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Confessions of a Sometimes Caregiver
By Emily Cooper


(Page 3 of 3)

My brother visits Mom often while I’m there, and he sternly advises her, “Mom, you’re going to have to give up your gardening now and take it easy.” I know he means well and only wants to hang on to her as long as he can; but after he leaves, I counter with, “Mom, please, keep gardening and walking and doing all of the things that make you happy. Don’t give up any part of your life until you have to.” We talk about the benefits of staying active and independent, and Mom agrees that she wants to go out kicking. (I like to imagine that when her time comes, she’ll keel over into a flowerbed with a trowel in one hand and a fistful of weeds in the other; but I know her passing isn’t likely to be that easy.)

By Sunday morning, when it’s time for me to go, I feel reasonably comfortable that Mom will be all right on her own, with help from the health care agency, her good friends and neighbors, and my brother. Still, it’s hard to leave. I always wonder if I’ll see her again, and it saddens me to know how lonely she’ll be after our non-stop time together. Nevertheless, I climb into my car and pull out of the driveway, and Mom smiles bravely and waves goodbye.

Driving away from her house, I start to cry—from tiredness, from relief, from knowing that there will be another crisis all too soon. Mom made it through this time, but next time—or some time after—she won’t, and I’m already starting to grieve. I know that I can’t cure her or hold on to her; I can only love her and be there when she needs my care. Sometimes, that doesn’t seem like a lot, but of course it is—it’s all we ever have—and I’m thankful that I’ve had the chance to love her and care for her once again.

Nine more hours of driving … better stop for a cup of coffee.

Emily Cooper, a resident of Longmont, Colorado, is Caregiver Initiative Coordinator for Boulder County Aging Services Division and editor of “Care Connections,” a bi-monthly newsletter for caregivers, in which this article previously appeared. Emily remains a sometimes caregiver for her mother, who is now 92—and still gardening.

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