This is my first blog post and I’m very excited to get this started. I’ve been wanting to do this for over a year now. Why? Well it’s NOT because I want to talk about myself or make my life look exciting to everyone (it’s really not that exciting). The purpose of this blog is to share my experience dealing with life’s big struggles and shine a light on some of the successes that came out of these events. I’m hoping that by sharing my experience dealing with my elderly parents for example, I can help you be more prepared to deal with your own aging parents (or perhaps you are already in the midst of doing this…God Bless You!). Anyway, I won’t ramble on about why I am writing a blog. I’ll just get started with my first written post.
Part 1: “Help! I’m Living In A Sandwich!”
O.k. Here we go, I’m just going to say it: The reality is, our parents are not going to live forever, and that’s a really harsh reality to think about. Everyone goes through the aging process and for many people who reach the elderly years, it really stinks. I didn’t realize how hard aging was until I had to take the reigns and care for my parents. Now, I know this is something that just about everyone has to go through with their own parents, but my situation is a little different…and slightly more difficult. You see, I’m a member of what is called “The Sandwich Generation.” It means I was born in the later years of my mother and father’s life and I birthed children in the later years of my life. As a result, I had a period of time in my life when I had the responsibility of taking care of my elderly parents while simultaneously taking care of my small children.
My mom did not meet my dad until she was 36 years old. He was 47. They got married right away and six years later had me. To make my life even more challenging (well, at least later on in my life) I was the only child they had. I grew up very happy in a small rural town. We lived on a half acre lot on the outskirts of Hollister, California. My mom and dad were good parents. I respected them because they believed in simplicity and never over-indulged themselves with expensive things. They were also very compassionate people who had a wonderful learning spirit about everything in life and everyone who crossed their paths. I think this is typical of many people who lived through the Great Depression era.
Just like my parents, I met my soul mate later in life (age 30), I got married to him later in life (age 33) and we had two children in my mid-thirties. My mom and dad were doing great health-wise in their seventies and late eighties until just before I got married when my dad had his first major health problem: a moderate stroke. I remember that phone call very vividly. The day after this occurred, my mom very calmly told me that she thinks my dad had a stroke while riding his bike. She told me that his speech was slurred and one side of his mouth looked crooked. Other than that, everything else seemed normal. According to her, he didn’t even notice these symptoms. I asked her if she called 911, but she said that my dad didn’t want to go to the emergency room and there was probably nothing the hospital could do about it anyway. I told her to put dad on the phone. Sure enough his speech was slurred. He assured me that he was fine. Ugh! Anyway, she did take him to the doctor that same day and when they arrived at the office, the nurse told her that he should have gone to the hospital immediately after the stroke occurred. What does one do if the patient doesn’t want to go to a hospital? My dad was stubborn like that. Anyway, the CAT scan that they took revealed some damage to the brain. I was in tears after I got off the phone that day and all I could do was hug my husband and cry. I could not believe this was happening to my healthy, strong dad.
A few months later, I walked down the aisle with my dad. I was feeling so lucky that he was still around, but he could not walk steadily on his feet. In fact, he almost fell over when we descended down some steps towards the alter. A year later, his walking began to worsen and soon he was scooting his feet rather than walking. Each step was a carefully planned maneuver that took a lot of patience to execute. He eventually had to use a walker, then a scooter, and in his final two years, a wheelchair. That stroke, along with several smaller strokes, may have also triggered what we believe was Parkinson’s disease in combination with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Despite all this, he did get to enjoy a new baby granddaughter and a huge street naming ceremony when a street was named after him at the local airport (he was a pilot and an aircraft manufacturer). He also enjoyed his 90th birthday party in 2013. A very big extended family celebrated this with him at his home. I say big because he had seven brothers and sisters who all had multiple kids, who then also had multiple kids, who now have one or two children of their own. Our family gatherings were always very big… and loud 🙂 It’s kind of odd that I am an only child considering the size of his family.
Almost a year after his 90th birthday, and two months after the birth of my second child Matthew, my dad saved my mother’s life in a miracle that is hard to believe actually happened…but it did and that’s where the rollercoaster ride of my life began.
To be continued… Part 2: “Ahhh! I Can’t Possibly Do This!”