Dimitrios usually calls himself Jim because Australians have never been able to pronounce his name properly. He has lived here for 40 years, but is still embarrassed about his own English. He wants Aussie friends but the effort of communication and the lack of ‘etiquette intuition’ makes it easier to relate to other first generation migrants.
He is a citizen and a taxpayer. lie has worked hard and raised an Australian family. He is like the majority of Australians—a descendant of somewhere else in the world—in his case Greece. But he can never feel ‘Australian’. He has a strong accent and misses the subtleties and the jokes. He has accepted that he will never be an Aussie.
That is sad, but sadder still is the way that other Aussies also accept that—‘he will never be one of us’. Jim has sacrificed everything for his family. He left his own land and people to be a permanent alien and foreigner in Australia for the sake of his children—that they may get ahead educationally and financially.
Now Jim has just become a grandfather. And the joy of new life knows no cultural bounds. He is not inhibited in sharing the news with his neighbours—Aussie, migrant, old, young, locals or just people passing by. This is far too important to let a few things like culture or language get in the way.
Jim is so excited and pleased that he has made the announcement to me three times without remembering the first two occasions. No amount of congratulations from my part will suffice. Jim is over the moon with excitement.
Again I could see the wisdom of scriptures like: “Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.” (Proverbs 17:6, NIV).
Yet ironically part of Jim’s irrepressible joy comes from his Aussie childrens’ lack of family values. This new child is not to be one of Jim’s many grandchildren, this is to be one of the few. For his children have adapted to the Aussie culture only too well. Children are not valued at the cost of wealth, career, self-fulfilment and possessions.
Grandpa Jim may have sacrificed all for the sake of his family—but his family is thankful to live in a country where no sacrifices for family are required. And if there are any sacrifices, then do not have a family—‘buy a dog instead’!
By Jim’s sacrifices he has brought his family into a culture that will not make sacrifices for families. No wonder he feels like an alien. He is not the only one.