The Sandwich Generation - Part Two

April 1, 2010

Soft, glowing lights formed geometric patterns on a dark background as my plane made its descent into Newark Airport. The squares and rectangles and grids of street lights looked orderly and well-planned, almost predictable, as I gazed from the tiny airplane window. How ironic that life on those streets is far from orderly or predictable. Our life these days seems messy, often frenetic, and a bit scary in its uncertainties. I am returning from spending a few days checking on my elderly parents. We spent many hours just talking – about the past and about the present. At their age they no longer talk much about the future. I was struck at the simplicity of life in their past that they cling to, and the confusing rush of constant change that they are encountering in their present. “Progress” is coming at them too fast for them to absorb – they understand “party lines” not iPhones and Droids. They understand postage stamps and penmanship not emails and texting. They sit on their porch and wave at neighbors riding by on their bicycles yet they must venture out into a world where people seem to speak a different language, walk faster, and are terribly impatient. I try to explain the technology, changes, and policies that now encroach on their lives. I deal with what they are unable to understand or unwilling to get involved with. I try to protect them, and make the future that appears uncertain and overwhelming in its complexities, survivable.

I try to protect them, and make the future that appears uncertain and overwhelming in its complexities, survivable.” Is that not what I am also doing for Lauren? The uncertainties of her future – where she will live, with whom she will live, who will care for her – are constant questions. How the economy, politics, and public attitudes will affect the funding and options that will shape her future are yet more. How interesting that the same questions that apply to my child, also apply to my my elderly parents. The difference lies in the fact that my parents do not dwell on the years that lay ahead of them – they know that they are limited. For Lauren, the future looms large and lengthy. She has a future yet to plan, to enjoy, to live. Because she is really just starting her life, she seems more vulnerable, and the answers to those many questions are both more difficult and more important to answer.

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