Sunday, March 09, 2014

The Sandwich Generation

Last year at this time I wrote a post about how I tend to write non-fiction when life gets in my way. There must be something about the month of March because I find myself in a similar place today.

Google images
I called this post "The Sandwich Generation" but I have to admit, I didn't truly understand that term until recently. A relatively new term, it refers to those who are both raising children and taking care of elderly parents. When life expectancies were short, this situation didn't arise very often. Today, with the wonders of modern medicine, people live longer, more active lives.

And this has led to the sandwich. My parents moved to a senior citizen apartment complex in December (read a little about the move here) and that brought stresses that now, for the most part, are gone as they've settled in and found new routines. At the same time, my adult children were making decisions about their own futures and needed advice and nurturing. Who comes first, the parents who raised me? Or the children I am raising? 

Perhaps the sandwich metaphor isn't right. Maybe the fulcrum of a teeter totter is more appropriate. The trick is to balance both sides and not get worn down in the middle.

And now it's two other elderly family members who need our assistance. My husband's mom has taken a turn for the worse lately. Yes, the same mom we thought had only a few months left last year. She's been amazing. Told she had only a few months left, she made plans, threw herself a going away party, and got ready to leave the world. Yet here she is, a year later, defying the odds and baffling the doctors. She's more bed-ridden than not, however, and several falls have taken their toll. She now needs round-the-clock care and the family is trying their best to cover all the hours of the day.

And I have an uncle, who also still lives alone, who is showing some signs of dementia. He never married and has no children of his own, but he was my favorite uncle when I was a kid. Because he physically lives closest to me, his care falls on my shoulders. I don't mind, please don't think this is a complaint. It's the way things are and I'm having fun learning new things about him. He's always loved to tell stories about things he's learned and I love hearing them. I always have.

But I'm definitely feeling stressed. Why? Because in the midst of this, my son has become engaged. I want to give him and his fiancee their time in the sun as well. My daughter is looking to start a new life, too, with a new job and new career path (although she's still in love with stage management, should any of you be looking. She's also an incredibly gifted stage painter). Both my children still live at home and I cherish these last few months as a family of four + two. 

So sandwich or fulcrum...I'm either getting squished or worn down. Both negative metaphors. But I'm not a negative person. I prefer the glass to be half full. I like the sunny side of the situation. I need a new metaphor.

Erwinna Covered Bridge, Bucks Co, PA
A bridge. Bridges are strong and useful. They bring people together and provide opportunities for people on one side to learn and grow from those on the other. They are static, stable and pretty (at least MY bridge is! That's my story and I'm sticking to it.). Some bridges are sleek and new, others are old and traditional.

I think of myself as a covered bridge - a little on the old side, but picturesque and still in use. The roof protects, the planks are sturdy, the way is clear.

Even if I do feel like a covered bridge in a snowstorm right now, the metaphor works. :)

So if my writing on the blog isn't as regular, if you want a reason I haven't sent a newsletter out since October, if you want to know why my next book is delayed... know that I'm busy being a bridge right now. I'll get back to my regular activities soon enough. Perhaps too soon.

Play safe!
And go hug your generations...


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