August 1, 2005

Stuck in the middle with you

A friend tells me I’m part of the sandwich generation…raising young kids while taking care of aging parents. I think I feel like a piece of wilting lettuce in a 3 day old sandwich. I have been going to bed around 10:30 pm and sleep until almost 8am, waking occasionally to listen for my dad in case he is creeping around the quiet house.

But even with adequate sleep, we’re all feeling weary and worn. It’s a feeling anyone knows who has taken care of an aging parent with dementia…..the obsession about certain things, explaining things over and over and over, the need to be constantly aware of where he is, what he’s doing, and painfully, the question pops up now and again from my dad to me, “What’s your name?”

My mom had hip replacement surgery 11 days ago and is in a rehab center recovering and getting lots of physical therapy so she can come home soon. She has been the main care-giver to my dad for the past year, since he’s been in deteriorating mental health, compounded by some physical needs that are constant. So my sisters and I are pitching in and helping while she is recuperating…..and we can’t believe what she’s had to deal with at home, as well as being crippled in her hip. And now with dad’s confusion getting even worse with her gone, we are faced with some hard decisions about his future care and if he is going to be able to even stay in the home or have to go to a full time care facility.

We have had to rely on a good sense of humor to get us through. With your sisters you can make irreverent jokes about the things we’ve had to deal with. Most of it I can’t refer to here, but it helps relieve a lot of tension.

My mom complains about the rehab center she is in, which is understandable….it’s hard to be in a place like that. It’s boring and depressing. But that is not what she complains about! She says it's full of old people with droopy skin and they can't hear each other to have a conversation......this is hilarious to us because she is 78 and is just about deaf!

"Hey, kettle, this is the pot"

She knows we joke about this because the first time she said it, I laughed out loud and thought she was joking. When I realized she wasn’t, I totally cracked up. She thinks I’m goofy, but I’m telling you, it’s a hoot! Now I make it a point to ask her how all the old people are doing today. I’m incorrigible, I tell you…..never give me ammunition if you don’t want me to make fun of you.

The night I went to the dining room at the rehab center with mom for dinner, a lady named Josie got wheeled into position beside mom. She looked the table over and said to my mom,

'So.....what are ya in for? Murder??'

This sent me over the edge! (I was already giggling at a little teensy lady with a cartoon voice *like Minnie Mouse* who talked so loud everyone in the room could hear her....well, except my mom!)

So I was laughing....and my mom just looks at Josie blankly and said,


To which Josie replied, "We're all breaking outta here tonight, see?" mom's like "What?"

I can't stand it....I almost had to dismiss myself and go laugh myself silly! *which I did when I got home after telling the story to my sisters*

So on we go. I am only here until Saturday, the 6th. Then I head 3 hours north to my own family and have to leave these duties to my 3 sisters and to my mom, who will be coming home about then.

Although it is depressing and wearying to see my parents getting older, it is also dear and tender to be with them during this time of life. My dad is as sweet, gentle and innocent as a child most of the time, although nighttime can find him belligerent and argumentative. He can drive you absolutely crazy with his incessant questions about things that don’t actually exist, but when his mind is clear, he tells us how much he appreciates us and says things we’ll remember all our lives. He actually knows how difficult he is getting, but when it is happening, he is so confused that he can't help it.

Tonight he was more himself. We had the carpets cleaned this afternoon and while we sat around the dinner table waiting for the carpets to dry, my sister kept telling everyone who got up from the table, "Don't walk on the carpets!" She must have said it 3 or 12 times. Then my dad got up from the table. We never know if he's going to do something 'unusual' or if he's just going to his room. So my sister said, "Dad, where are you going?" To which he got an exaggerated smirk on his face and said, "To walk on the carpets!"

It's good to see him being himself some days (and I see where I get my sassy sense of humor) was good. Thank you, Lord.

Life goes on and on….we think it will be ours forever, only to find out that our life soon becomes a memory and faded pictures in someone’s attic. We only have today here on earth, soon we’ll step over into eternity….and that is not such a bad thing, is it? My parents know the Lord, my dad is just closer to eternity now. It’s sad to see his body shutting down, but it is not the end…it is really the beginning for him.

He’s the lucky one.

Psalm 90:12
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

James 4:14
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

~~John 14:2 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.~~

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