When I turned fifty the American Association of Retired Persons knew. I don't know how they knew and I've pondered this. Did my name pop up on a Google search under the heading, "People who are turning 50 this year and are gullible?" Whatever method their marketing department used to locate me, they struck gold. The very day I received my special invitation to join AARP my check was forwarded to them by return mail, helped by the fact that the sample issue they sent had Robert Redford's photo on the front.
Lately I've noticed that a new buzzword has appeared in my AARP magazine. Every issue of late has included the term "sandwich generation," referring to people who are caring for children or grandchildren while at the same time filling the role of caregiver for elderly parents. I hadn't thought much about this in relation to myself until one day last week. On Friday morning I found myself clutching my slippery(and unhappy) baby grandson as I demonstrated for my daughter how to wash an infant's hair. And on Friday evening I found myself clutching my slippery (and unhappy) elderly mother as I demonstrated for her the necessity of an occasional all-over bath. Somewhere in the middle of my interactions with Mom I realized that my activities on that Friday served as a graphic illustration of what it means to be a member of the sandwich generation.
This morning my daughter needed a babysitter and as I was on my way out the door I paused and looked back into the open door of our downstairs bathroom. For a long time I've been meaning to paint the walls and to replace the peeling grout in the shower, but since Mom moved in with us I've not done my usual home upkeep projects. I was saved from feeling resentment over having no time for leisure activities (such as scraping grout) when I remembered a line from a poem that comforted me many times when my children were infants, "...quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep, I'm rocking my baby, and babies don't keep." There will always be home improvement projects, but there will not always be babies to hold. And I won't always have my mother with me.
I don't mind being a member of the sandwich generation. Sandwiched between two generations of people who love you is a pretty cozy place to be.