Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Elastic Band Sandwich

I spent some time last weekend with some old friends. "Old" as is in I had not connected with them in a while. I am sorry to say that the circumstances in which I saw them involved the passing away of my friend's brother at far too young an age. Not fair to her. Not fair to his wife and their children. Her family seem to have stellar coping skills - strong, thick elastic bands. 

It was wonderful to see them. I wonder why I had not made more of an effort in the last 10 years to do so...single mother or mother in the middle of separation with two young kids, working like a dog? Not really a good excuse. I could blame all sorts of circumstances but it was me - hiding out I think. Trying to separate myself from my past, even though my connection with them was not painful. Why did I think I could only forge ahead if I left everything behind? Why did I try and snap the bands?

I realize now that our strongest connections in life are like elastic bands. They can bend and mold around events in our lives. The ends can stretch far apart and then snap right down close to each other again. There are different lengths and different sizes. I am glad for that. Of course, there are the less strong connections that I stretched so far the elastic did snap - those are hard to recover. Elastic bands don't glue very well, and tape - well that just won't stick.  You could tie a knot, but you will always be reminded of  how it once broke. Maybe that's a good thing. Knots can be strong.

One topic of choice out of our many, many conversations on the trip to Ottawa, in Ottawa, and on the drive back (which included a retelling of the tales of past loves and snaps), seemed to be a recurring discussion of our place in the family sandwich.

My one friend, bravely at the age of 46, and without a partner, adopted a girl from Russia. Who, by the way, is the sweetest, smartest little cookie. My friend's parents are in their 80s. While she is fortunate to only be required at her clinic two days a week, the rest of her time is taken up with either looking after her daughter, or taking her parents to medical appointments and organizing them, or both. And she still has to run her business.

My other friends, although their fathers have sadly passed away, have their mother's to be concerned about. Especially because their mothers no longer have their spouses. Spouses to whom they were married for at least half a century. Spouses who they have previously relied upon to look after them in many ways, as was the older generation's way of doing things. That's some change to manage.

Of those two friends, one of them has a teenager and the other has had both her children graduate from University. You would assume this makes a difference, but one thing I have learned, and my parents continue to remind me on a daily basis, is that you never stop being a parent, no matter how old your children are. You are still in the middle of the sandwich. I remember the summer before my last year of high school - I had a party at my house when my parents went away over the Labour Day weekend. I had been forbidden before they left. Things went awry. There was much evidence. My father was so upset, the first thing he did was call my grandmother!

Although I definitely help out my parents, at the moment it is not much different than how I help out my sister or my friends. I am not currently a care provider, or guardian, or social convener for them. And I'm scared about that day when it comes. How will I balance being a successful giver to those I love the most, including myself, while being sandwiched?

This is how: I will stretch the elastic band to its limit around them and save a twist at the end for me. My malleable love and duty. I will grow my heart, and I will start working on that now. I will forge strong, thick bands. I will constantly remind myself what is my priority and my role here on Earth. Just as an aside - on Earth? As opposed to Mars or Heaven or what? Why do we use that expression? And did I need to use capitals?

Now - because my parents may not be here tomorrow. I might not be here tomorrow for my children.  In hindsight, I should have chosen elasticity as one of Power Cat's super powers (see Superhero 2 blog).

I reconnected with some amazing role models on the weekend. I write this blog for them, for my parents and for my children. My promise:

I know I can be there for you. All of you. I can stretch myself (and yoga will help). An elastic band in the middle of my family sandwich.
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