Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sandwich Generation Status Realized

They tell you that it happens eventually in your life but I really thought it wasn't going to happen to me, well at least not so soon. Truthfully, it wasn't that it happened so soon as I didn't want it to happen. I have become the coldcuts in a sandwich. Well maybe not coldcuts. Personally I prefer peanutbutter and jelly sandwiches or the occasional shrimp salad sandwich (yes, yes violates Jewish dietary laws, blahblahbalh..well I am not that good of a Jew apparently).

What I didn't expect was for my parents to get so old so quickly. OK it wasn't so quick. They didn't hop into a timemachine and propel themselves into the future. They aged as we all age. We all get older, except for me of course, I am sill the same as I was when I got married at 21. Well, not totally the same, I do have a giving-birth and now menopausal-pooch, where my flat belly used to be and a saggy tuchas (exercise notwithstanding), which used to look really good in jeans.

We are visiting my parents, where else, but in Florida. Yes in a nice 55-year-and older gated community in one of those southern Florida towns that originally were created for all the elderly ethnic New Yorkers who flocked to the Sunshine State. I have to tell you, every development looks the same. No matter where you go. And yes, there is a Walgreen's pharmacy on every corner. Which by the way is always full of the elderly at any time of day. In fact hubby went to run an errand and returned adamant about not retiring to Florida. "Wherever you go, everyone is old," he lamented. (OK that is an oversimplification, but you get the general idea.)

But what threw me for a loop was that suddenly my parents looked really old. They have that air of elderly about them too. They move slow, the eat slow and I am certain they drive slow too, which is not a bad thing when your reflexes are reduced. In fact I mentioned to hubby that my mother looks like her mother did at this age.

I have to admit that I now do feel a huge amount of guilt. How could I have not noticed that they were getting older? How could I have truly missed all the warning signs? How could I have been so self-interested to not notice that my parents were not the people of my youth any longer? How selfish could I have been?  Please don't tell me about all the issues on my plate with the boys. Truth be told, I just didn't want to deal with more stress, but you know, I too need to take a step back and grow up.

There are times in your life that you need to take a moment and reflect on what you do and you fail to do as a human being. I tell people that we can't allow autism to become the entirety of our world. We need to keep a handle on what is and is not happening around us too. But as I looked to politics, the economy and even fashion and music I failed to notice some issues even closer to home. I need to take the time to make sure that my parents are OK and stop taking their word for it.

I already talked to hubby about this issue and told him that I will need to start coming to visit them for long weekends. I know that it will give me concern to leave the boys and hubby with hubby having to deal with boys, home and work for a few days, but that is my issue and not my men's. Knowing the boys they will be happy to see me gone for a few days. Less nagging and hovering.

Hubby has told me numerous times over the years, don't trust anyone but your own eyesight and what you see. I suppose I should have listened to him. My mother kept telling me they are fine and they are fine. They are just truly old and hopefully they will be around to join the ranks of the unbelievably Methuselah old.

I think one of the things that gave me comfort in not doting on them the way I should have, was that my mother kept telling me not to come. Even when she was in the hospital she told me not to come. (Long story wrote about it way back.) I listened because I didn't want to upset her and cause her anxiety with her being sick. I know now I should have used my own common sense and gotten on an airplane. (Like hubby told me at the time.) 

I think I also know what my mother was doing. She was protecting me. She knows what I do have on my plate with the boys, and the horrible economic situation in which we found ourselves and will now take years and years to recover from. (Who else should I confide in but my mother.) She was being my mother and not wanting to add to my stress. I guess you never truly stop mothering your children. And me being the moron that I was, actually listened to her. I also think in the back of my head it was easier for me to not realize that they truly are in need of just a little bit of oversight, not much yet, but some. It's more that I want to see how they look. I want to see that they look like they have been eating right and that their clothes fit right and that the house is in good order. (Which it all is by the way).

Luckily I figured out that I was being a schmuck way before there was a real tragedy. Make sure you don't do what I do, ignoring the reality. Keep eyesight tabs on your parents. I did call my parents everyday, sometimes more than once if I didn't like how a conversation went and sadly I decided that that was sufficient. I also somehow had convinced myself that my parents were the same that they were in the 50s. But I am in my 50s so how could they be? Is it just a child's refusal to acknowledge the inevitable with their parents? Is it a child's refusal to see their once strong parents being so vulnerable?  For me I am sure it was a combination of every reason and excuse out there. Shame on me. I suppose I need to stop making fun of others who refuse to deal with the real issues in their midsts.

I have come to a conclusion. It is time for me to be the grown-up that I am and realize that my parents are elderly and that I am not going to take their word that everything is AOK anymore. So I have joined the ranks of the sandwich generation. If I am truly lucky it will be this way for decades to come.

Until next time,