Forever a Child, Forever a Mother

This past week, my husband and I were brave enough to take our two young toddlers on a family vacation. We didn’t go to Disney World or a beach resort. We made our investment in traveling to Cincinnati, Ohio instead. My grandma {I call her Grams}, who just turned 93 years old, lives there, and it was important to me that our kids interact with her while she is still around. The last time she saw my children, they were both infants. This time, they are both walking and talking little people, and so much fun to play with.

It was one of those exhausting trips, where you feel like you need a vacation from your vacation. Both plane rides there and back were complete disasters. Our hotel situation was somewhat of a nightmare between the air conditioning unit breaking every night, and housekeeping never coming to clean our room. Our kids were so sleep-deprived the first half of the trip, that our youngest had full-on, hour-long tantrums each night while out with family at nice restaurants. We were that table that ruined the surrounding table’s dining experiences for the evening. I’m also pretty sure the young men working the valet station at those restaurants {who witnessed meltdowns so bad that our daughter had to be taken outside} decided they are never having children.

In the end, we all survived. We figured out a rhythm and took longer drives so our two-year-old could nap in the car. Each morning, we found a fun, kid-friendly activity to keep them stimulated and happy. There was that one hiccup, when our two-year-old vomited all over the children’s museum and we had to leave immediately, but hey, there’s always something, right?

I knew that despite our hardships, the trip would be worth it. Our children got to know their great-grandmother a little better, and Grams got to see how much they have grown. She loved watching them and commented on all their adorable attributes and outfits. We have pictures and videos documenting their togetherness that we get to keep forever, even if neither party remembers any of it happening.

Children before the age of five rarely remember events such as these. And my Grams’ dementia has caused her to lose her short-term memory. She is also limited on mobility, hard of hearing, and her vision is impaired. But you wouldn’t know all this just by looking at her. On the contrary, this woman wakes up every day, happy to be alive. Some days are filled with doctor appointments, and other days she stays in her pajamas and doesn’t leave the house. On the days she does leave, her helpers get her dressed, she puts on make-up, and she ends up looking like a beauty queen. What sets her apart from most people is that she has always had a positive outlook, and she gracefully takes on whatever life hands her.

My mom, who lives in Houston, travels to Cincinnati every three months to be with Grams. She gives all the helpers a break and tends to Grams’ every need. After about one week of caring for her, she comes home exhausted, but she books her next trip to leave again in three months. Despite the hard work involved with caring for my Grams, my mom also finds the upsides. At the end of the trip we took this past week, my mom told me something beautiful about Grams…

Every time she wakes up from a nap or from a night of sleeping, she has this lovely child-like, smile on her face. You can really see she is a joyful soul.

I told her I never noticed that about Grams, but I really loved hearing that. And it got me thinking. We all come into this world helpless and completely dependent on others to care for us. And if we are lucky enough to live a full life free of terminal disease, we end up once again completely dependent and in need of care. The way my children need me now is not too different from how my Grams needs her caretakers and her children.

When you think about the life cycle, you think about the inevitability of aging, or the loss of your youth. But it’s really not so black and white. Yes, you age physically, but your child-like spirit is always with you. If it is still apparent in those raw moments with my 93-three-year-old grandmother, then it must be something that never dies as long as we are alive.

As I watch my mom consistently leave Houston to go care for her mother, I am reminded that women have a very special role on this earth. We are all innate nurturers. Even if we don’t have any children of our own, we gravitate towards helping others, especially our own family, and even more specifically, the ones who gave us life. We are born from mothers, and we all become mothers, until we can no longer fill that role.

I’m not discounting men and their helpfulness and involvement with their aging parents. I watched my own dad leave Houston many times to tend to both of his ailing parents. He was the only child, so it was ultimately up to him to be the mother when his parents needed one. But I do believe that when a woman is involved, it’s just a different kind of care and focus that is unique and special.

When I think about all the commitment and dedication my mom has taken on, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of love and pride for her. She is such a beautiful example of a mother, not only to me, but to her own mother. Even if my Grams is not the same, and in essence, is slowly fading away, my mom still sees the parts she loves about her. Her joyousness, her child-like spirit, her beauty. That is something we never lose, and something that is never lost on the ones who know and love us. We are forever children, and also forever mothers.


About Emily F.

Emily is a freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who lives in Houston with her husband, two young children, dog, and cat. When she’s not trying to put food into someone’s mouth, she likes to read, write, cook, and work on her physical fitness. Emily studied Journalism and Psychology at The University of Texas {Hook ’em Horns!}, and she is semi-bilingual, with Spanish as her second language. To read more of her work, visit her web page EmilyBFeinstein.com.

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