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Write It Out: Grateful daughter lives to return the favor

Susan Henderson, center in yellow shirt, is surrounded by her family on Mother’s Day. Among the group is her mother, Ruth Cunningham (in red sweater), as well as her daughters, a daughter-in-law and grandchildren.
Susan Henderson, center in yellow shirt, is surrounded by her family on Mother’s Day. Among the group is her mother, Ruth Cunningham (in red sweater), as well as her daughters, a daughter-in-law and grandchildren.

After 40 years teaching elementary school, I retired in June 2010. I loved teaching but looked forward to a time when I could totally concentrate on my own family. Time to spend with my aging mother and time to babysit my grandchildren.

It’s an honor and privilege to help my mother, the woman who has been the heart of our family. The woman who gave the gifts of unconditional love, patience and caring and spent endless hours creating adventures that filled my childhood with love.

For me, it’s not how to survive but how to thrive in the sandwich generation. My heart soars when a smiling preschooler runs into my arms after a great afternoon in preschool yelling excitedly “Nana, Nana, Nana.”

It’s snuggling with a sleepy grade-schooler before she goes off to school, feeding four hungry kids breakfast on late-start Thursdays, homework, ballgames, dress-up clothes covering the floor and impromptu plays on the living room carpet.

It’s microphones made from Tinkertoys as future singers imagine their chance on “The Voice.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s also dealing with finicky eaters, cousin and sibling rivalry and days when the kids just can’t seem to get along.

Then there are the doctor’s appointments, the walker, the oxygen tanks, radiation treatments, hospital stays. But it’s also the honor of caring for the woman who taught me, by example, how to love, how to be a wife and how to mother my children and grandmother my grandchildren.

It’s the evening rides into the Palouse to break up the monotony of living alone. It’s helping Mom stay in her own home, a home filled with memories and continuing joy.

When my children were young, she packed her motor home and off we went on new adventures for three generations of family fun. It’s my turn to ready that motor home, but this time my packing list includes that cumbersome walker, oxygen and a wheelchair for longer walks around the campground. I can’t forget some toys to entertain the grandkids. Now we are four generations sharing the love of camping.

On those rare days when the house is quiet and stillness fills the air, I reflect on how fortunate I am to have family fill my life. And how blessed I am to have a husband who is willing to share this journey.

It’s not always easy, but the occasional nap seems to help.



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