Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sandwiched

Like many of my contemporaries, I am part of a sandwich generation, simultaneously parenting young (and not-so-young) children while caring for the needs of aging parents.

I went home to central PA this week to visit with my family for the first time since Christmas. My little kids adore visiting their grandparents, and I look forward to stealing some hours to visit a couple of dear friends and their children.

It struck me, really struck me, how time is passing. I am no longer a young adult (duh). My parents are aging and struggling with illness. Balancing the needs of my children while visiting with them was enlightening.

My mother has always been (and considered ) a handsome woman. But the last 10 years have not been easy on her body. I really saw her with fresh eyes this week, as she needed to be helped out of the shower. This woman, whom I spent years hating, and still avoid at times, and who has defined so much of what I have become in spite of her, is old. She has mellowed a bit. She is overweight and on oxygen 100 percent of the time. I helped her put lotion on her back, and then her legs. She had beautiful legs, in her day. Due to Bowen's Disease (which is not usually malignant, but is in her case), she has sores all over her legs, as a result of too much sun, and arsenic poisoning. She also has developed an autoimmune disease, which has left her legs and arms covered in other sores and rough patches.  She has severe diabetes, and cares greatly for her feet. I rubbed lotion into her feet, taking the time to massage them for her. 

My father is adored by my 5 year old son. He never let go of "Papa George's hand and prattled on and on. My father is in the process of being tested for prostate cancer, and has moderate to severe dementia. He has survived aneurisms, accidents, heart attacks. Jude and him are a good pair. They talk to each other, but don't really care about the response, just needing a warm hand and a listening ear. Lucy climbed on his lap, and it brought tears to my eyes to see how much they love him and accept him as he is. That's not an easy task for the older girls, who dislike the dementia unit at the nursing home and are made a bit uneasy by the overly friendly overtures of the women patients. We took my dad out to Red Lobster, because Jude remembered how much Papa George loves it. It was a fun meal, and my dad had a great time.

It was hard to come home. My 14 year old was ready, after 4 days. She told me, "I know this is your home mom, but it's not mine anymore." That about broke my heart - I would move back in a heartbeat. I am homesick for the mountains for weeks after a visit. Happy Valley is a charmed little place, privileged, growing,  transforming. I miss my house there, my friends, Spring Creek, bike riding. I miss my friends still. But there are things I love about the Finger Lakes.

Being sandwiched means that when I took a vote on whether to stay another night or not, and I was the deciding vote, I put my own love for home aside and put my children's love for their home first. So here we are, back at the ranch, so to speak.

Next week starts a new chapter in my life, and I am a little anxious, but ready. The joys and sorrows of being in the sandwich generation will inform my compassion and love for those who share this journey.

2 comments:

Rachel said...

Hi Kelly,
This is a beautiful post. The image of you rubbing lotion on your mom's feet has been with me for days. Thank you for sharing this.

Rachel
ps. I found your blog through your signature line on a simplyhomeschooliing post, and enjoy it so much!

Kelly KH said...

Rachel, thank you so much for your comment! I hope we can meet face to face one of these days :).