The Task At Hand

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September 30, 2009 by David Gillaspie





You are busy.  You tell others how busy you are.  You say you are stressed because you feel stress.  All of your friends feel just like you.

When you get together with your group you all talk about how busy and stressed you are:

“My wife helped make a new retaining wall and slipped.  She thinks she broke her wrist.”

“My husband brought home a new dog.  Now it’s run away.”

“My kid needs a working volcano for science class.  Where do I find magma?”

Yes, the heater needs a new filter; the kitchen floor is sticky; the car needs an oil change.  Who does these things when there’s not enough time for you to do what you need to do?

You are gaining weight and it’s all on your face.  Your feet ache from falling arches and your shoes don’t fit anymore.  You pin point five areas of your body that surgery would improve: tummy tuck, breast augmentation, lipo-suction, face lift, corrective eye procedure.  You ask your partner if they have five areas ready for a make-over and they say the same thing.

Neither of you will go under the knife any time soon, though. 

One says, “If I want to get stabbed I’ll go to the county fair rodeo and heckle cowboys.”

They other says, “Push-ups or breast implants?  Drop and give me twenty.”

You’ve got problems you can share with others.  Your friends have similar lives.  When you get together you talk in code with knowing smiles.  You share a secret all Boomers know: We knew better, but here we are.

You think of your father’s three heart attacks when you make a doctor’s appointment; your mother’s diabetes pops up when you crack a beer.  You remember your aunt’s death from a drunk driver on the way home from a party.

Back in the day you grew long hair, listened to Jimi, and longed for a soul mate.  Today you keep your rig high and tight, hang Jimi album covers on the wall, and call your sweetheart ‘Honey’ just like your parents.  Your kids don’t think you’re cool even though you are cooler than your parents.

Then you move in with your parents.  One day you’re part of the America that gets up, makes lunches, and gets everyone out the door before heading to work.  The next day you’re a member of the Sandwich Generation.  You move from Open Face Sandwich to a big, fat cheese steak. 

Welcome to Family Caregiver-land. 

The combined-family living experiment includes elderly mothers and fathers, or in-laws.  Sometimes uncles and cousins, but that’s for the Extended-Family-Caregiver. 

Years back a book came out titled “It Takes a Village” to raise a child.  Hillary Clinton wrote it.  She had one kid.  Not two, not three or four.  Most people like the idea of the village, which in size is bigger than a hamlet but smaller than a town.  It turns out a village is more than people with torches chasing Dr. Frankenstein’s latest project through the night.  They are also babysitters.

You’ve probably been in a village and didn’t know it.  Most of the time a village is well off the freeway, unless a gas station with a mini-mart qualifies.  One road goes through a village.  It’s called Main Street.  It has maybe one stop light.  Like the fallacy of the noble savage at one in nature, a villager is most likely a frightened creature protecting a dying way of life. 

Where does a villager go when the rest of the family moves to the suburbs of a god forsaken city?  The smart ones stay close; the rest wait until the last moment then spring the news that they’re moving in.  Boomer couple takes it either way.  They had it easy on the growing-up part of their lives, now it’s time for payback.

Without living through The Depression and WWII, Baby Boomers only had to survive Eisenhower and Vietnam.  No one in their generation had to face a committee asking “Are you now, or have you ever been, a Communist?”  For them the question is easier.  Were you a beatnik?  A hippie?  Whose ponytail is stored in a plastic bag?

The Boomers fought ‘The Man’, usually their dad, then he comes to live with them?  And you welcome him with kindness.  You open your heart and find a way to common ground.  You take every bump in the road in stride.  You lay your cards on the table after carefully stacking the deck so the old man sees a winner each time.

You are the Family Caregiver.  It is your way of saying thank you.  Of course you could just say thank you and send a card, but that would mean visiting an assisted living home, or retirement home.  More important it would mean your Mom visiting the home.  Each visit brings more distress, so why not skip that part and keep Momma happy.

Repeat after me: “If Momma ain’t happy, no one is happy.” 

Now mind your manners and pass momma’s special meatloaf while you wonder why it takes a village to raise a child, but leaves a family caregiver feeling isolated.


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