Being an empty nester was short lived. I’m pretty sure it lasted ten months from August of 2012 to May of 2013. Ah, I remember it well! Both kids were in college and our parents were healthy and living well on their own. It was great. We had dreaded that time in which the last kid moved out of the house but when it actually happened, it surprised us. We did just fine! We didn’t have to have meat and potatoes on the table at 6:00. We didn’t have to juggle our schedules with anyone else’s. Dinner could be a bowl of popcorn sipping on a beverage while watching Netflix. We enjoyed being empty nesters. . .for ten months.
And then kids graduated from college and lived with us while attending graduate school or doing a gap year. Don’t get me wrong, we loved that bonus time together. In fact, we loved it more than I’m sure Hannah and Nathan did who probably would rather have NOT lived with mom and dad after college, but we had a free room for them, laundry, good meals and all the hot water they wanted.
But just as the kids gained their independence, our focus went to the other end of the age spectrum. Our parents. My mom had a minor stroke that changed their sense of independence. They were now just a bit more frail, needing more attention. And Gretchen’s mother voluntarily gave up her car as she become more unsteady on her feet. It became more and more apparent that at 86, she needed to be closer to Gretchen. While all of her children would have gladly taken on more responsibility, Gretchen’s life stage and situation were best suited to provide the additional attention Helen needed.
So now we are that sandwich couple. With one child still left to launch, we find ourselves caring for an aging parent. Gretchen’s mother will be moving down to Charlotte after 60 plus years in Duluth, Minnesota. And while we are happy to give her the care and support that she needs, we are seeing first hand how hard it is to start all over at her age in a new community. Saying goodbye in Duluth was emotional and difficult.
This week, we are making the transition. Gretchen and I will be driving the U-Haul down from Duluth (just south of the Canadian border!), setting up her new apartment and checking on her often. It is something we both actually look forward to. Having not lived near family most of our married life, this will be a welcomed gift for us. After all that our parents have done for us throughout the years, it feels good to be able to return the favor. They were there for us when we needed help. We want to be there for them when they need the help.
Hopefully, this will be a good example to Hannah and Nathan because one day. . . a long time from now, hopefully they, too, will return the favor.
Living in the Sandwich,