After an exhausting week of care giving, working, care taking and just plain caring, I don’t have too much left. Like many 60 somethings I am caught in the middle of three (or four if you count my husband) generations, all of whom need a measure of help and caring, if not physical, then emotional. Unexpectedly I have become a font of information, support, advocacy, counseling, and understanding as people whom I love deal with the buffeting of everyday life in the second decade of the 21st century.
I say “unexpected” because I was unprepared for this. Unprepared to juggle my work and home life with my 91 year old mother’s falls, doctor’s appointments, conferences with the doctor, medical procedures. Unprepared to figure out quality time with grandchildren who live six hours away. Unprepared to respond effectively to the roller coaster careers or emotional distress of adult children.
I’m not old enough, smart enough, loving enough, patient enough, or mature enough to care for all these people and still have some emotional energy in reserve. The thing is, their needs and wants are always with me. There’s no time -out from the voice in my head that worries non-stop about everyone. There’s no respite from that relentless voice that tells me I haven’t done enough. And there’s no deus ex machina in sight.
I’ve been told that the Club Sandwich is defined as: Those in their 50s or 60s sandwiched between aging parents, adult children and grandchildren. It’s a thick sandwich to get your hands around, let alone choke down. I read that as much as 11% of those Americans over the age of 50 are actually members of this select group- taking on the obligations of the generation above them, and the next two layers following.
The paradoxical thing about being in the club sandwich group is that there is , admittedly, something heady about all this responsibility, need and care. It’s annoying and debilitating but there is a soul-deep satisfaction in it, too.
Today I was reminded of the quote “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” from Me and Bobby McGee. I may rail against my lack of freedom but I hold tightly to the people I love, knowing that the price of freedom is way too high and that I have so very, very much to lose!