The Top Slice
This year I turn 50. This doesn’t really bother me except that over the past few years, I have found myself transforming into a sandwich. Okay, maybe not an actual sandwich, but I have become one of the sandwich generation. For those that don’t know, the sandwich generation are people, often age 40 to 59, who have one or more parents aged 65+, and who are also caring for either a minor child or are financially assisting an adult child. Often, members of the sandwich generation are not only raising or financially assisting their children, but are also helping care for their parents financially, emotionally, physically, or in some combination thereof.
The Bottom Slice
In my case, I am raising a teen who is almost out of high school, while emotionally and, in the near future possibly physically, supporting my parents. My father, you see, has Alzheimer’s, and my mother finds herself with an ever shrinking circle of friends and support. I have become, in many ways, one of her few friends and a sounding board while we both care for my father, each to the best of our capabilities. I help navigate medical decisions, provide support and advice, but most of all, I talk with them both as often as possible, really listening to what they say as well as listening for their unspoken needs.
Lest you think I am complaining, I treasure this time. I am giving back to the same people for whom I caused much grief, and we are reshaping our relationship for the better. I also get to model for my son what it is like to care for someone and support them while still having boundaries as well as love for others in your heart.
I will admit, though, it is exhausting, and sometimes things, such as writing, have to be sacrificed. It did get me thinking, though, about the future, the present, and how this life is reflected spiritually. I see the future in which my son leaves home, my parents pass, and I move from being the middle of the sandwich to possibly a slice of bread. There is a rhythm in this cycle, and as scripture tells us, there is a season for everything.
As I thought more about this, I realized my spiritual life was also like a sandwich. Sometimes I am the bottom slice of bread, feeling the weight of life, of sin, of unworthiness bearing down on me. Other times I feel like the top slice of bread, sure of myself and my spiritual life, feeling little to no responsibility for how my actions are affecting others or the burdens with which I may be weighing them down. Most days, though, I am somewhere in the middle, grateful to be able to support others while being supported myself. I am thankful for the prayers of friends, the prayers of the saints, and the prayers of the Theotokos helping get me through each day. And most of all, I am thankful for a loving and merciful God who is in charge of this messy sandwich I call life.