the second generation

The Messy Sandwich Generation

Last month, my wife Christine and I visited her mother in sunny California. Christine maintains this ritual a few times each year to visually reassure herself of her mom’s well-being. She was reminded of the gift and the struggles of being in the ‘Sandwich generation.’

Christine’s mother is the epitome of vitality at 79. Every Saturday, she wakes up at 3:30 AM to go to work, where she works in a lab for over 8 hours.

On other days, her day begins with a philanthropic mission—collecting surplus groceries for the food pantry. Her afternoons are spent gleaning, so she’s out in local orchards picking fruit that would otherwise go to waste. Her commitments extend to her place of worship, where she covers for staff so that they can attend meetings and take breaks. In addition, she spends many evenings working with the symphony staff.

Any gaps in her bustling schedule are filled with five-mile walks around the lake with a friend.

However, our recent visit unveiled a sobering revelation that jolted both Christine and her mother. Her mother couldn’t recall Christine’s years dedicated to ballet—a passion that had defined much of her youth. Instead, she mistakenly remembered gymnastics. This lapse in memory, seemingly trivial, sent ripples of doubt and fear through them both. Christine grappled with feelings of diminished significance in her mother’s memories while her mother confronted the terrifying specter of a fate similar to her elder sister, who has been in memory care for over seven years.

I can only witness and try to understand the emotional turmoil. Voicing her concerns frequently, Christine now feels a compelling duty to deepen her involvement in her mother’s life. She’s been poring over “Being Mortal” by Dr. Atul Gawande, grappling with the complex challenge of balancing her mother’s staunch independence against the instinctive desire to keep her safe. It’s a delicate dance between honoring her mother’s wishes and embracing the role of a caring, responsible daughter. 

The Role of Estate Planning

We’re part of the so-called ‘sandwich generation,’ where life’s responsibilities are as sticky and intertwined as the layers of a peanut butter sandwich. And it’s in this complexity that we must find comfort. Fortuitously, Christine’s mother had the foresight to consult an estate planning attorney, ensuring that all necessary arrangements are set. This foresight offers Christine a measure of solace—knowing that while not all aspects of life are within our grasp, we have strategies ready to support us when the need arises.

So, I leave you with a thought: what tools do you have to ease the worry that nightfall brings? If your answer is uncertain, perhaps it’s time for a conversation with your loved ones—sooner rather than later.

If you need help with an estate planning need,  schedule a time with me to discuss how to protect your parents. 

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