Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Sandwich Generation

Mollie writes:

Yep, that's us, fellow boomers - the sandwich generation. My husband, aged 61, and myself, age 58, are members of a new social phenomena. Our parents married in the 40's, had kids in the 50's and 60's, and serious gracious thanks to God, are living or have lived into their old age longer than any of us predicted.

My father was the first to pass, he died at at almost 80 (79 teetering on 80). He had battled a number of health issues, mainly heart disease and diabetes, and had undergone multiple heart 'procedures' which both lengthened his life and took its own toll.

I was not of much help. I DID spend every morning on the phone with him, beginning several months before he died. We visited frequently, but we were living on Kidney Island and were also dealing with other issues - including kids in college, the military, and our remaining parents' health issues.

Tends to keep a person strained.

Within two years of my father's death, my mother passed after dealing with Parkinson's Disease. Her death was also prolonged, and although I couldn't move in with her to tend to her (remember I have MS and some days can barely potty myself). I did call her on the phone ALMOST daily, visited her frequently and did the occasional housekeeping chore (laundry, anyone?). But my two sisters were her primary caretakers during her dying process.

This did not happen in a vacuum. Our oldest was being regularly deployed to the Middle East, and our youngest had graduated from college and was looking for work. Balancing this with aging parents who need help with everyday matters is hard at best, and even more difficult while dealing with a degenerative disease.

After my mom passed, my husband's parents, who had been in good health until the early 2000's, began to decline rapidly. John's mother was also dealing with Parkinson's disease and his father, in his 90's by then, was simply (?) dealing with a body that was tiring out. When we lived in the Portland Metropolitan area, we were able to travel to Seaside to attend to their more trivial needs (gutter cleaning, gardening, etc). But once my husband retired, and with me dealing with MS, we moved to a more temperate climate. Peter was still frequently deployed and Roger was getting married and we had parent/children issues once again.

My father-in-law died when he was 93, in late 2009. Roger was a newly-wed, Peter was in the Middle East, I was dealing with liver problems related to interferon use, shingles (ocular and very painful), kidney stones (even more painful) and MS. John was dealing with his "Factor V Leiden" a genetic mutation that causes his blood to clot, ultimately tossing embolisms. He will take blood thinners for this the rest of his life, but his blood work at this time was through the ceiling.

This wasn't an easy time for any of us. Our only happy event was having Roger and Joy marry. Thanks to this, I continued to believe that there is a God in heaven and that He really didn't hate me.

After John's dad passed, John's family had to make tough decisions about how to care for their mother. Ultimately, they found a very good residence for her. It's an alternative to Assisted Living, and while expensive, couldn't be better.

Now, don't jump off the bridge just yet. I have it on good authority (meaning all my +60 year old friends) that this is actually the norm. There is a brief time in your lives where you are relatively care free - and that's your young adulthood - before the kids. But once we had children, our lives became the most wonderful roller-coaster - and still is.

As of today, Peter is newly home from his latest deployment. Roger and Joy are on the verge of their second anniversary - and John and I are still in love with Joy, almost as much as Roger. My garden is weedy, my toenails need clipping, I need my uni-brow waxed and there's dishes souring in the sink. My husband's mother is in a good place, where she is safe and comfortable.

Maybe this time isn't so bad at all . . .

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