They used to call us the sandwich generation. I call us the Panini generation. We are often squeezed between our children (for some, grandchildren) parents and siblings. After raising three children (not that you are ever done) and living through my mother-in-law’s five year struggle with ovarian cancer, and my father’s stroke and then eventual death 17 years later, and my father-in- law’s senior issues and my mother’s long distance issues and my 50-year-old handicapped brother, I am finally an empty nester for the first time in 30 years.
Of course that may change at any moment. There have already been times when I thought we would have an empty nest and then someone needed to come back for various reasons and periods of time. So I embrace my inner Buddha and say, “today, just today” and I am enjoying each day when I leave the house and return to it the way I left it.
We are all one phone call away from a major life change. I was a major “planner” when I was younger and now I still plan but I have had to accept that we can only plan so much. “Man plans and God laughs.” I told my financial advisor, just tell me when I am going to die and I can plan the rest. But it doesn’t work that way.
Today I am leaving a visit with my mother and on a plane back to my office and tonight I have to research helping my brother buy a new computer. He uses it to see the weather and to email all of us in his phonetic English (that we enjoy decoding). He sends emails to report the weather or ask if I got his voicemail message.
I love my family very much, I believe that it’s what life is all about–but honestly my husband and girlfiends ground me when the “panini press” is too much. I remind myself that helping my brother buy a computer is a “good problem” -not the same as dealing with hospice. But even when we dealt with intensive care and hospice, we held on to our sense of humor. My dear friends just visited their dying father in the nursing home and they sang to him and giggled. No matter which issue de jour is happening, we do it all because those are our values and that is who I am. More important, that is who I choose to be.
My kids know that taking care of their uncle or their grandparents is part of life and I am proud of that.
Today is a great day!