The Sandwich Generation

4 08 2012

My mom, my daughter and me at a family crawfish boil.

I was born on the cusp of the baby boom. What that has meant to my life is that I have been in the middle of every trend for the past 50 years. Schools were built to accommodate my generation. I’ve been a backpacker across Europe, a YUPPY, a DINK, a New Ager, married, older parent, soccer mom, Girl Scout leader, divorced, single mom, and online dater. I’ve been upsized, downsized, done yoga, fad diets and the no-diet diet, become a foodie and lover of good wine, done self-help and life coaching and now blogging. Every time I have discovered something new, it’s the next day’s headline of the country’s latest trend.

The hardest trend I’ve been a part of was joining “The Sandwich Generation.” This is the when you’re still raising your kids while caring for aging parents.

My parent’s wedding, September 2, 1955

My mom moved in the day my dad suddenly died from a heart attack. I’m an only child and my Mom has epilepsy, so because of Mom’s health and financial resources, this was the only choice I felt I could make. While the decision was easy, the reality was more difficult. In hindsight, Mom moved in as my marriage was falling apart. My ex and I suffered from having to have the last word, which made for long, loud arguments. Mom was often in the eye of the storm. I blamed her drawing inward on our family dynamics. I really related to a comment I heard Wynona Judd make—she said her family could suck the oxygen right out of a room.

I helplessly watched Mom’s health decline. I kept expecting her to “get a life,” and found it difficult to understand when I came home from a full exhausting day to realize she had just sat in her bed doing word puzzles. I couldn’t accept the fact that that it was her life and that if all she could do was watch TV all day that it had to be OK with me. I kept thinking she would soon start to blossom in her new life. I would make list of things I thought she should do: call the Council on Aging, contact the Epilepsy foundation, join a widow’s support group. What I came realize was that all she needed was a hug and for me to allow her to just be.

On the eve of the anniversary of my Dad’s death, she got sick with a bad cold that my family all had. It had her in the hospital in 24 hours, and in 48 hours I was discussing “do not resuscitate” orders with her doctor.  The immediate crisis passed but she was eventually in the hospital for over a month. At that time, I didn’t expect her to ever be the mom I knew her to be and longed for again. I believed she was at the end of her life and the next thing I’d be planning was her funeral. During this time I continued to work full-time, taking lunch breaks at the hospital, juggling my life and family’s activities.  I came to the realization with the loving help of my family and friends that I would no longer be able to care for Mom at home when she would eventually be released. She needed constant nursing care, 24hours a day and, no matter how much I juggled, I couldn’t do it.

I started the process of finding a new home for Mom. She had little awareness of anything during this period. By the time she left the hospital she seemed to understand and seemed perfectly comfortable with all the decisions I had made for her. I found a nice nursing home less than one mile from my house. And soon, I had her furniture, pictures and clothes in her new room.

She has made a recovery that no one expected. She slowly regained her strength and with the stabilization of 24-hour nursing care, her seizures have almost disappeared. She’s now got a boyfriend. She says she has no interest in getting married, but she did make her fiancé buy her an engagement ring. While still frail, she is once again the smart, clear-minded, feisty woman who loves to be outrageous and the center of attention. Most importantly, she got that life I was hoping for.

My Mom and me, 1961

She recently gave me a gift that I didn’t know I needed.  Even though I know she is in the best place for her I still had a deep hidden seed of guilt that I hadn’t done enough for her.  Then one evening my daughter and I dropped by. My daughter, Mom, her nurse and I were all looking at a bunch of cats that people had abandoned behind the nursing home. Mom said that she felt that there were some people at that home who were like those cats…abandoned. And that maybe God had wanted her to reach this stage in her life, so she could be there for someone who didn’t have anyone.  And I thankfully realized that Mom had reached another place in her life’s journey, just as I had.

And me…I’ve found love again with a widower. As my daughter grew up and moved out and I became an empty nester, he moved in. Yeah, over 50-somethings not bothering to get married, that’s yet another trend I’m part of.

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5 responses

12 08 2012
Rachel Podnar

Aw Connie this is the first time I’m seeing this post & it’s unbelievably powerful! I could vividly picture your journey and feel your emotions as I read through the story…amazing job for a novice blogger!

27 06 2013
Lisa Garon Froman

Very sweet Connie. I always find your blogs moving.

27 06 2013
conniemcleod

Thanks Lisa!

7 01 2014
Cathyc

Your post really hit home, and I could feel your pain and your growth. You are a good daughter, mother and friend. Your mom is blessed to have you.

Now, as for those cats, how can I get them adopted?

Oh, I LOVE the photo of you and your mom in 1961. Love the pearls she has on, and you are adorable!

7 01 2014
conniemcleod

Cathy, it’s been a while since Mom was admitted to the nursing home. She has a boyfriend now. She’s still frail but has turned into a wild woman. But it was really, really hard going through the process.

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