Caregiving situations - Helen Emmott with Ella

“I Feel Happy-Sad”

Recently my husband, David, and I were visited by our son, Cameron, his wife, Beth, and their two children, Ella and Henry.

Hosting three- and one-year old children in our somewhat small condominium had its challenges. There were toys, child-proof gates, sticky messes and even a potty chair strewn about for five days. Henry, the one-year old, tortured the cat, tried to break down the protective gates, and made us giggle as he called our cat, Lucy, “Eow” over and over. Ella, the three-year old played with a box filled with my old jewelry, made and ate bites of cookie dough with me, Mimi, and told me I was gorgeous one night after I dressed for a dinner outing. All in all, their visit entailed lots of energy expenditure coupled with laughs and feelings that our grandchildren were mostly beautiful and gifted!

Caregiving Situations – Aging Parents to Young Tots

There is a vague similarity between caring for these two little peanuts, while giving their parents time out with friends and freedom to sleep late, that reminded me of the fatigue David and I felt when caring for our late mothers, Isabel and Mable. Although our mothers never lived with us, we felt a constant sense of responsibility. Helping with the children included talking or playing with them, and in the next moment, preventing a fall or cleaning up a mess. I recall many times visiting one of our mothers and feeling fortunate she was alive, only to face a medical emergency shortly after the peaceful visit. Both caregiving situations presented an ongoing sense of emotional highs and lows that is elating but at the same time frightening.

Preparing for Cameron’s family’s return to Connecticut, we washed clothes, prepared snacks for the plane, and charged the new DVD player. We were busy, maybe even a little stressed, but worked together to ready for their departure. Our busyness helped us avoid the reality that they were leaving. There would be “goodbyes” but relief that the visit had gone so well.  This, too, was a familiar feeling of days gone by with Isabel and Mable. We worked together with other family members to offer love and compassion and simultaneously escape the reality that our days with them were limited.

Honestly, after days of physical and emotional work, with the children and our mothers, there came a sense of sheer exhaustion. Dizziness from lack of sleep. Aching backs. Little time for oneself. But, always, always, a deep sense of what it is to love and be loved.

Saying Good-bye is Happy-Sad

While the children’s car seats were installed, the stroller folded, and luggage loaded into the car, Ella came to me and proudly said, “Mimi, I feel happy-sad.”

I looked at her and thought how perfect her description was for that moment in time. I felt the same way.

As I drove home from the airport, I fought back tears. A familiar sense of emptiness. Their stay had been so fun, but it was over. I thought about the term, “happy-sad.” I knew it all too well. I had felt that very emotion many times as our mothers aged, became frail, and finally left this world. Their lives had been so amazing, but they, too, had to go, leaving many behind to feel little Ella’s “happy-sad.”

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