Living in the Sandwich Generation can be a weird and wonderful place. The other day a friend of mine said she had heard someone talking about the Sandwich Generation. We both sort of smiled as she mentioned the now well-used phrase.
“Well,” she said to me, smiling even more, “if it’s called the Sandwich Generation, then you must be the peanut butter and jelly.”
“It’s a good thing that’s my favorite sandwich,” I replied; then we started to laugh.
Later, I thought about the conversation. And as I thought about being in the middle of the Sandwich Generation, I realized that if you found yourself as the sole caretaker in your family’s version of it, and if you didn’t like the sandwich, you’d be in a real pickle. Not that I like the sandwich all the time; in fact, there are plenty of times that I chafe at being in the middle, but taking care of two generations on either side of me has been my life for so long, I don’t really know any different, which is what I’ve noticed about most people in the middle of the sandwich. Even so, under the weight of the responsibility of being three people’s brains among other things, there are many times that it can be very difficult to be thankful.
At this time of year when we as a nation, a community and as individual families, take the fourth Thursday of November to be thankful, it can seem like an extra burden to not only prepare a meal, or prepare a dish to take to family and friends, but figure out something to actually be thankful for, too.
I don’t know if your family’s like mine, but every Thanksgiving when the main meal is finished and the dessert has yet to be served, we go around the table and tell everyone else what we have been thankful for in the past year. Human nature being what it is, it’s always easier to find the things that have gone wrong in our world rather than find things that have gone right. And, being an overwhelmed member of the Sandwich Generation doesn’t make that any easier.
So, after all that, I’ll just tell you that that’s what I’m going to do in the rest of this column, find the things in my life to be thankful for in hopes that they may inspire you in your own list of things to be thankful for, even if you’re the peanut butter and jelly in the middle of the sandwich.
First, I am thankful for my son, whose texts to me make me chuckle because they mainly consist of saying things like, “Mom last night there was a clown with a baseball bat on campus.” (My response, of course, was, “Did it escape from Circus Circus?” – my son goes to the University of Nevada, Reno.) “Mom can I have some money?” Or, “Mom, there’s a problem ...”
There are times when we as a society tend to pooh-pooh technology and the fact that the younger generation seems to feel as though their arms were amputated at the wrist if they weren’t holding their phones. But I have come to appreciate the conversation that I can have with my son through the use of technology, which makes me so thankful to live in this day and age. And yes, I am very thankful for technology at the level it is today, because I remember what it was like before we had it.
I am thankful for my mom, even though she can be a dervish on wheels, and when I say wheels, I mean a rockin’ red walker. My fun-loving uncle, who passed away years ago, would always ask me, “Can’t you do anything with her?” My answer was always short and sweet, “No.” Then we would have a good laugh about it. Eventually, his question, and my answer, became a running joke between us. The fact is, even though she has some significant health challenges, she is still her energetic, dramatic, incorrigible self and, with her, there is never a dull moment. She doesn’t know a stranger, will make apple pies for the whole world if she could and loves nothing more than to have a house full of people.
I am thankful for the rest of my family, along with my friends who have become my family in this mountain community. They have made it an unexpected home for my city-loving self. These relationships have taught me one of the most important things about being thankful, and that is that it has nothing to do with where you are or what you have, but everything to do with who you’re in relationships with.
On that note, I wish all of you in the Sandwich Generation a very thankful Thanksgiving, and, take heart and be assured that there are many people who would put you on their list of thankfulness.
Sarah Lunsford is a freelance journalist living in Murphys. You can reach her at email@example.com.