Covering parenting and child development issues
Anyone who has known me for more than about a minute and half knows that I'm a Jersey girl. I left home to come to Pennsylvania for college more than thirty years ago, however, and never went home again. It wasn't the way I planned it, and though I love my life in Pennsylvania, I will always be a Jersey girl.
Not surprisingly, my parents are both Jersey-born-and-raised as well. Over the past couple of years, we've tried, without success, to convince them to come to Pennsylvania. Aging process aside, they're in good health and good spirits, still independent and both possessing a trait they've passed on to me in abundance -- stubbornness -- so you can probably guess how well we're faring in our quest to bring them closer to us.
It's not that I don't understand. Their lives are in New Jersey -- my aunt and uncle, my parents' friends and, of increasing importance, their doctors. They've never lived anywhere else, and despite the fact that we're only separated by a couple of hours and a little over a hundred miles, a move would uproot them permanently, separating them from all they've ever known, asking them to start a whole new life at a time when they're still enjoying the old one.
So I've tried not to push too hard. I bring it up from time to time, mostly with my mom, who's more ready for a change than my dad is. We even looked at one community, and they were more impressed than any of us expected them to be.
But it wasn't home.
Last week, my mom fell and shattered her shoulder. As I write this, she's in the hospital, recuperating from shoulder replacement surgery. Though the marvels of modern technology have enabled us to stay in touch with my dad throughout the process, I'm too far away to just drop by and see how they're doing. I've been able to keep my schedule open to make the trip at a moment's notice, but Mom's not yet ready for visitors who stay for more than a short time. And so we remain separated by miles paved with questions and concerns, as I come to terms with the fact that I have joined the sandwich generation.
I'm lucky. I have more flexibility than many of my friends in similar circumstances, and I have just one child, a teenager old enough to understand the tug on my heart, at least as well as anyone who hasn't experienced it can. My husband, too, "gets it," and is patient with me as I work through feelings of helplessness exacerbated by distance.
Despite the frustrations of separation, I know two things: I am not alone and I am blessed. To have family, regardless of where they are, is something to be grateful for, and to have family that's dispersed allows me to keep a foot in childhood via my family of origin and a foot in adulthood via the family I've created. My parents gave me wings, and so I flew. Not everyone is so fortunate.
I only wish those wings had the power to bring me home on a moment's notice.