Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Sandwich Generation

Two parts bread. One part filling.

My parents are one of the breads. My husband and children are the other.

I am the filling.


Who is the sandwich generation? We are the ones old enough to have aging parents and young enough to have small children at home.

Members of the sandwich generation are often torn and stressed. We deal with all kinds of conflicted emotions and we feel stretched between loyalties. In my case, one of my loyalties is a 6-hour drive away, while my other loyalties keep me very active and busy day to day right here at home.

I've gone through this for years. Things got especially difficult as my father's Parkinson's Disease progressed rapidly right as we moved into our new house and started our business. He fell on Thanksgiving Day, advancing him firmly into stage 5 Parkinson's. Within a little over a month, he would be dead.

I remember wrestling with what to do and how to do it. How could I be both there and here at the same time? Emotionally, I needed to be in MA with him. Financially, I needed to be in PA with our new business. And I couldn't care less about money. Money doesn't mean more than people, but yet, we were completely strapped at that point. Cash poor. Even our pathetic and meager retirement savings was depleted in order to start our business. So we were poor and incredibly behind on saving for retirement (as all physicians are, truth be told).

I remember feeling like I could use a clone of myself. To be there. To be here.


I cried on the phone yesterday all the way to skating lessons. My mom told me not to cry in front of the children. Too late. All it took was my mom asking me, over the phone, how I was doing (I'd already asked her) and I broke down and sobbed, "I'm torn!" I had spent the past several days trying to figure out how to do it all -- work, school, lessons, home stuff, obligations . . . and also be with my mother.

My mom is having a heart procedure done today. It's benign enough, I know. Well, as benign as anything to do with the heart can be, I suppose. But I would like to be up there with her. I would like her to have her daughter with her. It smarts even more now that my Dad is gone and she is alone. I don't want her to be alone today.

And I also want to be here with my children as they attend their lessons and their wrap-up party celebrating their past year at the YMCA. And here with my husband as he works tomorrow. I want to be here caring for our children as he takes call this weekend. I have 5 sessions today. And I am channeling all the strength I can muster to stay present and focused and helpful. To do my job well.

We have looked at every possible combination to get up there: train, automobile, one day, two days, all of us, some of us, hotel, my mom's condo. What's the best thing to do? So, I sleep restlessly, wake up exhausted, and stand frozen in inaction.

My mom tells me not to worry. I don't want to upset her with my own worries. I feel badly for breaking down on the phone yesterday. I didn't mean to. She doesn't need to do anything but focus on the task at hand. I just wish I were there with her while she did so.

I know it's nothing and can hardly wait for the doctor's call this afternoon telling us she's fine, better even. I know she'll feel better after the procedure. I can hardly wait to see her feeling so good.

But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared. I've already lost one parent. And I'm absolutely clinging to the one I have left.

I'm way too young for this. But just old enough, I guess, to be a frightened, stressed out filling between two beautiful pieces of bread.


bythelbs said...

I totally get you here. A few years ago my dad had a scooter accident (a Razor scooter--he was riding to work) and broke his hip. I freaked out when my stepmother called about it, just dissolving into a complete mess of tears over a broken hip. I can only imagine what a heart procedure (even a routine/benign one) would do to me.

I'm 36 years old, but I'm not ready to be an orphan.

Hugs to you, prayers for your mom.

Lindsay said...

Gosh! I hope that you feel better! You are awesome. Talk to you soon!

the emily said...

Boy do I know how you feel. As my mom was going through surgery and we were worried about the cancer spreading I was 8 month pregnant and there was literally NOTHING I could do. Then last week my dad went out of town and my mom decides to schedule her reconstructive surgery while he's gone! I mean come ON! I have an 8 week old baby! Luckily her surgery was on Thursday so I was able to go down and stay through the weekend with her and cook and that sort of thing so she wouldn't be alone. But for the first surgery...I could do nothing and it felt so awful. I was glad I could be there this time. I hope everything goes well with your mom, and I hope you get to be there "next time". NOT that she'll need a next time, I just mean the next time she needs you, I hope you can be there with her, for both of your sakes.

Jimmy said...

I like that you care so much that you just want to be there, even if your mom thinks it's not a big deal. I know this can sound trite, but in all honesty, I've said a little prayer for you and your mom.

Rebecca said...

The offer is still open if you need help with the kids or anything else!

Vivian said...

Sorry I didn't get to talk to you last night. It Is hard to worry about parents And kids. Just wait until you add grandkids! 3 generations of worry and prayers:)
Glad things went well for your mom. She is blessed to have a daughter who cares so much.

Heather Mundell said...

Although I'm not in your same situation, I can relate to what you're saying and the feelings you're having. Wow - torn is right.

My parents are both still living, but they are divorced and both live alone. In the past year or so they have each needed help in new ways, and my brother and I have been able to provide that, but only because to the support of an extended network of people.

And I did miss a couple of situations/events with my kids as a result of being 1800 miles away with my dad or with my mom during a health situation. It's really, really hard to be torn.

Thanks for sharing.

Heather Mundell

Melanie said...

I'm so sorry, Stacy - I wish I could help. I did the same thing (but with my grandma). I was the only one up here that could care for her, and Carlie had just turned 1, so I left my sweet husband every day for hours during schooling, etc. for months to just BE with her and Grandpa. It was a huge sacrifice for Jeff, but now, 8 years later (and Grandma's gone), my grandpa still cries every time he sees me because of what I did. Moms are even closer, and I can't imagine the sacrifices I would make to be with her... I know you'll do the right thing and things will work out, if you're just praying for Heavenly Father's help. You're going to do great. I'll be praying for you. =)

Boquinha said...

Thanks, everyone. The good news is her heart is fine! The tricky news is . . . then what is giving her shortness of breath? It's looking hopeful that it's something minor and pulmonary that something like an inhaler would help. Fingers crossed.

Yes, lbs, you TOTALLY get it. I'm 36 years old and way too young to be an orphan.

Thanks, Lindsay.

Emily, it's so frustrating, isn't it! I hold out hope that she may eventually move down here. That would be much easier. How is your mom doing? She probably loved having you and Zoe with her.

Jimmy, not trite at all. Have I mentioned in a while how much I appreciate you and your comments?

Thanks, Rebecca! (But aren't you in NYC this weekend?) :P

Thanks for calling, Vivian. I was in the clinic until late yesterday. I think I didn't realize how worried I was until finding out that she was okay. After I heard that she was okay, all of a sudden I felt awake and hungry. After I ate and sat for a while, I felt VERY tired. I think I was tired emotionally! And running on adrenaline apparently.

Heather, welcome and thank you for your comment! I imagine it would be extra hard dealing with divorced parents, because instead of having worry about one household of two people, it's worry about 2 single people in separate households, making it even more to worry about! Sounds like you're dealing with distance, too. I think that makes it especially difficult. Thank you so much for sharing with me, too. I took a look at your blog and I think it's great what you're doing. I'm a counselor, so I really appreciate many of the skills you've got listed on there. Great stuff.

Thanks, Melanie. I think the distance makes it especially tricky, I really do. That's neat that you could be close like that for your grandma and grandpa. What a special thing. Nice to hear from you!

Chelle said...

Oh how I love this post...I'm feeling sandwiched myself yet I hadn't ever put it into words like you did. I'm so glad to hear the surgery for your mom went well, but I know it's unnerving and unsettling to not know what's causing problems...and to be separated by distance. I hope things get figured out for her, and I wish I could offer some comforting words to you, but I am at a loss.

I'm also hoping that my parents move closer to us - the sooner the better. Five hours is too far, yet today I feel like our basement isn't sufficient enough. My dad is having heart surgery at this moment, at the hospital just minutes away from my house, and I should be there...with my mom...waiting, supporting. Instead, I'm at home with a napping toddler who wouldn't survive five minutes in that surgery waiting room. And how can I be a help when my dad comes out of surgery with a demanding, loud, energetic two-year old underfoot? I can't. So here I sit, waiting for a phone call. Feeling like they might as well be five hours away for all the support I'm lending today. Crap! Some days, some things just really suck.

Boquinha said...

Oh Rachelle, I'm so sorry! Will your dad be resting post-op at your house? That's like a 6-week recovery, so that'll be nice to have him there (instead of 5 hours away!). My Dad has had that surgery (and so had my brother!) and it was so stressful!! For that reason, too, I'm also extra relieved that my Mom's heart is good. I would've been really nervous about my own health had it been her heart.

I wish I could offer comforting words, too. Hopefully by now, Jared has gotten home to the girls and you've been able to go be with your mom and dad. I hope that by now you've received good news. Your dad will feel so much better after he recovers--that's the wonder of the surgery. Hang in there, my friend. I hope, hope, hope good news for you soon.

Boquinha said...

P.S. I know the plan has always been for them to move in with you guys. When are they planning to do that? We have several friends here who have parents living with them/near them/etc. and it makes such a difference. You and they (and the girls!) will love it.

Jenny said...

What a beautiful post, Stacy. I'm glad your mom is doing well...and glad you're my friend.

J Fo said...

Most of the time sandwiches are fun and tasty...but this one gives me heartburn. Sorry for the stress. You can always call me if you need to vent or just talk. Glad she's ok!

Boquinha said...

Thank you, Jenny. I'm glad you're my friend, too. :)

Jess, heartburn indeed. And you know I'm happy to take you up on phone call offers now and then! :)