Sandwiched in Boca
"The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been." Jawaharlal Nehru
I'm in sunny Boca Raton, Florida this week visiting my parents. Trust me, it's not a vacation. My folks are elderly but still independent. Yet whenever we're together, something happens. Our roles reverse and I become the parent.
If you have older parents, maybe you've experienced the same phenomenon. It's a little creepy, to tell the truth. But they've done so much for us it seems the least we can do is help them face old age as gracefully as possible.
My parents do just that. Despite advancing age and increasing ailments, they manage to live active, busy lives. They play bridge, attend concerts, go shopping, cook some meals, eat others at restaurants, travel, keep themselves busy.
They also take care of each other, especially since they live far away from their grown children. My mom's losing her sight, my dad his hearing. He forgets a few things, she loses a few things. He drives, she answers the phone. She makes him take his various meds, he tests her blood sugar.
They have their life down to a well-oiled routine. It's frankly inspiring to see old age done right. And yet.
They are declining. They get tired. Forgetful. Frustrated. Sometimes overwhelmed with the burden of caring for each other. And that's where I come in. When I get here--or they visit us in Philly--they cede all responsibility over to me.
Suddenly I'm doing the driving, the shopping, the cooking, the laundry, even the bills. I talk to their doctors. Make new appointments. Pick up prescriptions. Sweep up the crumbs, M&M's, tissues and other effluvia dropped in their wake. Make sure they rest in the afternoon. Referee arguments. See that their myriad needs are met.
It starts in the morning and doesn't end until I kiss them goodnight between 10 and 11 PM. At which time, frankly, I'm exhausted. It's like having little kids again.
In fact, that's it in a nutshell. Just when we Boomers are kissing our mostly grown kids goodbye and starting to enjoy our empty nests, they fill up again. With parents who require the same kind of attention.
There's a name for those of us facing that dual responsibility: the Sandwich Generation. Kids on one side. Parents on the other. Us in the middle.
Believe me, it's no picnic. But considering the alternative, I'll just keep swallowing it.
Labels: Friends and Family