Best of Cool Mom: Sandwich Generation

In my tribute to Dad’s Week I revist one that is mixed with pain for me. It’s about being the sandwich generation.  Never made more clear to me than when I took my Dad and my stepson to a movie.  I picked Iron Man for Oliver, but had to follow my Dad out of the theater when he went to the bathroom, lest he get lost.  He did.  Or when I had to skip a visit to my Dad, which made me feel so guilty, because Rex had a fever.

Problems I still wish I had.  I don’t know if any adult child feels like they do enough for an ailing parent. Except for the ones that become full time caregivers, which I know was not in my wheelhouse. Feeling less sandwiched now, but a pat on the back to those who feeling like a meat filling.

TV Hospital versus Real life hospital

I’ve mentioned before about my dad’s declining health.  Well, it seems like it’s taken another step down.  Imagine a terraced yard.  Just when I get use to the view from one level, and it’s short comings, comes another step down.  Soon I will be in the street run over by traffic.

My dad has dementia.  And we decided assisted living was best for him 3 years ago, he was still pretty with it, but we didn’t want him to be alone.  I would take him out once a week for a meal or a movie.  Not a full life, but okay.  Then not only did he drop down more, so did I.  Madoff and a new baby made my weekly visits bi weekly.  And he was now using a walker, I couldn’t fit a walker and stroller in the car at the same time so I had to figure that in, and frankly, I was just more stressed, and sometimes visiting him was stressful.

Little did I know that would seem like the golden days.  In the last month he has been in the hospital twice.  Honestly, for nothing serious.  But, the first visit, combined with a change in meds pushed him further away from us.

Today I saw my dad and he said, “where are my girls?”  Meaning his daughters.  I told him I was here and that my sister’s would see him on another day.

Then I said, “you know who I am don’t you?”

His face lost some of the anxious mask he wears now, almost a little expression like his old self.

“I do, but why don’t you remind me.”

“I’m Daphne, I’m your daughter.”  And my heart broke a little.

Then he gripped my hands so tight.

“who am I forgetting?”

I named everyone in our family.  He long ago told me that when he is flying at take off he always recites the names of my mom and myself and my sisters like the Holy Trinity.  It was his prayer for our safety and for his.  I told him we are all okay.

“you are okay dad”, knowing that’s a lie.  The care giver he was with was someone my dad had told me about several times, he liked him, but now he didn’t see him.  I told him he was safe and that I would come again.

At one point when he looked hard into my eyes I saw a montage like a movie of my dad through my life.  A slim, well dressed, well coiffed man in the early ’70’s, more stout but still charming in the ’80’s. joyful at my wedding and even a few months ago at my home for his birthday.  I was searching for what was similar now. My father is a flawed man.  And has not led an exemplary life, but we could all be guaranteed that my dad made the biggest fuss over us.  He loved seeing his daughters.  A month ago he grabbed for Rex, trying to kiss him as Rex squirmed away from the non parent hands.  Now, he barely registered his presence.  Only a few weeks ago dad would have exclaimed, “look at you my boy!”

I know many others have gone through this.  And I guess it’s my turn, my families turn.  But, it totally blows.

This vlog was inspired by his most trip to the ER.

Sandwich Generation Part 206

One of those things that 22-year-old moms are less likely to face: do you take your baby when visiting your parent in assisted living? My father is still mentally with it but needs help, so a couple of years ago we decided it was best for him to be in assisted living. Many are grim or super expensive. The one we found that hit the sweet spot of human decency is about 20 miles from me.

I use to try to see him every week, but since Rex (well, since towards the end of the real uncomfortable part of pregnancy) my goal is more like every two weeks. So, here is one of the issues, do I take my kids or not? Up until recently Vivien was fine with visiting a-little- too- leisure- village.  But lately when I say “Do you want to see Papa?”  “No” is usually the answer. I don’t blame her since many of the people there are pretty out of it.  But when she would visit, it was like a light switch had gone off in their brains.

“Oh, a life force!” She used to sit on the laps of people in wheelchairs without a thought. Now, she has thoughts, and it’s “I would rather go to the park.”

Okay, so Rex and I could go when she is in school. (Timing the traffic is very important in LA) But like young Viv, Rex HATES the car. But my dad LOVES seeing his little grandson… not to mention how happy the other old folks get at seeing a young child.

Am I willing to cause my offspring discomfort to bring a few moments of joy to some infirmed oldies? Yes, sometimes I am. And sometimes there is no choice.

Today was that day. Rex, asleep in his car seat, and I went to visit my dad. I used to take my dad out more, but now that I once again have a stroller in my trunk, it’s pretty tough to get my dad’s walker in there as well.

My dad’s room faces a garden patio, which was a big selling point for us when we placed him there. We sat on the patio, and the folks who are with it cooed at Rex and rubbed his toes. The ones I call “pre-chew Charlies” didn’t seem to know whether Rex was there or a meteor had landed next to them.

When I allowed one sweet older gal to rub Rex’s toes, my dad came charging over with a enraged look on his face. When we walked away he said, “I was afraid you were going to let that lady hold him.” I couldn’t say to him, no, dad, but I did want to throw a little joy in the ladies day and let her touch the yummy baby skin.

To another lady, who is not too together anymore, who was reaching for Rex, my normally social, ladies man dad said, “He doesn’t have time for you.”

He liked introducing Rex to the staff. I think assisted living is like high school or college, but the status is a little different. In this world, it’s not new sneakers or a car but warm, soft skinned people who belong to you and who come to visit you.

Rex fell asleep on the way home, but as we got closer he woke up and cried and cried. I felt bad putting him though it, and I told him he made a lot of people happy today… that is if they remember it.

Pee Plus Time Equals Comedy

As I was working on an essay about using humor in your home for Parent & Child magazine today, I had one of my suggestions tested. Today I was the filling of the sandwich… as in, the sandwich generation. Vivien is being toilet-trained, and since it was my dad’s 80th birthday, he spent the night at my house. We had a great party for him the night before, but I didn’t want him to wake up in assisted living, away from kin.

Funny Face-1
Creative Commons License photo credit: Tansan

Well, just because I’m on TV doesn’t mean I don’t spend my mornings cleaning up the urine of my many loved ones from the carpet or couch. I wrote in my essay that moms don’t have time to turn the tragedy into comedy. You have to go right to the comedy. As I scrubbed my hallway carpet – the most expensive carpet I have ever bought – I initially found this hard to do. Then I had my half-cup of coffee and the old funny bone started firing up. Also, I got some perspective, thinking of people in their own real tragedies. So what’s a little pee between loved ones?

Senior Moments

Well another episode for my “Sandwich Generation,” vlog. My dad went back into the hospital. I broke him out already as it turned out not being serious. I was noticing the change in my reaction and behavior to this “Health Emergency” as opposed to 18 months ago when his health first hit the skids. (this picture is from right before his decline) Back then, the moment something occurred involving my dad’s health the muscles on my back and neck would get as taut as the cables on a bridge. It was all I could do to focus on Vivien, who was farmed out quite a bit to other caregivers as I raced around town for my dad, or made calls on his behalf.

This time, I took a deep breath, more calmly assessed the situation, and was again reminded how grateful I am that I am not an only child.  My sisters, mom and brother-in-law Kevin, have all pitched in for my dad over the last couple of years.  Before if I was more involved with my dad one day I might get resentful, now I know we all take our turns. I have it down.

I know how to be sweet as honey to the nurses—“HOW THEY DO THEIR JOB I DON’T KNOW.”  I also know when to be direct and take notes when speaking with the doctors. Now when we speak to doctors we only have one family member talk to them and then have a telephone chain explaining the conversation with the rest of the family.

This go around, before I went to the hospital for the second day of this health emergency, I worked out and got my nails done. Giving over my life to health issues doesn’t seem to be a winning formula for me, or my life.

The part I can’t get use to is seeing my father so diminished. I can’t get use to the crazy guy in the hospital room next to him who WOULD NOT STOP SCREAMING. I had a flash of understanding elderly abuse. I can’t get use to being that close to my father’s personal self and then having to say to my dad lying in his hospital gown, “Hey dad, cover the franks and beans will you?” I’m not use to the smells, when I drop my dad back at his assisted living “home” almost gagging at the smell in his bathroom, “um, excuse me, can someone please come and clean this place?”

The thing about it is, I don’t want to get use to it.

Going to the Movies

Remember when going to the movies was fun? Yeah, I barely do as well. When Vivien was a newborn I could take her, but now it’s totally not possible. And then there are the competing interests, what a 14 year old wants to see is different than what I or my elderly dad might want to see. But, one day I decided to try and please everyone and we all headed to the movies. Since my dad has difficulty walking and is eating himself toward a stroke, going to a movie is one of the few activities that make sense for him. I may never be the same.

Sandwich Generation

There’s the old adage that tragedy plus time equals comedy. I’m not far enough away from the subject of being a mom and having an aged parent to make this a big knee slapper, but I think there are a couple of chuckles. Especially since many of us are not having kids right out of high school, I have a feeling I might not be the only one dealing with being part of the sandwich generation.

Hmm, another reason I should have gotten knocked up in college – a vibrant grandpa!