The term “sandwich generation” applies to those of us who have kids as well as parents who need us from time to time. As our children get older and need us less often, our parents can begin to need us more often as their bodies and minds falter. Maybe this title isn’t very correct because in no way do I feel in charge of my parent’s lives. There are just more and more needs that I feel on the front lines of protection about. These tend to bring my parental emotions to the surface.
I believe strongly that every decision and every task that my parents feel up to doing should be left to their preference and designs to do. They were living life just fine long before I came along and I don’t have the right to change their circumstances just because I could get away with it. I enjoy watching my father puttering around in his garden and messing with his chickens even though he can hardly walk because of pain in his knees, for example.
I got my lesson in failure yesterday at the doctor with my mom, however. I have shared responsibility for her medications with my daughter for more than a year. She is a tremendous help. I have tried to listen carefully at the doctor’s office when multiple prescriptions were being ordered. I fill the pill box faithfully because mom isn’t really able to keep up with those details right now. Her sluggishness for the past few weeks was causing concern but none of us could figure it out. Then the doctor gently said, in effect, that I’m probably overmedicating her. Ouch. That’s the last thing I wanted to do!
Dealing with some of the details of bank accounts, pill boxes, groceries and trips to the feed store feels like a full-time job sometimes. I often have household chores that go undone while I fix a mini crisis at their end of the road. They were glad to put their lives on hold for me when I was incapable of managing all the details of my life once; it’s their turn and I’m fine with that.
If your spouse has a set of parents needing her attention at the same time yours need your attention, things can get dicey. I know, some of you would love to have these problems again. I’ll miss these days when all I have are my own chores to handle.
The emotions of decision making come with some strange mile markers that slap you in the back of the head from time to time. Like giving up housekeeping for assisted living. At my in-laws’ request, that task was begun this week. I never dreamed that the emotion of never scaling the two steps of their home again would grieve me so much. That’s where I went to pick up my future wife for our first date over 40 years ago. Someday soon, it will be someone else’s threshold.
Even more than the emotions are the mental exercises that the constant change requires. Just about the time you get comfortable with your to-do list, something requires adjustment and the list changes completely. Physical and mental health aren’t constant for any of us. Keeping track of your parent’s needs while you handle your own needs is a bit of a juggling act. At least they knew what was coming when they raised me. I don’t have a clue how to be 91. I’ve never seen that horizon.
I am grateful to have these issues. I am glad to have the health to help. I am eternally grateful that they have somewhere better to go. In that dwelling, these physical concerns will no longer involve pain. Faith keeps all of us going.