Avoiding the sandwich
Pat and I may have lucked out on this one …
Pat has headed to South Texas again to take care of the Old Soldier and various matters relating to his finances and medical care. He is dealing with messes both physical (the house is deteriorating, and the Old Soldier's live-in companion has not been keeping up with housework or taking out the trash or stuff like that) and figurative (unpaid bills, undeposited dividend checks, a large sum of money on the verge of being sent to the state Unclaimed Property office, mixups between the nursing home, doctors, Medicare and others). When he phoned tonight, I was arriving home and mentioned that I had just found a cat mess in the hallway; Pat assured me that he would much rather be cleaning up cat vomit than what he's having to clean up there.
Often, people in Pat's and my age range get classified as the "sandwich generation" – trapped between caring for our aging parents at the same time as we're caring for our own children. At least we seem to have dodged that bullet. Gerald is largely self-maintaining now; we sent him off to college last year, and this year, he moved into an off-campus apartment. Financially, he's better off than Pat and I are, thanks to a college fund that the Old Soldier started for him when he was 5. He still has to be frugal if the money is to last for four years, so he shops at thrift shops for clothing and furnishings for the apartment, and he also got a part-time job – but he is not a financial drain on us. And he's independent enough that he doesn't need his parental units taking care of his every little problem.
Others in the blogosphere have recently written about their offspring's milestones of independence, often wistfully. Tillerman has just seen the second of his two sons get married, while Yarg ensconced his son in the son's first apartment. There are interesting resonances especially with Yarg, involving not only the same milestone as Gerald's, but also architecture (Gerald's original intended major) and Frank Lloyd Wright (a major presence in Tempe/Scottsdale and part of why Gerald chose architecture as a major and ASU for college). Gerald has since decided to switch majors from architecture to photography, but there are still the parallels.
Meanwhile, I don't seem to be feeling the same sense of loss as other parents watching the fledglings leave the nest. Maybe it's because Gerald's always been independent, and we've always encouraged that. He's been doing his own laundry since he was in middle school; he's always enjoyed cooking; the state of cleanliness (or lack thereof) of his room was pretty much his own business. His last year of high school, he wasn't home all that much, with Boy Scouts (after he turned 18, he became an Assistant Scoutmaster), the Albuquerque Youth Orchestra, Key Club, his German class trip to Germany, his We The People team trip to the national finals in Washington … so when he went off to college, there wasn't much of a change.
Instead, I'm actually feeling relief. As Pat and I – especially Pat – deal with the increasing needs of the Old Soldier, it's good to know that Gerald, rather than being an additional drain on us, is actually a support. During his summer break, he traveled to South Texas along with Pat to help take care of the Old Soldier.
Meanwhile, Gerald turns 20 in 12 days. What should Pat and I get him for his birthday?