener kids.

Don’t be confused, my mom is no saint. She gulps down a (few) bottle of wine every so often with her neighbors, and she can be intense when she decided X is what you should be doing. But seeing her so affected is new for me. I could blame it on age — which is what she does — but that’s not it.

She’s just being exposed to a worsening misery in her day-to-day and has lost the ability to filter it. After listening to her, it was obvious that she wasn’t really sad about anything that was happening to her. She’s just sad that it’s happening, and the injustice of it happening in a country without any real excuse for it to happen.

So it breaks my heart to have to tell my mother to worry less about everyone else. That it’s ok to fingir demencia (feign insanity) and forget about other people’s troubles more often.

Because it’s a lesson I don’t think I would want Robie to learn.


  1. And since dogs are always hungry, the sustainable aspect of the operation is questionable.


Venezuela Family


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