I have sandwiches on the brain this week, but I have very little desire to eat. My husband and I are now officially members of the Sandwich Generation. That is the term used to describe those who care for their elderly parents while also raising their own children. Our unhappy induction occurred last week, when I received a phone call from Lt. Martin with Fairfax County Fire and Rescue. Concerned neighbors called and Lt. Martin found my in-laws in dire circumstances. For unclear reasons, my in-laws chose not to use their AC for the past few weeks. Above average high temperatures left them dehydrated and slightly malnourished. They both required a few days in the hospital to recover.
FIL had a stroke last year and, though he did recover, we knew that things would have to change eventually. We tried to keep an eye on them, but they always said they were "fine" and did not want us to visit. To be honest, with 6 children and all the other commitments of our busy life, it was no easy task to run up to Northern Virginia to check on them, so we let them keep us from seeing them. A few times Hubby went up anyway and things were obviously not great, but they insisted they were unwilling to change the circumstances. We knew we could push the issue legally if we had to, but we also knew that would be the end of our decent relationship with Hubby's parents and there was no definite need to take such a hard step. Obviously, things went from not great to awful, really fast.
The past 10 days have been hard. I ended up getting really sick and the antibiotic I was taking gave me an insane case of hives that kept me awake through many itchy nights. Hubby spent more than a few days in Northern Virginia with his parents, not getting home until late at night. We made lots of phone calls, updating distant family members, talking to lawyers, case workers, nurses and various facilities. We found a lovely spot for my in-laws and I think they will be well cared for and happy there. They will also be close by and hopefully my children will get to know these grandparents better.
What does this have to do with homeschooling? Well, my little family is learning an awful lot about elder care, finances, Medicaid, Medicare, and how to honor, respect and love people when they may not appreciate what you are doing for them. Those are all important lessons and I hope Hubby and I have learned enough to make sure we have our business in order long before we need elder care. However, I am sharing this with you to answer a question I often hear, "How do you do it all?" The answer is I don't.
For instance, this situation is far beyond my scope of experience or ability. After 5 minutes searching for elder care facilities on the web, I got overwhelmed and abandoned the search in favor of cleaning out part of my crazy office/school/craft room instead. This is the room in my house where all "useful" things go to die. For me to find that room less overwhelming than anything is really saying something.
Thankfully, we have older friends who have walked this path before us. One of those friends rode up to the hospital with Hubby. He prayed for MIL and FIL and helped Huby sort through what was going on. One friend toured facilities with us, helping us to decide which facility was best for my husband's parents. Another friend is advising us on the job of emptying, cleaning out, and repairing a house full of decades of dirt and clutter. A younger friend watched our children while we toured the last two facilities and made our decision. When the time comes to prepare the in-laws' house for market, we have been assured that we can and should call on our friends to watch the children, hold the baby, and help with the dirty work.
I am grateful that my children are learning that many hands do indeed make light work and that we have to share each other's burdens in this world or we will all sink. This is how my family handles crises and, in many ways, it is how we handle everyday life. My husband and I do not take on the tasks of life all on our own. We are blessed with a wonderful neighborhood full of families who actually talk to each other, a church that believes being the body of Christ requires hands and feet in action, and friends and family that love and support us even when they don't really understand why we do things the way we do. In turn, we try to help our friends and family whenever we are needed. My children have already learned that there is real pleasure in meeting the needs of a friend, if only because many times that means having extra children around for a few hours or a few days.
So, how do I do it all? In short, I don't. On normal days, my friends and family are my cheering squad or the people I turn to for a word of encouragement. On those days that make me wonder whose idea it was to have children or elderly parents, I lean a lot on the people I am blessed to love and be loved by.