I never understood what makes people different until I spent 2 weeks with an adult daughter whose priorities and approach to life are different from mine. Or maybe it is this generation of professional women. They are fiercely independent and uncompromising in their attitudes and principles. They are clear and guilt free about life choices - or seems that way for the most part.
We of the sandwich generation are yo yos, vacillating between pleasing and serving someone or other - parents and siblings, kids and grandparents. In fact our identity and relevance are wrapped around who we serve. We therefore make few decisions to plan our time off and wait till we are needed somewhere for someone. The icing on the cake is the gratification that comes from feeling useful. And as though addicted to that feeling, we keep coming back for more. Now, whether we are really useful is another matter. People may have managed even better without us? Very likely.
However, for once, on this recent trip to India, I found myself being useful. Along with my little sister, always the rock, I provided some physical and emotional support to Amma who underwent a complicated surgery.
So how was I useful ? For one, we managed her fears by consciously taking the drama out of everything. This we did by being the filter through whom she communicated with the rest of the world. Given the Indian context, where people have a natural flair for "showing concern" (aka meddling), this was a useful function.
Second, my sister and I also protected her as much as we could from a system where nurses are glorified personal support workers, overworked, exploited and directed by doctors. Being twice removed from the logic of a decision, around pain management, for eg, and unable to second guess a distracted doctor's decision or omission, they cannot be relied upon to know fentanyl should be administered at no more than 3-5 ml per hour. My encounters with a few, over that week we spent in the hospital, must have definitely given them PTSD.
Last but not least, I took charge when Amma got home, as her primary care provider, cooking for her, helping her with ablutions, motivating her to eat and to exercise per the physiotherapists' instructions. Poor thing had to relinquish control of the kitchen and endure my cooking. Wow I really enjoyed the power that came from wielding the spoon and shushing her objections! The last week I spent training my successor, and her substitute and hers...ok don't get me started.. the newly appointed help(s).
Not to be outdone by me, my husband has been focussed on the care of his parents during the past year, over 3 different trips to India. I was there on two of three and missed one to travel to England, where I helped our daughter move house and settle in! Since this has been and will be our lot over the next few, alternating between care of various family members, Paris will have to wait!