Were my kids completely grown and gone, I don’t know how I would have managed things last Friday. Sometimes, being in the sandwich generation means juggling priorities and trying to do too many things for too many people at the same time. Other times, it means you have a helpful teen on hand when you need one.
My daughter is 16, almost 17. She’s homeschooling this year, so her schedule is flexible. Good thing for all of us, as this meant she could go with me when I took my mom to get her new non-driver’s state ID. She moved here from another state, thus the need for a new photo ID. I both emailed and called the Missouri Department of Motor Vehicles in advance, desperate to find someone who would tell me of a way I could get my mother’s non-driver’s license without having to bring her in. There is no way.
So off we went, my daughter and I, to fetch my mom and take her to the driver’s license office. It took two people to help Mom into and out of the car. Then one person had to walk with her and her walker to make sure she didn’t lose her balance or her way, while the other carried everything. I accompanied, my daughter filled the role of pack-horse. She also ran ahead to open doors for us, and parked the car in a legitimate space after my mom was out right next to the door (our disability hang tag is in the works, but not here yet.)
So, yeah, having the teens still at home can ease the workload on occasion. The kids are all right.
Here’s an unexpected side effect of being the primary contact for someone in a nursing home – I now have a collection of vases.
People keep sending my mom flowers. Which is lovely. It makes her room more pleasant and she knows people care.
But once the flowers are wilted, I’m left to take away the vase. I’m not sure what to do with them. I only need so many vases at home. I’m thinking I might cut some peonies from my yard once they’re bloomed and take a vase of them to the nurse’s station for the folks who take care of Mom. And the others…can go in a garage sale. Or something.
It turns out I can’t indefinitely survive on 6 hours or fewer of sleep per night. My body told me so today. In my desire to be a good mother, a good daughter, a good wife, a good worker, a good writer, a responsible homeowner, and someone who takes time for a modicum of self-care, without dropping the ball, I hit on a plan to get an acceptable percentage of my to-do list accomplished. Give up sleep. Not completely, mind you. I just…cut back. These are all things I want to do. But on occasion I have moments when I feel the horses are getting away from me and I’m not sure if I can hold on. Now I discover lack of sleep does not help you get a grip.
I work a split shift on Mondays – mornings and evenings. This afternoon, after getting off work and picking up my son from school, I came home with the idea I’d hop on the internet and find the forms for getting one of those disabled hang tags, so I can use it when I need to take my mom somewhere. I was sitting on the sofa, feet up, leaning my head on one arm, while I scrolled around on the trackpad with the other hand. Or so I thought, until I woke up 90 minutes later, drooling on the upholstery, with the imprint of my wristwatch embedded in my left cheek. By this time, I had to hurry to get ready for my second work shift. Nevertheless, I spent precious minutes in front of the bathroom mirror, trying to figure out how the erase the wristwatch impression from my face, eventually deciding I’d have to hope it faded on its own before any library patrons saw me close up.
I had a busy evening, and only a few times found a chance to worry about whether my face looked partially hole-punched or fret over the lack of progress on the hang tag. On the up side, I remembered what it felt like not to be tired. I could focus. I could find a greeting smile for my face without much dredging. I felt good. Not merely functional, but actually good. Wow! Sleep. I might have to try it more often.
My kids’ two grandmothers aren’t competitive with each other. In fact, my husband and I each believe we have the greatest mother-in-law ever. But secretly, as much as I love my mother-in-law (and I really do, I adore her), I harbor some competitive notions of wanting my kids to see my mom as being just as cool as their other grandma. I want to believe my family is interesting, too.
Here’s the thing. My mom was on the older end of the giving birth spectrum when I was born. My mother-in-law was pretty young when my husband was born. Also, my mother has had lupus for several years. My mother-in-law is not yet retired and, get this, owns a bowling alley. A bowling alley with a game room – air hockey, video games, the works. How could a visit to grandma be any cooler? My kids even get to go behind the scenes and watch the pin-setters work if they want to.
I tell the children about when my mom used to bowl. Okay, she never owned her own alley. But she owned her own shoes and ball. She was even on TV once, on “Bowling for Dollars.” However, they never witnessed it. To them, it’s as if I’m talking about a different person all together. I worry that their main memories of my mom will be ones of boredom, sitting by reading their books while I help her clip her nails.
She does try to take an interest in what’s important to them. She asks about their hobbies and what books they’re reading. But, it’s not as if she’s been able to entertain in any real way.
So I was very happy today when my 16-year-old daughter wanted to accompany me to the nursing home to visit her grandma. She took along pictures of her new pet – a hedgehog, and they had a great discussion about it. Score one for Team Maternal Grandma.