As we age: Guilt just a useless emotion

Not easy visiting mom when she lives in Newfoundland

  • May. 23, 2013 5:00 a.m.

I’ve often commented to others that guilt is the most useless of all emotions. It’s a lot like worry – you either do something about it or you accept that you can’t do anything about it and put it out of your mind.

I have been feeling a bit guilty lately about not visiting my mom. With her in Newfoundland, me in Ontario and my sister in South Carolina, we’re not exactly just around the corner from each other.  We all have very good reasons why we are where we are, but I do feel badly that my mom has to spend most of the holidays on her own while those who have family near the home in which she is a resident, often get taken to visit family for holidays or, at the very least, have visitors drop in.

My mom does have visitors, a few friends who drop in weekly to say hello and keep her up on the outside news, and there is the company of other residents and staff in the home itself. But it’s not the same as family.

My sister and I call her every night and while we don’t have much new to say on any given night, the calls give her something to look forward to during the day.

My sister recently informed me, and my mom, that she was going to spend an extended period of time with her this summer. They’ll open up the house again and my mom can spend the better part of June and July in her own house if she wishes. There will be many other relatives dropping in during the summer as well, as the usual heart-tug-trips-home bring Newfoundlanders back to the island in droves.

The other night my mom asked if I would be coming home this summer. She was careful not to sound wistful about it or try to make me feel any obligation, but I know she’s hoping I’ll make it, as much as anything else because she has a long “to-do” list for me that she doesn’t like to ask others to help with.

This is where the guilt creeps in for me. I know she’d like me to visit, but I also know that she has found the year long since last November, when I flew down to move her into the home.  She’ll have plenty of company this summer, but once September comes, she’ll find herself tucked into the home with nothing other than phone calls to look forward to from family.

I have been thinking I’d rather visit her at Thanksgiving and at Christmas than be part of the crowd that rolls through this summer. It’s not financially feasible to be back and forth too often, but I think having something to look forward to for more than just the summer period will be good for her, even if I have to call some local fellows to do some work around the house for her this summer.

Now I just need to find a way to make this option sound appealing to her.

Graham Hookey writes on education, parenting and eldercare. (