Monday, October 17, 2011

One big giant happy sandwich

When my grandma Betty died this past April, my mom informed me that I had just joined the ranks of the sandwich generation... and that she had just left it behind.


Your parents


Your children

Slice into pretty wedges and serve on an attractive salad plate.

My therapist seems to think that I should be bothered by the fact that my parents need me from time to time.  That I should feel resentful that I have to help them from time to time, and that my brother, who lives an hour away, can't help out as much.

Nope.  I don't agree.  I am not bothered by that.  I get upset by other things.  I get upset when my mother doesn't call me in the middle of the night and instead drives herself to the emergency room at 2 am.  I get upset when my dad does heavy lifting by himself instead of calling me.  I am not bothered in the least that my brother lives an hour away.  He is close enough to come help if need be, and he always comes.  I will be upset if he moves away.  Because he is my brother and I love him.  Not because he won't be able to help me if/when I need it.

I think my therapist has it all wrong.  I believe she is coming from a perspective that isn't quite in line with mine.  She is a working mom, and her time is limited.  Although I feel like my time is limited, there is nothing standing in the way of me dropping what I am doing and coming to help at a moments notice.  Except maybe a diaper change.  But I have been known to load kids in the car, stinky diaper and all, just so I could get there.

My parents have had a rough year, each in their own way.  My mother took an 8 week trip to NZ and Australia at the beginning of this year, and ever since she got back, her body is just fighting her every step of the way.  Endless GI problems, a surgery to remove her gall bladder and degenerative discs in her lower back are making life difficult.  She can't lift grand kids or heavy boxes.  My dad went through congestive heart failure a couple years back, and it has been a long road ever since.  He hurt his back earlier this year as well, yet he refuses most offers of help.  He does lift the grand kids - but he shouldn't.  I make repeated offers to send over child labor but he won't take the bait. 

When my dad looked around at all of the different family members present at grandma's funeral last week, he remarked to me later on that it dawned on him that he was now one of the oldest family members there - with the exception of his cousin Everett.  That just put things into a completely different perspective.

I hate to say this - I mean it physically  hurts to say this, but it feels like my parents have aged so much this year.  Maybe it is because they both lost their remaining parent.  Maybe it is just coincidence.  But my sandwich just grew a little top heavy.  Do I lay awake at night and worry?  Yes.  Can I do anything about it?  No.  So why worry?  I don't know.  I just do.  I worry that I won't be around in a moment of need.  I worry that I don't do enough.  I worry enough that I try to call every day just to make sure nobody has fallen and can't get up.  It's the constant worry that bogs me down emotionally.  Not the extra responsibility.  I just don't know how to let the worry go and let life happen.  I will try to 'be' in the present and not the future.  

So here is my attempt to 'be' in the present.  Funny story: Last night my dad came over with his neighbor's air compressor to help us blow out our sprinkler system.  After fussing at him for loading it into his SUV all by himself, we set about getting the job done.  All four kids dragged out every last single thing with wheels from the garage and went up and down the sidewalk as we worked.  Rylan came up to 'Pa-pa' on her scooter and delivered him a pretend pizza.  Then she said, with a smile, "That will be one dollar please!".  My dad thought that was hilarious.  Later on, as a very tired Colin went up to dad and requested to be picked up with his customary knee-squeeze and "uh-uh-uh" sound, Colin immediately laid his head down on dad's shoulder and was motionless.  This lasts for approximately 6 seconds and then he wiggles because he wants down.  Dad made the most of it.  He said to me, "I love it when he just lays his head down like this..."

I do too.

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