Sitting in the recliner with a fresh cup of coffee, I’m trying to collect myself before round two begins. The grandgirls have just gone down for a nap and are not happy about it—they are vocalizing their disappointment at this recent turn of events. I hope they are not disturbing their mother, my daughter’s, rest.
Just three years ago, I slept at the hosptial bedside of my 94 year old grandmother in the last days of her life. My own mother, her daughter, was unable to come due to my father’s need for care from a recent heart attack and surgery. My aunt, Grandmother’s other daughter, was having surgery for cancer–it could not be delayed. My brother, Dean, and I gladly made care arrangements for our own families and made the trip from Northern Virginia to Columbia, SC to spend this time with the Grandmother who had so impacted our lives and the lives of our children. I was by her side caring for her most delicate needs for nearly a week and with her at her last breath. It is a time I will never regret and a story that will be shared in a future blogpost.
My eldest daughter, Helen, and her husband, Tyler, had come to visit Grandmother shortly before her final illness and tell her that they were expecting their first child, who would be given Grandmother’s name, Renva, to honor her and to thank her for her tremendous impact on their lives.
As I sit in the recliner now, three years later almost to the day, there is new meaning to “sandwich generation” floating in my head. That same daughter, three years later, is expecting her third child—and due to a placenta that has not fully attached, has been on bedrest for 3 weeks, and, we have just discovered, will have to continue at least another 4, if not more.
Days run together—three in VA caring for my husband and the 3 daughters still at home, four in DE caring for my eldest daughter and her young family. Days in VA include helping my own parents living in a retirement community—my dad still recovering from an accident exactly one year ago which left him totally paralyzed—it has been a slow road back, but now he gets around with a walker and wheelchair and has recovered most—though not all—use of his hands. He is limited; in body only, certainly not in spirit. My mother is tired but will never give up. It’s not in her to quit even though she has begun to suffer from rosacea in her eyes—a painful condition that is attempting to put limitations on her quality of life that she simply rejects. Go mom! From the time of the accident—again for a future blogpost—his care has been a family affair. This man who always cared for us now needs care, and that is not easy for him—or the caregivers.
At 50, I am part of a group of people who find themselves caring for elderly parents—even grandparents—while also helping grown and not-grown children—and their children. Up to 5 generations may need us at one time. And multiple members of each of those generations. For myself, it is now down to 4 generations. Generation 1 includes my parents and my mother-in-law (who absolutely refuses to consider a retirement plan—or to downsize from her two full size homes—including one on a bay in another state. She is still struggling to recover from knee replacement surgery that nearly killed her this past summer due to MRSA contracted during the surgery and requires frequent, often immediate, help.
Generation 2 includes my husband who suffers from debilitating migraines, and 3 of my six daughters who are still under roof in VA. Sheila, looking at colleges and with a serious suitor, is my right arm. A mysterious series of neurological symptoms that now seem to include migraines, have me playing medical detective once again though Sheila rarely complains and somehow pushes through. The only other driver at home during the day, she fills in wherever needed—but she is still finishing high school and working to publish her first novel, doing illustrations for a publishing company and just trying to enjoy life as a teen before those days are gone—I hate putting more and more responsibility on her, but she carries it well and sometimes I just have to. Shannon, 14 and Star, 10 have been invaluable help—all three girls take turns traveling with me to DE (and at least once, due to a crisis, Sheila and Shannon traveling without me) to help care for their eldest sister.
Generation 3 includes my eldest Helen, who is on bedrest, and her husband Tyler. He is amazing. For such a young man, he has great maturity and has dealt with what could be a horrendously difficult situation with grace. Linzy, newly graduated from college and married this past summer now lives in Chicago with her seminary student husband, Dan. Another blessing from God, he loves my daughter as Christ loves the Church—sacrificially and completely. While I miss her desperately, I know that she is where she belongs and God is blessing them and her musical gifting with opportunities in her new home far from the CA she loved for the last 4 years. Cassidy, 19, is in Ireland for six months on an extended mission trip. A semester off from college has provided for an enormous time of growth—and parenting an adult daughter across an ocean is probably fodder for yet another post!
Generation 4 is made up of my grandgirls and as yet unborn grandbaby that has led to this new place of caregiver – parenting my daughter who is a parent and grandparenting my daughter’s children on a day to day basis. This is a new place in life. One I didn’t see coming.
Mommy 101 Mid-Term Exam: Leaving a Generation to their Own Devices for 3 weeks…
As often happens, I write in spits and spurts, with life simply taking over all available windows of time. It’s a new day…for now. I continue this post sitting in Newark Int’l Airport, awaiting a connecting flight to take me to Belfast to visit my daughter who has been there since February and spend nearly 3 weeks traveling with her. This has opened another area of parenting—preparing my family and home to function without the mom for an extended period. The days leading up to this trip were filled with, “I’m going to miss you so much!’s” and “What are we going to do without you?’s” Honestly, I’m a little worried.
Do I want them to stumble around and find each day difficult—missing their mother desperately and counting the days until my return? Or do I want them to have a wonderful time, manage the household with ease and prove they can manage just fine…without…me? Either way I win—or do I? Really, this is kind of like a final exam for me in some ways—will they eat healthy meals they have cooked (granted I cheated just a tad by doing a lot of “freezer cooking” ahead and stocking the pantry), keep the house relatively clean? When I get home will I find they created mountains of laundry, and there are hoardes of roaming dust bunnies threatening anyone who dares to enter a room with hard floors? Will the dog be skinny? Will I open the fridge and have to fight off alien leftovers that have evolved into science experiments? Will my shoes stick to the kitchen floor? Will my neighbors greet me with an angry frown or a smiling wave? What if there’s a “condemned” sign on the front door? Scary thoughts for a career wife and mom.
As a full-time homeschooling mom for well over 20 years, I have always thought a major portion of my job was to work myself OUT of a job…so how am I doing? Guess these next 3 weeks will begin to tell the tale. It will be my choice how to react to whatever deficiencies and training failures arise–whether to pout and get angry at them—really, at myself—or approach it as we should approach all tests—to see what we’ve learned and see what areas we need to go back and review or simply learn for the first time. Will I look at them as MY deficiencies—MY fault—MY lack of training them properly? How many times did I do something myself because it was faster and more efficient and I wanted it “just so” – and therefore did not ever actually train them? Did they “catch” anything from watching? Judging by the tower of wet towels on their bathroom floor this morning…I’m nervous.
Something hit me on the way to the airport. When all is said and done, my girls love me—the ones at home want me to stay—the ones living away want me to come. It’s mind-blowing–they want to spend time with their mom—even as teenagers! We read together, play together, work together, watch Dr. Who together (that’s new)—we enjoy hanging out together. While it’s important that they know how to cook a meal at some point—I’ll take the relationship over the clean floors anyday. Now if I can just remember that if I walk in the door in 3 weeks and find new forms of life growing in the carpet…