I was born in 1965, a classic sandwich generation member. The Baby Boomers ended in 1964 and Generation X, while described as starting in 1965, didn't show its real defining characteristics until we got those born in the 70's starting to throw their weight around.
Now, like many my age, I am a member of the true Sandwich Generation; those of us who have our aging parents to the left, our burgeoning children to the right, and are gamely trying to balance the needs of both in the middle. I've written about this in the past when my mother lived with us in Minnesota.
Four years ago when we decided to move to Illinois, Mom decided to stay in Minnesota, then two years later moved to Phoenix. Now, 4 years into this odyssey, she has decided to move to Illinois. She will be here in October and is moving into a local Senior Citizen apartment complex. And I am glad - truly. Not so much because I deeply want to control any aspect of her life, but because my life is much easier when I am the one at her steering wheel.
My mom, though she would not admit to it, doesn't honestly want to be in charge of her life. She doesn't want the work, the worry, or the hassle. She's been this way since I was a child, and it wasn't that long ago that I finally realized that I've been raising my mom all along, in some ways. My sister and brothers are 6 - 9 years older than me and moved away from home when I was still in elementary school. They have never really related to Mom on the level I have, so they are happy to let me steer for awhile. I was the one who became a Christian when my mom did, the one who listened to her debate the merits of staying married to my father or divorcing him when I was in Junior High, the one who listened as she came to grips with her painfully abused childhood (even when I didn't want that role because it was too much like a mirror) and the one who helped her negotiate the road through cancer and widowhood when Dad died.
I may not have always wanted to fill that role, but it was there for me and I find myself filling it once again. For my mother who is older, now, and somewhat more selective in her memory, her hearing, and her tolerance, I am now the person in charge. I look at her now with a mixture of love and frustration. I miss the vibrant woman who loved to get out when I was younger, and I'm glad to have my daughter's sweet grandma back to where they can again be a vital part of one another's lives.
Yes, my mom can be frustrating and joyously funny at the same time. For me, the sandwich generation truly is one of bologna and cheese.