Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What Do You DO With Your Time?

Since my  husband and I sold our business and "retired" in 2005, the pervading question has become, "What do you DO now?"  Oh... how long do you have?!  I honestly wonder how we ever worked... and maybe you have heard this from other "retirees."  We knew that I would have the responsibilities of caring for my grandmother... but we certainly were not expecting to be caring for a baby!  The old adage of telling God your plans and making Him laugh would certainly apply!

So today, a lifelong friend dropped by to pick up something for her husband, and she asked, "So what do you all DO now?"  I explained that we took care of my grandmother... although that had become less time consuming in some ways now that she is in the ALF... and I told her about Timothy.  I didn't even get around to telling her that my husband, Greg, delivers Meals on Wheels to senior citizens at least one day a week, and he has taken on more and more responsibilities with his mother, who will be 86 in June.  He takes care of her yard, helps her with household repairs, drives her to out-of-town appointments, and much more... and as times goes by, I am sure he will be doing even more for her.

Actually, my friend who dropped by today probably understands better than many.  Her own 80-something mother was in the car.  I invited them inside, but she said they had been out running errands, and her mom was tired and ready to go home.  She also told me that her oldest son and his wife now live in England, where I think they are doing mission work.  When they left the U.S., their little girl was 2... and my friend and her husband saw the child every day, since they lived virtually next-door.  She kept saying, "I know you must be heartbroken without your baby."  I could tell she genuinely understood how lonely it's been around our house since Timothy left.

I think my point in sharing this with you is that most people don't have a clue what it's like for members of the Sandwich Generation.  They may have some idea of what it's like to care for children and your family... particularly if they have - or had - children and a family.  But many don't understand in the least what is involved in caring for an elderly person... even one who is fairly able-bodied and mentally clear.  I'm not sure that you can even truly prepare someone for the physical, mental, and emotional challenges that are involved.  If you try to share this information with others, they often don't believe it - or they think their situation will be different.  More often, they simply don't listen.

My sister-in-law has been experiencing huge challenges with her 95-year-old mother over the last six months.  She has told me about several experiences that were quite familiar to me... but it was as if they were totally new to her.  One day she said a friend of hers had told her that... "a lot of people are going through the exact same things as you," and she said, "You know... I guess she's right!"  HOPEFULLY, some of you who read this blog will realize that you are not alone... that there are a lot of people experiencing the same issues you have with your senior - and your spot in the "sandwich." 

More importantly, I hope we all realize that our situation may test our patience (if not our endurance and our sanity at times), there is very possibly someone who faces bigger challenges and could use a hug and a simple, "I understand what you are going through."  My friend did this for me today... and I am truly grateful.  Is there someone you could bless and encourage out of your experience base?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

My grandmother continues to have good days and bad.  When I visited yesterday, she was at the nurse's desk getting a Tylenol - for a headache - or so she told the nurse.  We went to her room, and she sat down on her bed.  The pill was in its little cup on her walker seat.  I asked, "Would you like some water?"  She looked at me like I was crazy.  "... to take your Tylenol?" I continued.  "Yes!" she answered.  I asked about her headache.  "I don't have a headache."  "But you told Lola your head was hurting."  "I know it, but I sat out there, and I just hurt."  I asked where she hurt, and she replied, "All over!"  I found out later that "out there" meant she went to the dining hall and listened to special music.  I'm not clear on how that made her "hurt all over," but the whole time I visited, she laid on her bed.  Usually, she is up and down and won't lie still - even if she is not feeling well - but yesterday, she didn't budge until I asked if she was ready to go to lunch.

Timmy modeling new
clothes I made for him.
I'm still trying to take a piece of sewing to show her every time I visit... or a quilt or something to do with sewing.  I took two quilts I had bought recently at an auction, and she studied each one and gave me several "I tell you whats!"  She said, "I tell you what... quilts just do something to me."  She was such a wonderful seamstress and quilter... piecing and quilting everything by hand.  Sewing and things related to sewing are about all we have left to connect on... and the smile on her face is all the communication we need.

Timothy and Zola in their
matching outfits I made for them.
We seem to have no trouble finding common interests to share with our kids, but finding something to share with seniors is often a challenge. Now that my grandmother has trouble putting sentences together, our conversations are pretty pathetic.  During one recent visit, she managed to tell me, "I wish you would come and spend the whole day with me." First of all, I told her she is so busy that she doesn't have time to spend a whole day with me.  She still finds plenty of things to occupy much of her time.  The other thing is that we would go nuts just sitting all day and staring at each other.  It was a "dig," and I knew that at the time.  But I do think that the sewing has been a tremendous "common denominator" that has given us something to share - even without many words.

One of the quilts I took to show to
my grandmother recently.  She loved it!
So try to think of things you can share with your senior.  If your dad enjoyed sports, maybe you can watch a game on TV together.  If your mom loved to cook, maybe you can make something she considered her "specialty" and take some to her to enjoy.  If your senior enjoys songbirds, maybe you could put in a feeder and keep it stocked... then spend some time together bird watching.  You may have to dig pretty deep to find a common interest, but I promise, you'll be glad you did!  Now, when my grandmother can't say much else, she can usually ask, "What are you sewing now?"  And we are off and running...

1 comment:

Mark said...

That is a gorgeous quilt. I can see why she perked up when you showed it to her, her own quilting hobby notwithstanding.

This is a great post, and puts me in mind of my parents. Although they always have said that they don't want us to have to take care of them, I know that we will be involved on some level. Their finances will allow them to be in whatever level of assisted living they want (if it comes to that), or have someone come to the house every day if needed, and unless either they move or my brother or I move, that's what they'll have to rely on for everyday needs. Makes me a bit sad to think about it.