The Familial Sandwich

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…A VERY Happy belated birthday to my oldest Sis–shown here with her new pup, Miss Mary.  The original intent of this post was to give send her a cyber birthday shout out and to say how much I appreciate what she has done for our parents.
Photo & post: copyright–Leisa A. Hammett

Sandwiched. Sandwiched we are. Sandwiched Baby Boomers who have children AND parents for which to care. Actually, of my two siblings, I am the only one who bore offspring. That leaves one sister in one Carolinian state and the oldest in the "Finer" Carolina. And, true to stereotype, is the first-born daughter who's taking care of our senior parents.

Thanksgiving I witnessed firsthand the emotional and physical stress of my elder sister, 10 years my senior. I saw the financial, marital and lifestyle toll. I knew all this from afar before then. And helpless I've often felt. Worried more for her than I was for my aging parents. Mother died last Christmastime. But Daddy remains.

Home being nearly a day's drive from here means just three times annually I'm home. Each time the picture changes–the Parkinson's–which we now realize was clamping down and slackening his facial muscles for decades and was part of his Restless Legs Syndrome and possibly part of his mental-emotional obstinacy. Each time I make the trek to see him and my sister, he's a bit more frail. His living quarters morphed once more. In one year, my sister moved my mother and father nearly a dozen times as they transitioned from home to hospital from room to room, for various complicated reasons, into and within assisted living. Mother died in the latter. But Daddy went on to "The Reminisce Unit" and now makes home in the skilled care unit. 

My sister left her 30something-year career to take care of him and Mother. With the detachment afforded me by the car's backseat, I listened, on Thanksgiving night, as my elder sister drove my father to his living quarters. Patiently, in her gentle, yet firm school teacher's voice she answered each of his fretting  questions, explaining lovingly as if to one of her middle school students, that he had enough money. That he was not a burden on us. Not to worry. I watched as she heaved his walker in and out of the trunk of her compact car. As she wheeled him in the chair awaiting at the care facility door, from there on to his newest room. As she helped him toilet, change into his pajamas. As she greeted each staffer in her classic endearingly sweet, genuine concern.

Sacrifice. Difficult sacrifice. Costly sacrifice.

I continue to ponder. To turn it o'er and o'er in my mind. About how Society has migrated from nuclear to far flung. How he and Mother cared for us. I question, isn't it natural to now care for them? The Fiance cares for his mother. She lives with him. Something many close to us do not understand. It is a privilege he says. But it takes a toll.

Funny, this state of being…sandwiched.

0 Responses to The Familial Sandwich

  1. Hi Leisa, I came over here after finding your link and comment on my blog. Your writing is a breath of fresh air – positive, frank, grateful.

    My (now 17-year-old) daughter grew up watching her grandmother with Parkinson’s become more frail and agitated. Yet, there was something about being around Kristina that brought out the most lucid, least paranoid, happiest parts of her grandmother – i’m certain she lived longer because of her commitment to see Kristina grow up as much as she could.

    Being sandwiched can be very hard – it can also be a wonderful opportunity to show our children (or our neices and nephews!) about caring and compassion. That is a gift.

    Thank you for sharing your stories.

  2. Woot! Thanks for the encouragement! And also the lovely story about your daughter. I know all you speak about bc of my daughter with autism. Thanks again.