The Sandwich Years – Caring for the Generation Below Me and Above Me, our Kids and our Parents
It’s not the typical Thanksgiving blog. In fact, it should probably be notes for my future therapist. On the cusp of Thanksgiving, we have already hosted two family birthday dinners this week as we are in birthday-palooza with Brody Bunch Thing 3 and Thing 4 birthdays just four days apart. And, my sweet Mom has needed extra support. All hands are on deck. My Mom, once two inches taller than me is now four inches shorter than me. Living in Baltimore, I kid her that we may enter her as a jockey in the upcoming Preakness Stakes Horse Race. I am so fortunate, we have decent insurance policies and my family is on board with all support needs.
Reflections on Being in My Generation within My Family
Here is what I wish the Brody Bunch knew:
- It is important not to buy many things, experiences are better. Cleaning up is harder when there is so much stuff, it breaks and the landfills are already past capacity. I am a professional schlepper (mover). I pack things up and take them to donation centers.
- Calendaring is an art. Sports leagues, theater classes, family dinners, meetings, high school open houses, next summer camp opportunities, it is all a fulltime job involving flexibility, calendars, charts, maps and a checkbook.
- As adults, having your social security benefits, medicare plan, housing needs, car sales, will and estate planning, retirement, and pre funeral arrangements in place are all big items that are probably better off being methodically planned rather than doing it all in a four week window. Though these tasks give a recovering helicopter mom, such as myself, a new focus, now that the kids are more independent and a grandparent needs more help.
- Taking family photos are important – documenting hard times and celebrations is part of the tapestry and should be remembered.
- People are kind. Hugging and blowing kisses with older people makes them happy.
- Humor is the best tool for surviving the roller coaster.
Planning For Death, it is Surreal With Many Expensive Options
Last night, my mother and I shared perhaps one of our most bat shit crazy experiences to date. In an effort to make things as smooth as possible, it was recommended that we pre plan her funeral. Thankfully this is not an imminent situation, though we were advised to tackle this need now. The funeral director presented us with many options. My mother consistently picked the more expensive option and I consistently nodded my head no and supporting the cheaper options. I tried to beat the financial funeral system hard last night, it can’t possibly cost this much to die. My mom found comfort in knowing that she could request a playlist of songs for the service. We laughed so hard with quick self recommendations such as “Only the Good Die Young” and “Ding Dong the Wicked Witch is Dead”. We had a great time in our funeral meeting. Did I mention how sweet my Mom is? We laughed so hard, that the funeral director took notes of our one liners. She liked the part where we were given a document about “How to Talk To Your Family about Funeral Arrangements” I compared this to “How to Talk To Your Kids about Sex.”
Tradition, Money, and Preserving the Soul
We grappled with tradition. We discussed options that are not in line with how our community defines tradition. Like many, we are faced to make decisions based upon money. I heard myself say aloud that we want to spend all of the money now to give my mom the best healthcare, living accommodations and life experiences now, and not after.
My mom wanted to know about her soul. All of the decisions we are making are irrelevant to her soul, as she has one of the best souls out there. And, I would announce that the funeral industry is in bed with the legislature as many expenses are mandated by our state laws. The rebuke was that it is for the safety of the funeral parlor employees, I didn’t argue with that.
We talked about burial versus cremation. I heard that cremation would require that I charter a boat should we chose to sprinkle ashes in the Ocean. My mother belted over, “with your luck, you will be on the boat, and my ashes will blow in your face when you open the box.” True. So, I am not chartering a boat.
Candy, Singing, Holiday Stress, and Thankful
After our surreal meeting, my mom and I went to a vending machine and cracked open a bag of peanut M&Ms. We sang choruses to the most inappropriate funeral services possible. But she was very serious about Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” You can take the girl out of New York, but you can’t take the New York out of the girl.
While many are stressed out about cooking the turkey, cleaning the house, potential political dinner conversations, if relatives took enough of their medications, this pre funeral arrangements experience shines a new light on being thankful. I am about to embark on hopefully just a 7 hour Thanksgiving car ride, in a vehicle that the Brody Bunch has outgrown, and I will be relegated to the second or third row, with bags on our laps, and with the wafting smell of four pounds of corned beef in transit. I look forward to being with family from far away even though I will miss my side of the family with whom we see several times per week. There is much to be thankful about.