Saturday, December 22, 2007

I am a sandwich

I am a sandwich or better yet, I am of the sandwich generation. I am in my early forties and I’m sandwiched between my two younger children and parents in their mid-sixties. My experience with my father this week has made this painfully clear.

For the last year or so, my dad has been in extreme discomfort from his right knee and earlier this week he had knee replacement surgery. When Dad mentioned he was planning to have this surgery, I was really happy, because of course, if something could be done to alleviate his pain, I wanted it done. I was also concerned as to how we could manage his recovery because my dad lives alone. I’m an only child, and since my parent’s break-up about 4 years ago, my dad and I have been forced to deal with each other in a more production way, as we’ve tried to heal our challenged relationship.

When discussing his operation, my dad assured me he had everything covered and really wouldn’t need my assistance. In fact, he said he didn’t need me to come to the hospital during the surgery. Well, I explained nothing would keep me from being with him at the hospital or as he weathered this ordeal, but I needed to have some idea of what I’d be in for. I mean, what about getting him up and down the stairs in his house? How much weight will he be able to put on his right leg by the time he goes home? My dad’s 6’1” and about 250lbs, he’s not a small man and I didn’t know if he should really be managing in his house alone for the first few days after the surgery. I’d already planned to go to his house each morning to fix his breakfast for at least the first week following the operation. I’m off for the holidays until January 3rd, so it really isn’t a big deal. Again, my dad’s assured me this isn’t necessary.

Well, yesterday I learned my dad has no idea of what he’s in for and the few things he does have in place are woefully inadequate and will not address his immediate needs once he’s discharged. When I went to the hospital yesterday afternoon, my dad’s nurse, Marsha, introduced me to Tracey, my dad’s caseworker. Tracey peppered me with at least a half dozen questions, which I wasn’t prepared to answer. She told me I’d have to buy a portable toilet and walker. For at least the next three weeks, a physical therapist and homecare nurse will come to Dad’s home to assist him, but someone should probably be staying with him for the first week at least. Once Tracy gave me a more comprehensive picture of my dad’s situation, I was pretty mad and disgusted with my dad.

I’m angry because this is a lot more than I anticipated and because I’ve been asking my dad for weeks to sit down with me and devise a plan to make this work. Now I find myself having to rework my plans to accommodate his needs. I’m not proud that I feel this way, but I would be more amiable about helping him out if my dad asked, or at least, sat me down to explain what the recovery was realistically going to look like. At this point, I’ve found myself in this position by default.

I’m also realizing that as my parents' age, I will probably find myself in this position a lot more often, sandwiched between their needs, and my responsibilities as a wife and mother. But, if this were my mom, the circumstances would be a lot different because my mother and I have a much better relationship. We communicate and work well together. This current situation with my dad reflects our ongoing struggle, one in which in his mind, I’m still a 12-year-old child, who has to do things his way, without question, and to a certain extent, I guess I’ve played into this scenario, but if I value my sanity and that of my family, things are definitely going to have to change.


Kay said...

I understand (more than you know). Be sure to take care of yourself as you take care of others.
I will keep your dad's recovery in my prayers.
Love & Soul Always, Kay

Mes Deux Cents said...

Mango Mama,

I think as some men age they try to hold on to their "manly" independence. So that might account for some of your dad's reluctance to be candid about his needs.

Take care of yourself.

Mango Mama said...

Kay, Thanks so much for checking in and for the prayers. Hope all is well on your end and with your family. I will definitely try to carve out some "me time" over the next few days, but thanks for the reminder!

MDC, I think you're definitely right and I also think my dad is especially hard headed.