Monday, April 24, 2006

Peanut Butter and Jelly or Tuna

Peanut Butter and Jelly or Tuna

When my kids were small we decided never to ask them what they wanted to eat. I mean we didn’t know a great deal about parenting but we did know that they had to eat. Anyway, rather than asking the question so many of us do, “What do you want to eat?” And getting the answer so many of us get. “I don’t know.” I thought it made more sense to offer them a choice of the things I felt like making and I knew they would eat.

The kids are now 20 and 34. (Burnett pictures to follow in a totally unrelated blob). I no longer have to worry about what they want to eat. But aspiring to keep my credentials current as a wonderful Jewish mother , I ask David the same question and he always says the same thing, “I don’t know. What do you want to eat?” So now you know the truth. While we appear to really have it together as professional individuals and a couple, we are totally dysfunctional when it comes to simple decision making. But that’s not what I wanted to blob about.

Sometimes I think I am the sandwich I asked my children to choose. When we were growing up did we ever think about our parents getting old. I don’t think so. Sure we thought they might die someday way off in the future but most of us didn’t think, “Well my mom/dad is going to get old so I will have to make decisions for them about their lives. No, we never thought out telephone conversations would begin with, “Put on your hearing aide, turn down the TV, and did you remember to take your pills. We never thought we would have to have a conversation that went like “Well mom, you can’t see, your reflexes aren’t good and you can’t drive anymore so here’s what we need to do…” Or, “You can’t be alone and I can’t be there, so here’s your peanut butter and jelly or tuna, i.e. live with someone in your house or go into assisted living.

My mom was one of eight children and until her sixth sibling died last year, they pretty much took care of each other. But now it’s just my mom and her 85 year old twin and while they love one another, (and care deeply), it manifests itself as a great deal of yelling and screaming. Not at each other really, but just because it is how they relate. While mom is healthy and lucid she still needs someone to be with her to make sure she takes her medication, turns off the gas, gets picked up if she trips… is safe. If she were 6 years old we would hire an Au Pair, but the US Government won’t OK a J-1 Visa for a senior au pair program. However, if someone wanted to start that kind of a foreign exchange program they could make a fortune – or more problems for the immigration department— not our problem.

What I have learned, anecdotally, is that because so many of my generation are what we nicely call “older parents”. That means we were exhausted from trying to keep up with toddlers and teenagers but we had a better sense of humor about it. Additionally, our parents are now healthier and living longer, so we are now taking care of our parents as well as our children and their children. And even if we are not caught in the sandwich, there are millions of us who are dealing with the issue of parents living longer and getting old instead of buried. I’m not whining. I’m grateful to have my mom and all the crap that goes with it—well maybe not grateful (and delighted hardly says it) but I do love the fact that I don’t have to go to Beth David Cemetery to share intimacies with her. And I love helping my kids to pursue their dreams and celebrate their accomplishments And, of course, that leads us to another subject; we need to think about our expectations of our children—but that’s another blob. . So are there answers for our sandwich generation? There are so many of us I can’t help but think there must be. In the meantime, egg salad, or grilled cheese? …We’re just sayin.

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