Thursday, October 6, 2016

The sandwich generation

So many of my friends are experiencing the deaths or ailing of their parents. One referred to us as the Sandwich Generation - stuck between small children and aging parents, all of whom need lots of care and attention. It's hard.

A couple of weeks ago I dropped everything to attend a friend's mother's memorial service. When her older brother spoke, I was in a flood of tears as this man broke down on the podium and explained that he now understood the significance of "rending your garment" when grieving - he said that you grab your shirt at the neck and pull down, and it makes a visual representation of how you feel inside: a hole in your heart. 

Later I asked The Boyfriend how he felt when his mother died of skin cancer when he was a young man. He said, "you're not going to like this, but...for a long time I felt all alone in the world." This is exactly how I picture it - that even if your mother isn't in your life, even if she rejected and abandoned you, even if you never speak, that somehow from even before birth it is imprinted on us that as long as The Mother is still alive somewhere, we are protected and everything is ok. This is how I feel now. As many of you know, my parents are both out to lunch and we have no contact. Yet, they are alive, in Brazil, and somehow this gives me some bizarre comfort. The Parents are alive so I am ok. It makes no sense, but there it is. 

Both of them have been in poor health and so I worry about getting "the call" at any time. Today I heard my cell phone ringing but I was all sticky from eating a pomegranate with Theo and so ignored it. When I went to check it, it was an oddly formatted number that was identified simply as "Brazil". I immediately called my sister to see if she had gotten a call, but she hadn't, and there was never a voicemail or a call back (yet). I googled the area code and it was from a region of Brazil far away from both of them - but of course this doesn't mean much. 

For all I know the call was merely a coincidence - a wrong number from the one country I have a connection to. But it does make me think about what has been in my mind a lot lately. That one day - maybe today, maybe 20 years from now - my mother and father will die, and I will be left unprotected and all alone in the world. This isn't of course true, but I know it will feel that way. And even worse - one day I will have to leave these boys. And that thought crushes me far more.

I hope whenever the moment comes that I am left parentless - even more than I am now; even more than I have always been - that I allow myself to howl and rend my garment. If I allow myself to really feel it, then maybe I can allow myself to really move on.


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