Friday, June 5, 2009

Saddle...Not Sandwich

I am a part of what they call the "sandwich generation." I think it's more accurately described as the "saddle generation." I straddle a fissure between my aging, disabled parents and my young, energetic children, and, like negotiating a saddle for one who is newly accustomed, it is not always a comfortable place to be.

I'm travelling to Washington to visit my parents for the weekend. You'd think I was going for a month as far as my children are concerned. "Hug, Mommy, hug," baby-like from my six-year-old daughter as I get out of the car at the airport. Maybe she does it to work the guilt factor. "Why do you have to go, Mommy." says the other twin as we skip on the way to school.

"Grandma needs me," I say.

"But she's got Granddad. Can't he take her shopping?"

My son doesn't understand the extent of their disability. The perfect storm of co-dependent care.

My mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis about 20 years ago. After this, she met a wonderful man and they married, knowing that he'd signed on to help her up from the couch, a chair, the car. Her deteriorating mobility over time was less noticable as he did more things for her; she even struggled to do more and more for herself. I can't imagine the freedom of mobility slipping away even as I worked more and more at trying to regain it. Last year, my stepdad was diagnosed with dementia.

BOOM. We all know what the blow meant. As his memory falters, his ability to care for her in the same way is slowly ticking away.

This is not a sad story. They live in a fabulous nursing facility with 24-hour care and 4-star hotel-like surroundings. The facility is even green-designed for heaven's sake. It is Seattle after all. They play bridge, go on outings, eat with the other residents in a restaurant-style dining room.

But my mother is bored. She misses her children and grandchildren. Seems to be the most enjoyable thing for her to look forward to.

I'm excited to see her even though I'll be doing some regular everyday sort of tasks, the kind my brother usually handles but who will be given a break this weekend by my visit.

I hope to reconnect with my mom. She has wonderful memories from my childhood that she sees me recreating for my own children. I'm in the saddle with one foot planted firmly with my mom--relaxing, reminiscing, and the other foot back home--hearing about the end of the school year party that I'm going to miss.

Oh, to be in two places at one time...

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