The other day I was speaking with my friend, who is also my former undergraduate college professor in my chosen profession, about a chapter I was writing for book submission. The subject of the chapter was the feelings of Stress, Overwhelm, and Stretched felt by the sandwich generation that has become part of the caregiving experience permeating all age groups. While once thought to be a primary predicament for the babyboomer generation. the fact remains that almost 25% of all adults find themselves in this situation with the largest number,70% being in the 40-59 age group, the years with the highest productivity and earning potential. Our discussion turned towards the role reversals for grandparents who have assumed the role of caregivers for their grandchildren, enabling their adult children to work in support of their families. I asked my friend to write her thoughts for this blog. I was moved to tears by what my friend and former professor wrote. I am including in my blog in its entirety.
GRANDPARENTING ---THE LAST CHAPTER
“I never thought of my life like chapters in a book until recently. My early eighties have been different than fifties, sixties and seventies. My full-time job days with the excitement, anxiety, and fulfillment are over, balancing taking care of my Mom while working full time, and raising children. I recall sobbing my heart out when she died; that is now in the distant past. Since then, several of my friends have died, my children are grown, and have families of their own. So where am I now? When I was younger, I envisioned this stage of my life as “finally having time to do what I wanted to do. Maybe I would travel, visit friends, visit family a few times a year----generally I would have fun.” What soon became apparent is that the final stages of my life would not look anything like I had envisioned. I really did not know myself very well, even though I have been in my share of counseling. Here are my current observations. I now realize that I have been a caretaker all my life. As a speech therapist, faculty member, VP for Enrollment and Student Affairs, daughter, parent and now grandmother, my passion for this role will never change. I left my full-time job nine years ago to help my daughter raise her two children. While she worked full time when the kids were one and three years of age, I was there five days a week: baby-sitting, washing, cleaning, playing with the girls, and redecorating the house. It felt like a meaningful extension of my former life. I could make a difference in two little girls lives and help my daughter work through some of the challenges I had addressed earlier in my life. As the girls got older, now age nine and eleven, my role has changed. They can do their homework without help, they want to be with their friends, and they have become more independent. Covid, social media, a maturing family with their own ideas about child rearing, again changed my role, and thus forced me to examine my worth and my day-to day activities. While working and raising my own children I did little work in my community. When I no longer had a full-time job, I decided to run for the local School Committee. This will be my sixth year on the Committee, and I have learned a lot. I had been used to running things for so long, that it was a challenge to realize the parameters that surround a volunteer School Committee. Many of the skills I had learned throughout my younger years helped. I value the hard work it takes to create a team of teachers, staff, administrators, parents and community leaders in order to continually enhance the schools and create a positive learning environment. I am more aware of the smaller things that are done that create a positive environment and hope have acknowledged these things. Finally while I care about negative comments about my opinion, I more easily confront these issues head on and am more comfortable in my own skin. While I spoke about health issues of aging adults when I was a speech therapist, I really did not know what I was talking about. Aging usually does not usually come all at once. I have described it to others as “being nibbled to death by ducks”. There are some weeks when the only adults I talk with are doctors. When the conversation starts- with---For your age---you know that the conversation will not end well. This usually means you are going to have live with the problem or take a drug or have a procedure that has undesirable side effects. I also have found myself adopting behaviors that lessen pain, risk of injury, or give the perception that I am feeling old. I know that falling is very frightening for many of us. This is a reality that we cannot escape, and the consequences can be dire. No wonder friends of my age discuss these issues. Sometimes we come up with better ideas than the 40-year-old doctor we are seeing. Finally, death has taken on a different dimension in the last few years. I cried at all funerals I went to until those I attended in the last year. There is an emotional difference. Perhaps it is because I am not afraid of dying myself. Perhaps, this is because I have been to so many. Perhaps because death seems a natural part of the life cycle. Even though I knew it, I did not feel it. I am not sure I would have been able to write these things without being a grandparent. I feel like I can spend my time either being a decent example of a human being for them, making the community a better place, or just being a person to be around who cares about them and others whom I love------a final frontier in the circle of life.” - Suzanne Swope Please feel free to submit comments, or for more information or to receive The SeniorScape™ to your inbox email: email@example.com