Part 1 When Do You Become Sandwiched?
Being a part of the “Sandwich Generation” creeps up on you slowly. Maybe your kids are self-sufficient and your parents are doing fine on their own. You may have a few wonderful years as “empty-nesters” before your official name category changes. During this time, you should get to know your husband again. After raising the kids, we sometimes forget to be husband and wife instead of Mom and Dad. What were all those wonderful things that drew you to your husband in the first place? Look for and appreciate those reasons once more, because you are going to really need each other when you get “sandwiched.”
Here’s how it happened to me. Suddenly we were thrilled to find out that we would be grandparents! I wondered what other grandparents were so hyped up about until it happened to me. From the moment I saw and held my first grandchild, I was hooked for life. She stole my heart and so have the three that have followed her. Each is precious in his or her own way. We wanted to be around them as much as possible and were delighted to be asked to babysit. We took on the challenge. We laid down the bottom slice eagerly.
Then before our first grandchild was even six months old, Paul’s mom began to need extra care. She was turning 90 years old and we had a July birthday party for her with the whole family. During that day, she had a serious talk with Paul.
“I guess when I am old,” she said, “you’ll put me in a nursing home.”
“Not if you’d rather move in with one of us.”
“I might do that.”
“Do you want to live with me and Mary?”
“Yes,” she answered. “I think I’d like that.”
Paul told me about the conversation after the party was over. I agreed to join the challenge. Both of my parents were already gone, and I loved my mother-in-law dearly. We began to look at our house and make some changes that would allow her to move around freely. She had terrible arthritis and used a walker. We didn’t have an attached garage for getting her in and out of a car easily, so we added one that Fall. In looking back, our house was better equipped than any of Paul’s siblings’ homes for a person with a walker. We added hand rails to get in and out of doorways easier. We even changed our bathtub to a walk-in shower and put in a raised toilet with rails that she would use someday.
By the time the Thanksgiving season came around, Paul’s mom, Anna, could not climb the steps to get in and out of the two doors to her own house. She was almost home-bound with our niece bringing over food every day. Then the call came that Anna was sick and needed to be in the hospital. She had pneumonia and insurance would not pay for enough days in the hospital for her to completely recover. She was sent to a local nursing home for a few days to finish out her antibiotics and to get stronger. She wanted to go to our house immediately, but she was so weak she could not walk. Paul encouraged her by saying that as soon as she could get herself back and forth to the bathroom; he would take her to our house.
We called for a hospital bed to be brought to our home, picked up her clothes, dresser, and a few favorite pictures to hang on the wall from her old house, and prepared for her arrival. That’s when we got “sandwiched.”
The people who sandwiched us in are those we love the best. With a parent on top and grand-kids on the bottom, we live in a special world that others who are not in this situation do not understand. There are many times we cannot accept invitations to do and go like we once did, but our life is full and rewarding. That is mostly because of the guidance and peace we get from the one who is in control of it all; Jesus. Did you know Jesus understands being “sandwiched?” On the cross, he made provisions for his mother. He asked the disciple John to take her into his home and to treat her as his own mother. He sent the Holy Spirit to take care of his children and future children, even Mary Wilkinson, because he didn’t want to leave us alone.
My first grandchild is now six years old and Anna is 96. We still babysit our grand-kids several days a week and look after Paul’s mom. Besides that, Paul has a job as a dedicated County Commissioner and I am a published children’s book author. In future posts I will give you some suggestions for staying sane in the “Sandwich Generation” and being grateful for it. I’ll give you tips for finding help with your aging parents when you need them. Remember, parents don’t last forever and grandchildren grow up too fast. Just like every other hard thing in life, it doesn’t last, but we can survive it with joy and peace if we have the right attitude. I like to think that being “sandwiched” is like being surrounded by love.