Parenting, Parenting our Parents, Planning to Travel, Quesadilla Generation, The Sandwich Generation, Travel

What’s the Quesadilla Generation?

Sandwich Generation

If you’re over 50, I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase “The Sandwich Generation.” The term, TSG, refers to a generation that is simultaneously caring for parents and children. 

And what about the “Club Sandwich Generation?” Carol Abaya, who writes and lectures on the subject of the sandwich generation refers to people, usually in their 50s or 60s, who assist in the care of aging parents, adult children and grandchildren. I’ll pass on the Club Sandwich, thank you.

There is an estimated 8 million Latino baby boomers taking care of both elderly parents and children. Switching between two cultures and two sets of expectations is why I call TSG the quesadilla generation. Like melted cheese, one feels stretched and stuck to both sides of the tortilla. 

But recently I almost burned the quesadilla. I wasn’t watching the comal close enough.
toasty quesadillas

My focus was on my upcoming month long trip. Among the important issues like passport, tickets, transportation, and lodging, I also had to arrange for my live in kids to take care of the house while I’m gone.

Three young adults, ages19-26, (hey, no judgement-bad economy and all that) have to remember to buy groceries, feed three pets, clean up after them and themselves, water the lawn/ plants, go the mailbox, keep the house standing, not maim each other, and get to work and school without any reminders from me. They do know how to cook and do their laundry though.

Back to the quesadilla analogy: I forgot about preparing for my mother’s needs while I’m gone. There, I confessed it. How did I not remember to prepare her for my departure? Maybe because she used to be so independent, buen chingona mi madre, or because I have never left her for a month.

Mom’s diabetes has taken its toll these last five years. She is legally blind and hard of hearing-good reasons for her not to drive anymore. Mom hates not being able to drive. “Getting old is a bitch,” she says. (Yes, she really used that word). “Losing my independence has been the worst thing.”

vintage postcard of Bette Davis
Yes, getting older is no place for wimps. 

I usually fill her pillboxes with over 10 daily medications, take her to the doctor’s, groceries, pay her bills online, and make several telephone calls for her because the telephone voice robot can’t understand her, she can’t hear it or she can’t punch the large keypad on the phone menu fast enough. 

The upside is that after 5 p.m., she’s pretty well taken care of since everyone is out of work or school by then, but prior to that time, it’s a challenge. Mom refuses to have “…some stranger come into my house to take care of me, what if they steal from me. Did I tell you about…”

Although my sister helps with transportation quite a bit, she lives in another city and isn’t always available for my mom’s numerous appointments. With my departure, and school beginning, there will not be anyone to get her to where she needs and wants to go. Staying home for 4 days in a row is 2 days too much for Mom. She’s a pretty lively woman who likes to visit, shop, see movies, and dine out. She asked me to send her postcards, because “…you guys take thousands of pictures and then put them on that thing (digital frame) and I never see them good.”

Mom’s also pretty smart. Yesterday she called me, “I need to prepare for when you leave. Call that you know, that senior place where senior people, who need rides to wherever in those little buses, come pick up seniors.” I ‘googled’ that phrase, lol, no I did not, but I did find such an agency in my county. 

After downloading a 4 page application, I filled it out for her, forged her name (she told me too) and mailed it in. In 2 weeks a person from the Council of Aging will come and interview her, give her a photo ID and get her set up with a bus card that provides door to door service. She wonders if it’ll take her to the casino.

My niece, the Pharm Tech who just graduated, will fill her pill boxes. My sister will take her places when she can. My kids will visit her on their days off and call in between those times. I’m making calls to my cousins to ask them to drop by. With everyone’s help I’m sure Mom won’t miss my assistance, but I know I’ll sure miss her a lot. 

Parenting, Parenting our Parents, The Sandwich Generation

The Sandwich Generation, Hold the Mayo

Chocolate Fudge
Chocolate Fudge

Last night my sister and I lounged on the balcony watching the sunset. We’re on vacation, with our mother and other sister, near San Diego and it’s a lovely warm evening. The mountains turned from green to purple as the sun began its descent and we were enjoying the mellowness of the approaching twilight. 
Then shouts and laughter sounded through the screen door out onto the balcony. I turned and saw my other sister trying to take a fork away from my mother, who had it in an upraised arm, defiant look on her face, and she wasn’t letting go.
In moms other outstretched hand was a dish of triple layer chocolate fudge cake.
“Mom, you’ve had half of that huge piece, save the rest for tomorrow,” my sister said her hand reaching for mom’s wrist.
“No, I haven’t gone to the halfway point yet,” mom said and pulled her arm away.
“Yes, you’ve had more than enough, it’s bad for your diabetes, it’s too much sugar,” sister said and grabbed for the cake.
“You better stop it before you get me mad and I sock you,” mom said, with a threatening look, while she balanced that dish of cake in her other hand.
My sister pleaded for mom to remember that her blood sugar is too high and she’s had too many sweets and carbs already.
“You’re going to end up in the hospital again,” she warned.
“I’m old; let me eat what I want,” mom replies and defiantly lifts a forkful of the three layer fudge filled cake.
For a woman over 79, legally blind, and hard of hearing, (that’s a whole other story), my mom still has a fierce grip. My sister, who is in great shape couldn’t take that cake away unless she wrestled my mom, so there they were, locked in the battle for that stupid piece of cake for a full minute. 
The other sister and I looked at them from the balcony and busted up laughing while we took pictures on our phones, because no one but the grandkids would believe the battle for the triple layer chocolate cake. 
Most people our age are part of the “sandwich generation,” those who have children to care for and who also manage aspects of our elder parent (s) life. Make ours a mile high Dagwood type sandwich.
Sandwich Generation-Stuffed with Responsibilities. Flickr.
Sandwich Generation-Stuffed with Responsibilities. Flickr.
Luckily, between the two siblings who live close by and another sister, who although lives far away, is regularly in touch with my mother, the ‘sandwich’ is considerably smaller than if I was an only child.
In some ways, we are “parenting” our parent while trying to respect her independence as much as possible and respecting her status as our mother. She, like many elderly parents, needs help managing her money, medications,  doctor appointments, house cleaning, and a host of other things.
My siblings and I had learned to walk a fine line when we’ve tried to have “the talk” with our mother over the past few years. You see, our mother has always been “buen macha,” (and I say that in the best sense of the word), strong and independent, a woman who prides self-sufficiency. So it is no easy thing to talk to her about the many things she has encountered with aging over the last few years, like constantly losing items, hitting the shrubs one too many times with the car, forgetting to take meds, or eating things she knows will cause her harm.
Sometimes we come on too strong and forget the tone in our voices when we talk about these topics. Other times no matter how we say, “I think you could use some help around here or the foods you eat aren’t good for your diabetes,” a stony face and her words meet us “I’m not a baby, no te preocupes, or her famous line: I’ve lived this long, let me eat what I want.”
And therein lays the dilemma. We’re right, my mom’s right and we’re wrong and she’s wrong too. I just wish she’d understand that we say what we say because we love her and want her to be with us as long as humanly possible. 

But for now, the triple layer chocolate cake trumps anything we say and in fact, she is sitting at this table finishing off the rest of that cake from yesterday.