Sunday, October 10, 2010

On Aging, Part One

It looks as though today is not the day I'm going to start leaving funny anecdotes about my truly delicious girls.  They do figure pretty heavily in what I'm thinking about today though.

I'm thinking a lot about aging today: mine, theirs and, mostly, my mother's.  They are intertwined in a way I'd never dreamed of.

For many of us who had our children, ahem, later in life, there is a struggle on an almost daily basis; raising young children and helping with or caring for aging/unwell parents. It is a difficult, emotional balancing act that often leaves me in tears and despair...especially when someone has a health crisis (which inevitably is at a time most inconvenient for everyone).

This is my story:

I was blessed three years ago with the birth of my twin girls, Lily and Addison.  Although premature by almost 8 weeks, they were in excellent health, but they were very small.  Addison spent 13 days in the NICU, and Lily 31, getting beefed up and ready to come home.  Today they are happy, healthy, active, intelligent, inquisitive (ok, you get the picture) preschoolers.

The birth of my twins, 6 months before my 40th birthday, answered the question "How on earth am I ever going to have two children before I'm 40 when I didn't get engaged until I was 38+?" My desire to have a family completed by 40 was fulfilled but it also meant that Abe and I went from becoming engaged to becoming the parents of twins in 11 months! It didn't really leave much time for that honeymoon period which adds stress of an entirely different nature.

Now let's compound all of the above with having a mother who was diagnosed with diabetes in 1993 and began to show serious complications starting in about 2001.  I'm not going to get bogged down with all the details but there have been heart attacks, open-heart surgery, amputations (including the right leg below the knee) and multiple hospitalizations.

Which gets me to why I am thinking about aging today.  Mom spent last week in the hospital, was discharged on Friday and re-admitted last night. Abe and I were taking his parents to the airport when I got the text message that she was going back to the hospital. I was told that she was vomiting and that her blood pressure was extremely low but she was stable. I live more than an hour away from her so picking up and going was not an option - another source of frustration.

I know, I should just go and see her right now, right?  BUT I have been looking forward to this day for the last three years.  One day, during Lily's tenure in the NICU, the nurses (angels on earth if ever there were any) were telling me that they were hosting a reunion for prior NICU patients and their families and that the hospital hosted such a reunion once every three years.  It gave me something to look forward to when I was so worried about my 4-pound newborn.  Well, today is the day of the reunion; the day I get to go back into that hospital to truly celebrate the birth and lives of my babies.  I've been so excited to show off my girls. 

I'm going to put this out there as plainly as I can:  I resent the fact that I had to choose what to do.  I want nothing more than to enjoy this time with my girls the way a younger mother might be able to and for my mother to be able to be the grandmother I'm sure she always wanted to be.  One like her own mother: actively enjoying her grandchildren, spoiling them rotten, becoming their playmate and confidante. Instead, I have to contemplate depriving my children of a fun costume party filled with other children in order for me to go visit with my mother in the hospital. I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't.

They call us the sandwich generation...stuck in the middle...raising little ones and dealing with aging ones...with very little time for ourselves.  Sounds depressing, no? It is. The emotions are endless: anger, guilt, resentment, despair, fear....

Here's what I decided to do: I checked in with mom this morning.  Although she sounds horrible and is definitely weak and miserable, she's not going anywhere.  I will take the girls to their party and leave a bit early.  We will then go to NJ to see mom and spend the night.  Unfortunately, I think we'll have to skip a hockey game tomorrow but that's a much easier sacrifice to make.

I know life is and always be filled with many challenges but right now they are verging on overwhelming.  I'm always saying "This, too, shall pass" to others so I need to keep reminding myself of that fact.  Unfortunately, I worry what life will look like when it does....

Follow up:  As I was getting the girls dressed I got a phone call from my brother (a topic for another time)that mom potentially had a bowel perforation and might need surgery.  With a little help from Abe I re-prioritized and skipped the reunion.  It broke my heart to miss it but the right place was with my mother.  No perforation thank goodness but they are continuing to run tests....

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