The Sandwich Generation

Aug 1, 2022

Hello Beautiful Souls, 

 August’s muse is a reflection on perception. Have to vs. GET TO.

Over the years, I have heard the phrase “I am in the sandwich generation”.  Referring to still taking care of kids AND parents.  It was always said with exhaustion and frustration.

I didn’t think at that time, I would ever really be in that position.  I had children later in life  (36 and 38) and my parents had insurance (that we all paid into)  to cover any medical needs in their later life.  They wanted to have everything lined up so that none of the children ever had to feel responsible for them –that’s just the way they were- are.   My Dad passed away in 2011, after 6 weeks struggling to recover from a broken rib.  Things declined, and he never got out of the hospital, except for a couple false hope attempts, that put him right back in.  Suffering from heart disease, he could not fight the numerous organs that decided to shut down. He never used the Insurance.

My Mom, then 80 years old, started living on her own for the first time.  I left Minnesota back to California for a dream job offer, two of my brothers were living somewhat close by to Mom.  She had the travel bug and claimed her independence.  Quite the inspiration.  She redecorated, traveled on a mission trip to Haiti- and to Jerusalem. My brothers took her on International trips, and she traveled to California for several weeks a year to spend with the 3 children that lived on the West Coast.  I continued to visit every summer at her lake cabin.

 My children were now headed to college in Hawaii and one to Miami for modeling.  Although they were not living at home- they required financial assistance and the support of Mom.  I was remarried and planning a future retirement of travel and family get togethers.

Then life changed.  Divorce happened.  My kids continued to need support and my Mom who was now 88, began a slight decline.  Noticeable only to those around her.  I drove to Minnesota to spend 2-3 months near her over the winter of 2019.  Then the world changed.  The pandemic hit.  My kids were still discovering their paths, needing more emotional support and some financial,  but I was basically house-less, figuring out my next move.  I chose to rent an apartment in Minnesota and stay for a year to spend more time with Mom.  It’s now been 2 ½ years and Mom was diagnosed in 2021 with early onset Alzheimer’s.   In Spring 2021, when she turned 90, she moved into assisted living.  I continued to spend time with her 2-3 times a week. Meanwhile on the west Coast,  both my children who were living there, well, life was changing for them. I began to feel the distance both physically and emotionally.  I longed to have lunch or see them on a spontaneous visit versus planning trips during a pandemic.  The dynamics began to change.  Mom was changing.  I felt pulled to stay around Mom for the remainder of her life -which could be years- but longing to be closer to my kids.  I had to choose.  I chose, to move closer to my children this year, I listened to my inner voice and what I would love. As  I quietly listened, that voice also was  saying “spend the summer with Mom and the lake”. 

The Lake cabin is where we grew up in the summers since 1969.  Mom and Dad purchased the resort and split it between close friends.  As a young girl, we would spend 2 months or more every summer here.  Mom would spend the entire time, where Dad would come for a month, when he took off work as a Pastor.  As the 5 of us kids got older, we would spend a week or two in the summer. My parents when they retired, would spend the entire summer here and the other 9 months in San Francisco.  Eventually they moved to Minneapolis area but would still spend summers at the lake.  When I had kids, they spent a week almost every summer here.  It became the family cabin.  One of my younger brothers and his wife have built a cabin home next door and another brother and his partner bought a cabin across the lake.  No matter where we all live, this has been the stable place to call the summer home.

 Which brings me back to my Mom and the summer.  I am here now with her- giving her a full 7 weeks at the lake.  She would not be able to be here alone (or so we all decided.)   I thought it would be better for her to be here consistently, as she has a harder time than she use to adjusting to change.  I give her the medication every day, cook , and take her out.  I bring her to church so she can sing with the choir. When my two younger brothers and spouses are around, they cook dinners and take her out.  She is still very capable, but not.  She forgets things, what she wore,  where she went or what she ate.  She shares her old memories less and less.  She reads books- 5 so far (and large novels!) but can’t tell you what she read.  She put it this way, “When I am reading it I enjoy it, and sometimes can remember fractions of it, but I enjoy it at the moment”.  So wise.  Living and enjoying the moment.

 I AM in the sandwich generation.  I am caring for my Mom and still caring as always, for my adult children with a different level of needs.  And fitting in what I would love.

 It can be lonely here.

Sometimes I have a pity moment where I say “who is taking care of me?”  Everything I do is for other people.  Look what I have to do.

Then I realize what a gift I have.  I GET to be around my Mom and spend this precious time with her, I GET to help my kids and give an ear, and maybe a line of wisdom that they will hear.  I GET to coach others to find what they would love. I GET to share love with all.  I am blessed to have these gifts. I am doing what I would love.

 Maybe it’s not so lonely.

Having the awareness, and seeing a different perspective-  being in the sandwich generation is a gift, a blessing – and uniquely, special.


With Infinite Possibilities

Mary D.


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