In these instances, my instinct to spare my children and grandchildren was outweighed by my desperation
fter I wrote about not going to the emergency room in the middle of the night despite alarming symptoms because I was worried about what would happen to my husband z”l, a friend asked a reasonable question: “Why didn’t you call the kids?”
I suspect that for most caregivers, the answer would be the same as mine: “I didn’t want to bother them. They have enough on their plate.” Most parents worry about their children, see themselves as the givers rather than the recipients in that relationship, and do everything possible to ease their burdens, rather than adding to them.
Caregivers are no different, of course, but their situations are much more complicated. I called on my children when I had to, but never before thinking long and hard about it.
I remember one particular time when I had no choice but to call my son in the middle of the night and tell him I needed him to come over. He didn’t live nearby and had to go to work the next day. I remember how long I hesitated before I called and how upset I was when I finally did, knowing he was probably on his way to bed or already sleeping.
Despite many misgivings, I eventually put aside my concerns and for a period of time went to his house every other Shabbos. In these instances, my instinct to spare my children and grandchildren was outweighed by my desperation.
It always felt like a balancing act. My needs and my husband’s versus those of my children and grandchildren. When my husband was living at the residence, this conflict played out during family visits, which I both looked forward to and dreaded, and inevitably left me feeling drained.
When things went well, I was thrilled, but I often found myself monitoring the grandchildren so they wouldn’t run around, make too much noise, and do the things that kids do because I didn’t want to run the risk of agitating my husband and spoiling the visit. I felt it was my responsibility to manage things so that everyone would have a good time, but that wasn’t always possible.
I fretted that my grandchildren were confused by and possibly even afraid of my husband’s unpredictable behavior. I tried to explain that Grandpa loved them, even though he sometimes seemed indifferent or upset in their presence, but they were too young to understand.
In addition to worrying about the feelings of my grandchildren, I felt a terrible sadness when I thought about how much both they and my husband were missing out on. As I write this, my four teenage granddaughters are asleep in my apartment, their sneakers and backpacks strewn all over the living room. We’re having a get-together before they go off in different directions for the summer.
(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 651)