Monday, June 12, 2017

Eating a sandwich

It has been two years since I wrote out loud. TWO years is a long time... and no time whatsoever.
In these two years, I have opened a new business, finished raising a child, walked through grief with my brother, trauma with my sister, growth in my children and watched my parents slowly fade into the depths of dementia.

I am part of what I have heard called the sandwich generation. Adults with adult children and living parents, who all still need their help.

Inherent in this sandwich is a slue of life questions and comparisons. Am I a better parent than my parents? Was I as mean to my mom as my daughter is to me?  What is my part in this big picture?

My childhood was a morass of traumatic events, but as I age, I am noticing that the traumatic memories have faded in my mind. My parents, the perpetrators of the abuse and neglect, were so young, so untrained. So strapped for knowledge, empathy, support. They had no one to guide them and no internet resources to look up how to treat a child who was a picky eater or a free thinker. They had to do everything based on their own experiences and judgments and advice from friends and family also fairly uneducated about the raising of healthy, well-adjusted children.

I think maybe this is what forgiveness looks like.

The perspective of my almost 60 years on this earth has softened my harsh long-held belief that my parents were evil into ... my parents were young, uninformed, unsupported and doing the best they knew how.

Enter my last child leaving for college in two months. I like to think I've done a better job than the generations that preceded me, but no one is perfect. I have simply worked to love and care for these precious beings for whose care I was chosen. I have tried to be present and available, loving and as consistent as is possible for someone as whimsical as I tend to be.

It will be the first time in almost 31 years that I have had no children in my home. Needless to say in my thirties when I gave birth to my last child, this was a passing thought that didn't get real until recently.

A month ago, she turned her car upside down in a ditch. We almost lost her. It all came home in one blinding moment. I am so going to miss this wonderful child. It will be so quiet in my home without a teenager. Her laughter, her snarls, and constant questions about life and her crazy busy schedule. I will miss her. I will sooooo miss her.

About three months ago, we finally talked our parents into moving into assisted living. It's the best thing we could have done. They had gotten to the point where they weren't paying bills, so things were getting messy. Every so often my dad would decide he needed to go to "work" again, and he would get into his car and leave. He doesn't remember how to use his cell phone, and he doesn't have a job anymore, so he would just drive around until he got hungry. Once he got more than 100 miles away. We had to put out silver alerts and involve the police, it was not pretty.

But if I've come to any conclusion, it's that life is NOT pretty. It's soulful, messy, intricate, beautiful, painful, joyful and any number of other descriptors, but pretty is NOT one of them.

So here we go, life's next chapter begins now. Every day.
We just sometimes have a forewarning of change, and sometimes ... we don't.