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I'm Officially Part of the Sandwich Generation

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I brought my computer to the hospital today. I was visiting my father, and, knowing that I was on a deadline, I needed to produce. I was there yesterday, too, at the hospital, and annoyed that I had not thought to bring my computer or holiday cards to address. Sigh. Wasted time is a luxury I really can't afford these days.

It's official, ladies and gentlemen. I can now consider myself part of the "sandwich generation." I first heard the term myself in the '80s, when my Mom started to devote more time and attention and worry to her aging parents. I am the youngest of four siblings and was in high school when my grandparents' needs started to change. Two of my older siblings had already left the family home by then.

My poor mom. I remember the things she coped with. Most of all, I remember how tense she got every time the phone rang. I remember her worried expressions when she thought no one was looking. I remember how she fretted about what to do and how to do it. Lord, do I get it now. And it sucks.

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My mom has been gone 10 years. My dad managed on his own in his decade as a widower. The quintessential mid-century, cared-for man has cared for himself almost completely independently for the past 10 years. He's done a pretty great job, for the most part. He is 81 now, and things are shifting. The details are his and not mine to share, but I feel like I am staring down the wide, gaping, open mouth of a lion. And I am terrified.

I was an active participant in the last year of my mom's life. I was at my parents' side four out of five evenings during the week and one day of every weekend. I cooked and cleaned and laundered and bathed and did whatever needed doing in the 11 months between my mom's cancer diagnosis (after a bleed in her brain that resulted in right-sided paralysis) and when she died.

Caregiving is work. Hard work. Sacred work, yes, but still work. When I cared for my mom, I was not yet a mom myself. It was a whole different ballpark in those days. My career suffered, as I needed to pull back from extra responsibilities and special projects, which brought me personal fulfillment but were not necessarily in the job description. It was manageable, those career changes. My caregiving always felt like a privilege.

But when your primary gig is motherhood, um, where exactly do you pull back? Do I stop changing diapers? Do I stop picking up the older kid from school? Do I chuck that whole dinner and laundry thing? Do I sit my two little ones down and give 'em the speech, "Things are changing, kiddos, and you just got to roll with the punches. That's life, my wee little friends. Hakuna matata, if you know what I mean."

Sigh.

I'll be the first to say I don't have the answer. What I do know is that my dad needs me. And my kids need me. Oh, yeah, and that husband of mine still needs me, too, I think.

Sigh.

Deep breath. Open wide, lion. I'm coming in.

RELATED: How Does Caring for Aging Parents Affect Family Life?

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