Monday, November 28, 2022

When one thinks of a sandwich, usually pleasant things come to mind. After all, what is more delicious than a corned beef on rye with Russian dressing? Unless, of course, you prefer a tuna on toast or a peanut butter and jelly. Though, peanut butter has gotten a pretty bad rap lately because of all the allergies. In any event, you can’t really go wrong with a good sandwich. That is why I am curious as to why the pleasant thoughts of a tasty meal have been thrown into a mildly unpleasant stage of life referred to as the “Sandwich Generation.”

I have heard this phrase throughout the course of my life, but have only recently come face to face with its harsh reality. Here I am, in the middle of two stages of life. I have my beautiful boys on one side, and my beautiful parents on the other side and I am in the middle, holding the generations together and taking care of everyone on either side of me.

My maternal grandparents both died relatively young. My mother was only 45 when she was orphaned. In the years they were alive, she was a very devoted child. Having my dad drive her into the city to keep my grandmother company when my grandfather would have dialysis, bringing their favorite foods in to keep them satiated. When my grandfather died, my grandmother was at my house all of the time. We were roommates. She taught me that you can eat an apple after you brush your teeth and nothing bad will happen.

My mother taught me the importance of taking care of those who cared for you. This is not an easy task. On the one hand, you have your children who still need you. Of course with only boys, they really only need me for, well, everything—laundry, food, food, laundry. (Is there anything else? Oh yes, carpool and to drive them to college basketball games in random locations). Then there are my parents. For the past two years, my dad has had some mobility issues. No one seems to have any answers, and any treatments that they were hopeful about have ended with a further decline. There is a fine line between wanting to help your parents and having them become dependent on you—for rides, for trips to the supermarket, for changing the lightbulbs. It is done out of love and not obligation.

Most recently, my dad developed sepsis and cellulitis, which resulted in an extended hospital stay. As I write this, he is in rehab, learning how to walk again. Denial seems to be the most powerful defense mechanism in this situation. Hoping that life will go back to “normal,” but realizing that things will never be the same. Things you take for granted, like being able to stand up by yourself. So, perhaps, denial and depression.

How do you leave your parent alone in the hospital or rehab? How do you not spend your day worrying about them and advocating for the best care possible? This is all part of the untasty sandwich. The trying to be in three places at one time and being present for everyone. You forget about yourself. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, until you decide to treat yourself to having your hair done and the owner of the salon gasps in horror when you walk into her shop. Or you get a free trip to Israel and your husband has to step up to the plate because there is no one else to help. It seems you need to turn off the part of your brain that allows you to imagine all of the bad things that could happen.

Would I trade who I am with someone with less empathy and more apathy? Never. Because who I am is from my parents and hopefully, my boys will learn from that. Even if they don’t, I tried my best to set a good example.

Though sometimes, I wish a sandwich were just a sandwich.

Banji Ganchrow hopes to make you laugh again next week…and she hopes to laugh as well.

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