Last week it became clear to me that I am now a part of the sandwich generation. The sandwich generation is the time of life when you are taking care of children and elderly parents. Some of you may have wondered where the heck I’ve been. I’ve been at the hospital. Not literally all week, but during much of my usual down time, I’ve been there, or at my parents’ house, helping prep it for my mother’s convalescence.
My mom has been in the hospital for a couple of months now. At first it seemed like it would just be one of those things that was just going to take some time, but she’s had some complications and the longer she stays in the hospital, the sicker she gets, because she’s in the hospital.
I’m not going to get into detail about what’s wrong with her because of her privacy, but on my end, it’s sort of mind-blowing to be in this position because all of my life, I’ve thought of my parents as the caretakers. Even up until a few weeks ago, in my mind, parents are parents and the kids are always the kids.
Then bam! Overnight, the tables are flipped.
I spent the night at the hospital one night last week and early on in the night I became aware that caring for my 70-year-old ailing mother was not unlike taking care of Annika during the night.
She’s not able to eat or drink so I spent a good portion of the night swabbing her mouth with these lollipop-looking things with sponges on the end instead of candy. As I held the cup of water and inserted the swab into her mouth, I was reminded of the way Annika looks at me when she’s sleepy and I hand her a sippy cup of water. That helpless, yet sweet look of a person who understands that you are their caretaker and can be trusted to do what’s best.
She kept me up a lot too, with random noises or seemingly insignificant requests, much like Annika did almost every night up until a few months ago. We spent a good part of the night chatting because she couldn’t sleep.
I ended up with about 3 hours of sleep and then I spent the morning grilling her doctors with my father. Then I went to pick Annika up from her mother’s day out program. Luckily, Annika still naps and we conked out for a good three hours.
I wonder if my mom will completely recover or if this is just the beginning of a new era with my family where I and my siblings begin to take on more and more responsibility for my parents.
It just seems strange. I can’t describe it. Up until I became Annika’s mother, I never felt like a full-fledged adult. Now that I am in the position of having other adults that need my help, it feels a little overwhelming to think that I am now the caretaker.