Sunday, June 17, 2012

Meatball sub, anyone?

A sandwich is a food item, typically consisting of two or more slices of bread with one or more fillings between them.  The sandwich generation is defined as the people who care for aging parents, as well as their own children-a phenomena that has become more commonplace in recent years in this country.  For my family, our stint in the sandwich generation began in 2009 with both of my parents on one side and my daughter on the other side.  One year later my son would boomerang back to become part of the sandwich.  A three generational home is the norm in most countries except in the United States.  Many cultures do not understand the need to push children out of the nest.  Nor do they expect their aging parents to live in retirement homes.  Family taking care of family.  It's been traditional family life in other countries, but because it is a new concept for most people in this country new challenges arrive on a daily basis.

One consideration for my parents, Bill & Mary Beth moving here to live with us was where they would sleep in the house.  We chose the house based on their needs more than ours.  A bedroom on the main floor was the first requirement of a prospective house because we knew at some point they wouldn't navigate stairs well.  What we found were many houses with guest rooms on the first floor and although that would be fine for a temporary guest, it was not a viable solution for permanent elderly residents.  This house was perfect and we knew it the minute we walked into the front door.  We  have them in the Master bedroom on the main floor.  Our downstairs bedroom is directly below them and allows us to hear my parents if they call out during the night.  Selected pieces from my parents' home went into the dining room and parlor on the main floor.  This allows them to continue to enjoy it and to feel a little more at home while here.  They lived in their last home for almost 50 years, so I never wanted them to regret being here.  One thing we didn't plan for was the maneuverability of a wheelchair within the house.  Thankfully, the open floor plan on the main floor has worked well for the wheelchair my mom now uses since breaking her shoulder in February.  So the layout has worked for them quite well.  That's the first side of my sub sandwich.

The second side of the sandwich is my children.  The house has a loft area that consists of a mini-living room with two bedrooms, a linen closet and bathroom.  They are both in college, but living at home. It's like they are suite mates.  The only thing it lacks at this point, according to Alex and Taylor, is a mini fridge and microwave.  I told them not to push it.  Let's face it, we want them to leave eventually!  The loft is a bit of an oasis away from the hustle and bustle of elder care-giving.  (There will be plenty of opportunity for that when I move in with them in 30 years!!)  If I need help, I ask.

The loft overlooks the living room, so even if they are upstairs we are never really out of range.  Amazingly, as much room as we have here we still tend to gravitate toward each other.  One unforeseen aspect of this arrangement is that the family has become closer-knit.  I worried that we would have problems with six adults under one roof, but that has not happened.  Don't get me wrong.  We do have disagreements, but we seem to work them out without too much trouble.  Something occurred to me recently, too.   I actually like the people I live with and not just because they are relatives!  Each member of this house provides something positive as a result of being here.

You can't have a sandwich without the insides. The inside of our three generational sandwich is the caregivers, Steve & me.  I am a meatball because meatballs are complex.  They are soft, yet solid and have substance.  Steve is the sauce and the cheese because they temper the meatball, smooth out its roughness, gives it flavor and provides stability.  Without the sauce and cheese the sandwich would fall apart.  Steve has not once complained about bringing Bill & Mary Beth here.  In fact, I think he had less reservations about it than I did!  Steve was lucky when it came to in-laws, though.  My family accepted him with open arms and my siblings have always treated him like a brother. Actually, my mother chose my husband for me.  Not in the traditional sense, mind you.  I had a tendency to date "mutts" and I knew this, but couldn't seem to attract a decent fellow.  When I met Steve the first thing I learned was that he was already a college graduate and was in graduate school.  He was spiritual, conservative and he thought I was cute.  We were friends for a year before dating.  After dating for two months he met my parents.  I knew that if my mom didn't like him, he was history.  I have talked about her penchant for judging based on looks, so I held my breath as they were introduced.  They loved him  right away because he was respectful, gentlemanly, and talkative.  He talked to them as if he always knew them and it impressed them both.  She later remarked that she couldn't help but like him since it was obvious he was crazy about me.  Can't ask for more than that.

So it was Steve's turn to welcome my parents into our home with open arms.  All six of us work very well together and the sandwich is now complete.  A meatball sub sandwich.   It can get messy, but oh so good.  Welcome to the sandwich generation!

No comments: