I feel compelled to tell a personal story. One of sadness that many Baby Boomers like me are facing.
We are the sandwich generation. We not only manage the care and wellbeing of our children, but we also take primary care and concern for
our parents as well.
My Dad recently shared with me that he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. This is not a disease that runs in my family. In fact, no one has ever had it.
My dad is 84.
My father played golf most of his life (and was very good), but now he doesn't. He misses it dearly.
Dad mostly sits at home now and worries about how he can't remember where his keys are (I told him that most of us can't, regardless of age), and that he works hard to complete tasks each day, but when he goes tosleep, it's all erased.
He's on edge thinking about the day he wanders out the door and into a neighborhood he doesn't know. His lovely wife worries about him too,
and they both know that the time will come when he won't remember her either.
Dad and I have always been very close. I dedicated my most recent book to him.
o Dad: You have always been my biggest fan.
During a recent conversation with Dad, I told him that we should develop a code to help him remember as his condition progresses. We
agreed that I would show him photos and remind him of the people in them. I have always been the photo thief in my family (well, my cousin might surpass me by a few boxes), so I have pictures of my dad going back to his childhood.
I talk to my dad several times a week and am seeing him more often, yet I know I have to prepare myself for the inevitable. At some point in
the not too distant future, Dad may not be around anymore.
As Boomers, we spend our lives raising our children to be better off than us and to connect with our parents more than they were taught to
connect with us. And now, as life marches on, we have to face the fact that our lifelong role will be interrupted too.
Conversations with my Dad had been slowing down over the
past year, and he had been losing a lot of weight, but I figured it was the cycle of life—nothing more.
We all face the same end in life, but when we think the end is a long way off, sometimes we are slapped in the face with a condition or situation that interrupts life as we know it.
My mother recently passed from a blood clot in her lungs after hip surgery and too much moving around. She was 82. It was unexpected. All she wanted was to paint and do water aerobics at the local pool again.
Her life was interrupted to.
What happens when we don't have our parents anymore? It was hard enough losing my mother unexpectedly, but to learn directly after that my Dad was on the decline too, bordered on devastating. I hadn't begun to grieve mom's passing and pre-grief for Dad had already set in.
What does that say for us Boomers, who are so busy providing, caring, loving and worrying our way through life? Has happiness skipped a generation?
We did all the right things. We played and then got responsible and we wait for retirement to play again. Yet all along the way, we
are caring for others on both sides of the generational divide.
As I reflect on life and the many interruptions along the way—career, relationships, events—I realize that it's the caring that sustains us. It's the journey.
So, when I start to feel sorry for myself and kind of scared at being at the head of the family food chain once my Dad moves on, I remind myself that we're all the same. We all face the same beginning and the same end.
It's in the embracing of change and the unfolding of the journey where the joy lies.
So, if like me, you are in the middle of this stage of life, and yours too is interrupted, remember these words.
And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.
Live your life. Every day. Care. Love unconditionally. Laugh. Have fun and enjoy every minute you can with those you love the most. Don't settle in a job or life that doesn't speak to your soul. Take risks. Be the you who you are meant to be. And, in the process, you will be able to handle all of life's unexpected interruptions with grace, calm and an appreciation for all that you have and all that you have given to those you love.