The Sandwich

And how I wish I was about to write an ode to food. I would love to be writing about food. In fact, I would give anything to be writing about the wonderful pork chops I made or the grilled cheese sandwich my son ate for lunch. Instead, I’m talking about the sandwich generation, of which I am now a card-carrying member.

The saga began last Tuesday. I was on the phone with P and his work cell phone rang. We said goodbye and I went on with my day for about three minutes. Our phone rang and it was P. The other call had been his mother, she was feeling very sick and needed him to take her to the hospital. I did not see P again until Thursday.

His mother is still with us, but she is very ill. Ill enough that her time in the hospital will likely be measured in weeks, not days, and will involve an incredibly risky surgery from which she is not guaranteed to live, but without she is guaranteed to die. So, we’re moving forward toward a surgery date that keeps getting moved as her condition doesn’t deteriorate and her doctor believes we are gaining ground that will be valuable post-surgery. He’s good and I hope that he’s right about this one. A notable fact about P’s family is that his parents do not have health insurance of any kind. Not for want of arguing on our parts, but they do not have it and that is that.

P’s father has not been well for some time. In my eyes, he exhibits all of the signs of a person with Alzheimer’s disease, but because he refuses to see a doctor for any reason, and believes that we are conspiring against him when we suggest he take an aspirin, there has been no diagnosis. P was stretched to the end of his rope by Wednesday night. His father kept wandering off. P could not keep track of him. They went back to his parents’ house to get some sleep and his father kept waking him up wanting to know who he was and what he was doing in the house.

After some discussion, we agreed that hiring home care for his father was a prudent move because, unsurprisingly, P needs to be working and we have obligations to our children, not the least of them to Katie. The home health care lasted less than twelve hours before P’s dad threw them out of his house and called the police.

During the course of the discussion with the officers, P’s dad made it clear that he didn’t want to see P and he didn’t want P on his property, so P had to abide by those wishes.

In the meantime, we discovered some issues with our insurance and Katie’s upcoming surgery. Issues large enough that the surgery was almost completely derailed. Fortunately, we have good friends who were able to recommend another surgeon who is not a problem for our insurance, so we have an appointment with that person on the 2nd of September. Ideally, surgery for trigonocephaly is completed before the 1st birthday. We are just under 3 months from Katie’s first birthday. I’m hoping we can get this done quickly and settled. I hate that we’ve wasted over two months waiting for people to figure out what they want to do only to discover at the last minute that this is simply not going to happen the way that we thought it would.

However, given the way things have turned out, it’s a blessing that her surgery is not a month from now as we had planned. We planned for September 18. In the current circumstances, P’s mother will not be back in her own house and we are not sure whether P will have enough time to take to be in the hospital with Katie were the surgery to happen then. So, moving it a month later, even, would be a huge bonus for us.

But this is what the sandwich is about. We’re caught between our responsibilities to our children and our responsibilities to P’s parents. How do we integrate a woman who needs quiet and rest into a house with a super-active almost four year old (read that to mean LOUD)? How do we find space for her in our three bedroom house? How do I add her care to the demanding schedule that I already have of children, dogs, house, husband, and work (read students)?

I don’t know. I wish I did know, but I don’t. I wish I could say that I’ve handled all of this super gracefully, but in the interests of the integrity I claim to have, I haven’t. I’ve been difficult and frustrated and seriously pissed off about the reasons this situation is coming about. I called my parents and confirmed that they have insurance, long-term care insurance, and every other freaking thing you can think of to keep this insanity from happening twice.

I have reined in my inner pain in the ass to some degree and have not looked at P and said, “See . . . this is why I insisted on two children. No one person should have to deal with all of this essentially by himself.” However, my inner pain in the ass was not as kind about the dishwasher that died (immediately after the death of the garbage disposal), the code violation we were given, and so on. The garbage disposal now works thanks to one of P’s friends. I am remembering all of the handwashing techniques that I learned when I lived in Auburn (the land of no dishwashers, at least in any house I could find). And we were found in compliance with code as of today and we discovered we have a crank in the neighborhood who is apparently calling in violations on everyone they can. It’s truly charming.

Right now, I’m hanging on by my fingernails and hoping that we will pull through this without losing our minds. It’s hard and it’s painful in many ways, particularly for P. I feel for him and hope that he knows how much I admire his strength in facing an impossible set of circumstances and choices. One man cannot be in four places and having to choose and prioritize is hurting him terribly. Having his daughter turn away from him when he came back after almost 72 hours away was incredibly painful for him. She settled back quickly, but that initial reluctance hurt him.

Long days and hard decisions are facing all of us. Pray for us as we go through these challenging times and remember to talk to your parents about their plans, their insurance, and all that stuff. Keep talking and arguing until they do the things that need to be done. It’s important, and it’s responsible.