raising parents_photo

Wikipedia defines “The Sandwich Generation” as a generation of people who care for their aging parents while supporting their own children.

Going through my hard drive, I ran across this piece I wrote ten years ago. Ten years ago, I didn’t have children, and ten years ago, I hadn’t even begun drafting my first full-length story which became Love’s Perfect Surrender.

The essay is as relevant today as it was years ago because this summer my sisters and I helped our elderly parents move out of their old home where they had spent twenty wonderful years cultivating and creating memories within the very walls of a house they adored. They downsized. A much-needed task that was emotionally and physically draining.

It’s not easy moving, so you can well imagine the difficulty at an older age. My parents have a long road ahead of them now. They are starting over—slowly getting acquainted with their neighborhood, neighbors, new driving routes, and creating a brand new system of living within the home.

Re-reading the words I wrote about my mom and dad has given me a greater appreciation for how their influences, disciplines, life-lessons, and successes and failures have shaped me to become who I am today. No mother and father can ever be perfect. You can get married, move out-of-state, or never speak to your parents ever again, but the truth is, they will always be your parents. Blood is harder to separate from than water.

My sister recently sent me this scripture this week about honoring your parents. It’s right on. Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12, ESV).

I’ve kept the essay as I originally wrote it; without any editing or revisions. I guess it’s my way of preserving my thought process at the time, but it’s also a way for me to compare how my writing has changed/stayed the same over the years. I’ll never forget where I’ve been or where I came from. It may be the past, but without the past, one can’t pave a different future without looking back to see where they had once begun.

This is for my Mother and Father—my perfectly, flawed parents. I rejoice in your love.

November, 2005

It’s been a long time since I was parented. I remember the first time I tried riding my bike without training wheels and my father calling from the driveway, “Come on, you can do it. Remember, life is like the two wheels you’re riding on. Everything else is baggage.” Or when I was in eighth grade and my mom caught my two best friends smoking pot, and she firmly advised me in not so many words to stay away from marijuana. Then for some reason I can’t quite remember exactly, she said something to the effect that she’d kill me, if she ever found out I was doing drugs. Hmm…I must have blocked that part out.

Growing older, I recall being upset about breaking up with my first boyfriend, Andrew, and my mom telling me not to worry. “There’ll be others,” she said nonchalantly. “This isn’t the last boyfriend you’ll ever have.” She was right. When I graduated from college, my parents told me this was “the ultimate gift” for them. You see, my parents only finished second and third grade from their home country of Italy. Now, having three daughters – my older sister, me, and soon my younger sister, attaining a college education, is something they aspired to achieve when they came to the United States in 1967.

It was right around my twenty-fourth birthday when I got my first real job out of college. The family celebrated by going out to dinner. When the bill came, my mom handed it to me and said, “Now that you have job, you can pay.” Then, when I was laid off from two jobs within a one-year period, my parents supported me in that time of employment uncertainty.

Ten years ago, when I was getting married, my dad sat me down and shared an invaluable piece of advice. “Now you’ll know what it will be like to have a family and make sacrifices, just like we did for all of you.”

Since I’ve been married, my relationship with my parents has changed. I’m not only their daughter, but I am now their finance advisor, doctor, counselor, and of course parent. Our conversations revolve around ailing limbs, Medicare prescriptions, Wheel of Fortune, and rising gas prices. I even find myself supporting and assisting them on the very things they’ve counseled me all of my life. Their wisdom that they successfully instilled into me has made me into the woman I am today.

It’s weird how you can look at your parents as indestructible all your life, only to realize they’re human like everybody else. Growing up and getting older is a strange process, almost like two parallel lines – a beginning and end running alongside of one another. My parents have become dependent on my sisters and me, the same way we depended on them most of our lives.

In a world where people are living longer, much care will be required from the children for their aging parents. And, no amount of education can define the value of Raising Parents.