My husband and I are members of the ultimate sandwich generation. Our situation is so extreme that it almost qualifies us to be our own generation, unique to us.
We are a couple of old retired folk, complete with gray hair, creaky joints, and in my case, the full aging catastrophe of cancer and ailing heart.
At the same time, we are babysitting our precious-beyond-words grandchildren, taking them to preschool, cuddling them through flu and love-love-loving them. Our grown children still need help of all sorts, and give us the joy of their company all the time. And, of course, there is our mothers.
His is 88, mine is 94. They are at two different spots on the spectrum of fading brains and failing bodies, and they bring their own quirky and strong-willed personalities to the care-giving mix.
My mama is fading. I’ve said this before and been wrong, but I don’t think I’m going to have her all that much longer. I feel so sad, seeing her go deeper into the darkness of dementia. She’s barely eats at all and is so thin that you could slide her through the eye of a needle.
I hate the fact that she’s going to die in a nursing home. I almost start crying every time the thought enters my mind. I want to just gather her into my arms and bring her home with me.
But I can’t take care of her. Not won’t. Can’t. I can’t provide the basics of care that she needs, and there is no way I can offer her the stimulation of other people, activities and round-the-clock staff at her beck and call that she has where she is.
Still, the impulse to bring her home to die is strong and painful. Years ago, she expressed her fear of ending up exactly as she has, dying in a nursing home, and I told her not to worry about it, that I would take care of her.
I’ve failed her in that. Even though I know full well that I have no choice, that the exigencies of the situation are much stronger than me, I still feel that I failed her.
My husband has the added burden of me. He’s really scared about my health. I’m not guessing about that, he’s told me so.
This sounds like a sad story, I know. But it’s really not.
We live in a wonderful country. We have easily-available and excellent medical care. Our retirement is as secure as puppet politicians bent on draining the treasury into the pockets of the people who pay for their campaigns will let it be. Our mothers’ Medicare and Social Security not only helps them, it helps us as we take care of them.
We can go to bed at night without fear that government henchmen will knock on the door and drag us off for “questioning” or that we will be “disappeared” to government-sponsored torture and murder chambers.
Up until this last week, we have never for one moment had to fear that the president would use the Justice Department to persecute us or anyone else for opposing or criticizing him. And until a couple of weeks ago, we were secure that everyone in our country, from the president on down, must obey the laws of the land.
We received good, free educations in public schools. We grew up in a country where we never had to worry for one moment that a foreign power was controlling our government. We have been unafraid to speak our minds every single moment of our lives.
Life is challenging, but because we are Americans, life is also good.
Even more important than that, we are free to practice our faith. I can say I’m a Christian and a Catholic right out in public and nobody is going to haul me off to jail for it. I can go to mass any day of the week at any one of several churches and know that a priest will be there to provide the sacrament. If my mother becomes critical, I can call my good pastor and he will go straight over to see her and anoint her for the journey. If I need to confess and I’m too weak to stand in line, he’ll find time to hear my confession in private.
I can write blog posts telling the bishops that I won’t let them “vote me,” and still go to mass the next Sunday. I am a full communicating member of the Catholic Church despite my anger over the lack of religious support for the victims of powerful men who are also sexual predators.
I can be and I am absolutely straight forward about my outrage over this. And I am still welcome at the Lord’s Table.
I can be the honest contrarian that I am. I can speak out and speak up as a Jesus-loving, pro life, sometimes liberal, sometimes conservative, very traditional and convinced Christian and Catholic who has a real beef with all the Christian religious leaders of this country over the question of sexual assault and violence against women. I can be both feminist and pro life, homeschooling mom and legislator, grandma and daughter, retiree and activist.
I can go anywhere I want, do anything I want, say anything I think. I was born free and have lived free every day of my earthly existence. I have never been afraid of my government.
That is America.
I am blessed to be an American.
You are blessed to be an American.
America is worth fighting for.
America is worth dying for.
America is worth saving from those who would attack it, be they foreign or domestic.
Whether the enemies of freedom live in another country or in the White House, America is worth defending against them.