My family sandwich includes my parents on top, my husband and I in the middle (I call him the big cheese), and on the bottom are our three boys, soon to be ages 6, 15 and 17.
We’ve been married for 19 years, and made this sandwich about seven years ago when we decided to bring my parents over from Moldova, which is Europe’s poorest country.
Until my parents arrived to live in our home, they had not met our two oldest boys — except for two months my mom spent with us when the oldest was a baby. I hadn’t even seen my father in 13 years before flying home to help them make the biggest change of their lives.
Of course, we made up for the fact they didn’t meet their two grandkids until the boys were in elementary school — we grew the family some more after their arrival, and Grandma practically got to raise the youngest!
We didn’t really see ourselves as a sandwich family. In fact, I didn’t even learn the term “sandwich generation” until a few months ago. And when I did, it was quite a revelation to learn there are millions of Americans out there (almost) like us.
What has really made our sandwiched life complicated is my father’s deteriorating health. At age 75, he suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, and other health issues including neurological problems have limited his mobility almost entirely. He requires care around the clock, which is largely my mom’s job but I get to help out. Grandma’s a busy lady: When my schedule is filled with work and other commitments, she makes sure the rest of the family has dinner and clean clothes! It has made my life a lot easier when it comes to domestic duties and I am certainly blessed.
Being a mixed-flavor sandwich (considering my European-bread parents and my very American kids) keeps life interesting.
Since I’ve lived in the United States for 20-some years and I was a college student when I moved here, I’ve pretty much assimilated American culture but still maintain some of my roots. After seven years under one roof, the kids and the grandparents seemed to have adapted to each other’s quirks, but I’m always there to be the link as needed. Or to referee.
In my culture, three-generational homes are common and for me, this adjustment was easy. Eventually the rest of us found the groove in this sandwiched life. But toss in a little cultural differences, a little homesickness and isolation for the grandparents, a little financial stress and a little clashing of ideas, and pretty soon this panini gets more and more flavorful.
But love it or hate it, it’s our sandwich. And a little flavor never hurts. I hope you enjoy reading about some of our “adventures” as well as my personal thoughts about being in the middle. And if you’d like more detail on how we made the sandwich, read my first post here.
If you’d like to meet our sandwich, this 2-minute video talks a little bit about us and a little bit about the sandwich generation in general. It’s only the second clip I produced as I’m learning multimedia skills, so bear with me as far as the quality. And of course you can read more in the “Cast of Characters” sidebar.