Both a Mother and a Daughter

LAURA

LAURA

Life presents us with important transitional moments, a chance to pause, reflect, cry, question and grieve, perhaps make some changes, and find the way to move forward with strength and determination toward the next chapter. I can help you find your way.

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Both a Mother and a Daughter

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My father Vern has lived with us for over thirteen years. It started with the notion that he could move nearby and help out when the boys were very young. At the time we lived in an expensive area of the suburbs of New York City, and, not finding affordable housing, he moved in with us. Though already older, in the beginning he was able to help look after the boys and contribute to keeping the house. As the years have past we’ve all gotten older. The boys need less looking after and Vern needs more.

 

When we lived in New York, one of my favorite places to be was Coney Island. I was a girl from small town California and I often felt out of my league living in the shadows of NYC. Coney Island was a place where everything and everyone was ok. I delighted in taking the boys there, to run in the sand and waves, indulge in soft serve ice cream, and enjoy the rides when they were old enough.

 

Most of the time I took the boys on my own and I always enjoyed being there. The logistics were tricky, the long car ride, getting people to the bathroom, sunscreen, snacks that spilled in the sand, etc. All the good stuff of toddlers and beaches. Once in a while Vern came too. That made it easier for me to use the bathroom stall alone! 

 

If you have kids or helped raise any, did you read “Goodnight Moon?” I think I read it over one thousand times! I remember the years of little ones and the repetition of stories, tea parties, hot wheel chases, and pushing the swing. There’s so much we do for and with our young children, all the time knowing that they won’t remember it. And though exhausted, we do it with love and generosity. I loved Coney Island for watching the boys run with joy in the waves, and also for the connection to my own childhood on the coast. So I loved it for me too. I just felt good there and also loved facilitating their fun. 

 

I’m not sure when we first started using the term “The Sandwich Generation” but it certainly refers to me. That is unless it is about the Baby Boomers and I am not a Boomer! I say that with passion because it is the source of teasing from my teens. Whenever I get confused about technology or TikTok I hear “Mom, you’re such a Boomer!” Living in the inbetween of parenting and caregiving, responsibilities for childrearing and caretaking aging parents, makes the sandwich. I think that it is just what you do in a lot of other cultures, but in America it stands out. 

 

I’m going to be honest, it’s hard for me. Partly, it’s just been so long. Vern’s presence has shaped the kind of house we can live in, our daily routine, and now our family vacations. We can’t all be out of town unless we pay for a service to look after him. It’s just what you do and that’s loyalty, compassion, and honoring of the parents. And it’s hard. 

 

He has early dementia and some days he is more confused than others. Recently he asked me about a haircut. “My beard is getting pretty long, what can I do about that? Is there a barber to go to?” I answered, “Well, Dad, I can trim it, that’s what I’ve been doing for three years.” “Oh, is that what happens? I couldn’t remember.” 

 

At first it felt like such a sting. I said to myself, that sucks, all this time, energy, and care and he doesn’t even remember. I had a little pity party for a bit. And then I remembered Coney Island and “Goodnight Moon.” 

 

We take our kids to LegoLand, to the local fairs and pumpkin patches, we organize birthday parties, play dates, and learning opportunities. We do it because it’s fun for them and us and because it creates a foundation of nurturance, curiosity and joy in being alive. We don’t expect them to remember. Could I think of what I do for my dad in the same way? Could I hold the perspective that what I do for him is to create a feeling of being taken care of – of mattering to someone. Isn’t that what we all want, throughout our lives and perhaps even more in the waning moments, that someone cares that we are alive and to feel that our life has mattered? And so we took Vern to the beach. It also took some effort, a bit of a drive, a wheelchair instead of a stroller, and sand in the snacks. He might not remember with thoughts, but his soul feels cared for. And I remember. 

 

I dedicate this blog to my old friend, Coney Island. Miss you!

 

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