People of our age often speak of being the 'sandwich' generation--with kids to care for on one hand and parents to care for on the other. The sandwich in which Beve and I find ourselves in right now is no bologna, that's for sure. No peanut butter and jelly either, for that matter. It's more like liverwurst--something no person in their right mind would choose, let alone enjoy. With aging parents, a son dealing with a whole mess of surgeries back-to-back-to-back, and now even a dying dog. Really? and now even the dog? Yes, I call that liverwurst with a huge helping of UGH!
Then again...we actually do enjoy it, liverwurst or not. Tonight when Beve and I went over to see Grampie he was in fine fiddle. As Beve put it, "I knew the minute I saw him we were in for a live one!" Grampie met us at the door of his room, a bit bewildered to see us, because apparently he had places to go. Those places weren't ever quite explained, though he tried and tried. Told us this way and that, with lively hand gestures and facial motions, about all the outings of his day. When Beve told him he hadn't been anywhere, you should have seen Grampie screw up his face in a giant question mark. "Now I'm all mixed up," he said. And started over again with the outing. Finally, I went out to the nurses' station to ask what on earth Grampie'd been up to that he was working so hard to tell us.
Apparently he went downstairs to an activity in the first floor dining room. And following that, he decided to wheel himself back to his room. Fortunately, he remembered exactly where his room was. Unfortunately, he was on the wrong floor. Fortunately, the woman in the room didn't scream in shock when he came bursting in, asking what she was doing in his room. Unfortunately, this isn't the first time he's found his way into other people's rooms--and using their bathrooms, thinking he's using his own.
By the time Grampie got finished trying to talk to Thyrza, then son B (two different phone calls), not only had Grampie said, "I can't seem to remember my balls," (which made us laugh so hard Beve was crying--and I still haven't the fainted idea what he was actually trying to say, because if there's one thing my father-in-law isn't, it's crude!), and he'd asked how B's "Man-hole was coming along?" By this he meant 'man-room.' But you should have seen Beve trying to hold the phone while his whole body was shaking with laughter. And even Grampie was laughing. And...pointing his finger at me--
"So it's my fault you're all mixed up today?" I asked him.
"Might as well blame it on someone." He answered. "And you're here."
We all cracked up at that too. He may not be able to find his way home, but his wit is still in there. And he's more than willing to laugh at himself, which helps a whole lot.
I can learn from that. There are some days when it's a whole lot easier to cry than laugh at the sandwich we find ourselves in. This week, tears have been very close. For a whole lot of reasons. As Beve and I sat out on our deck this afternoon, watching our dog lift his head and breathe in the late afternoon sun, Beve said, "It really makes you think about how fleeting life is, doesn't it?" This is a rare kind of question from my practical, feet-to-earth Beve. Brought on by Jackson, but also his dad, a close friend facing chemo, and...as he said, "We're well past half way through now, aren't we?"
Yes, we are...unless we live to be 100, we're on the near side to heaven, if we live to be old. If we only dwell on this earth the same number of days as our soonest-to-leave parent, Beve and I each have merely a decade left. But as we sat with Grampie tonight, laughing with him, I was reminded again how little it matters the length of our days or how old I become on this earth. I do care what I do with the days I have, and how I respond to those who are living their last days--whether it's a man or a dog. I want to live with the elders like they are treasures given for a whisper of time. For just a sandwiched moment. Between now and then, if you will. So leaning into these days--or at least this day-- and taking a big bite of that liverwurst--and discovering I like it. I like it. Hey, God, I actually like it.