Tag Archives: sandwich generation

Straddling the class ladder and family

8 Feb

Just a quick post as I head off to bed. Tonight after a tasty dinner cooked by the Spousal Unit I ended up spending some time talking with my Dad trying to make light conversation about life and the state of the world. Yet it was one of those conversations that veered a little off course which frankly is quite common with my Pops but by the end I had one of those light bulb moments. My dad has now been with us a few weeks and it’s still an adjustment and part of it is due to his rather acerbic personality, coupled with the fact that ours has never quite been a warm and fuzzy relationship. However the light bulb went off tonight that some of my general discomfort is really based on the fact that I am a class straddler.

I have never made a secret of the fact that I am a child of the working class, as I often joke during my childhood we alternated between two states, poor and working class. Working class was what happened in a good year and  poor was the rest of the time. However due to just making different choices than my folks made, I am no longer officially a member of the working class though in many ways it’s what I still identify with. Though as I discovered it’s a lot easier for me to identify as working class when dealing with friends who come from family money than with my own father.

During his time here there has been that sense at times that he does not quite understand how we live, why we make the choices we make. One night he actually commented to us “So this is how you live” on the night in question it was a Saturday night and the hubby and I were getting ready to settle down to watch a movie and share a glass of wine. Ours is a quiet existence, far more stable and frankly quieter than what I grew up with.

Like most working class kids I did not grow up in a household where simple discussions were held for no reason. Instead my parents chiefly my Dad ruled the house as if it were his kingdom and the rest of us were serfs. Rules were laid down and you followed them lest you wanted to get your ass kicked. Alfred Lubrano is his book Limbo talks at length about this, part of the reasoning behind this is that for many working class folks, their home is the only place where they have a say and can actually control things. My father seems amused that our five year old is allowed a voice in things, once again tonight reminding me of the good ole days when you could slap a kid upside the head. Having been the kid being slapped upside the head I have no desire to create those memories for my own kid.

As a straddler I realized even seemingly small things like buying in bulk seem to perplex my Dad, as he asked me today why I had bought multiple packs of batteries. It was one of those moments where I clearly felt the divide between how I was raised and who I have become as an almost 40 year old woman. One of the legacies for me growing up with little is that for years I had behavior bordering on hoarding but now I simply like to keep a well stocked house. After all it would make no sense to buy toilet paper one pack at a time in house with two bathrooms.

I often struggle with my working class roots in professional settings yet tonight I realized that even with family that movement up the class ladder can create a disconnect and frankly it saddens me.

Being an adult and speaking up

7 Feb

It’s barely 10 am and frankly I am ready to rewind and start this day anew. Too bad life doesn’t come with a rewind button. This is one of those posts where I wonder if it would be better suited for my journal since in many ways I am just dumping all my shit out there…yet I know I am not the only one who struggles with these issues and often when I feel this way, I find comfort in sharing. I come from a culture where too many times the personal is hidden yet I don’t think its ever truly hidden instead it manifests in other areas of our lives generally affecting our health through anxiety, tension, stress and other habits that have a negative impact.

I come from a family where speaking one’s truth and expressing themselves was met with disapproval and when I was a child it was met with physical punishment. As a result I learned early on to shut up and never speak my truth because the punishment was not worth the cost of my truth. As I have shared here before at age 19, I was introduced to the not so wonderful world of anxiety attacks. I believe there is only so much our minds and souls can handle before we become overloaded, in 19 years of dealing with anxiety it’s only been in the past year I have realized that when I am silent I become anxious.

It may sound as if I learned a lesson yet it was my own son who is now 19 that illustrated to me the dangers of keeping it all in. See, my beautiful boy is prone to anxiety just like me, it started a while ago and if he is not cautious like me he keeps himself bottled up and then deals with the vague anxious feelings. I sometimes think that the fact he was forced to live between two parents in many ways has played a role in his own anxiety, in the past year I have encouraged him to be true to himself no matter if it hurts or upsets either me or his father. It’s a process and I believe he will get there as far as his own truth and voice and speaking up.

Yet I was reminded today of the price that can be paid for speaking up, as readers know my father is currently living with us while he decides his next steps in life which now may or may not involve settling down in Maine. I may gripe and complain but overall having my father here has been tolerable and seeing the bonds develop between him and my daughter has been great. But the reality is anytime you have someone else in your space it creates a different energy that all parties need to be aware of.

For me that energy is centered on the issue of sleep, I suffer from insomnia and I have a spouse who snores. Throw in a dad who suffers from old guy syndrome of waking up early (3-4am) and you get someone whose sleep has been sorely lacking lately. To be honest I feel like the walking dead, and with major deadlines this is not a good thing. Without getting into many details, let’s just say I brought the issue up with my dad and the result was not good. He took my speaking up as a sign I did not want him here and it was messy and knowing my dad a grudge will be held.

I am hurt, I am very hurt yet as I went into my space to focus on breathing through it, I was reminded that I can’t control the actions of others but only my response to those actions. Playing back the exchange while I may not have been as calm as I could have been (not too much asleep on my end) I realized that ultimately if he chooses to leave despite my actions, there is nothing I can do. Yet at the end of the day, I spoke my truth and tried to be gentle.

I have written before on the value of speaking our own truths and once again was reminded that no matter what the cost it’s a necessity. It cost too much to walk around with anxious feelings bottled up and as a mother I must be aware of what I model for my kids.

What do we owe them?

22 Jul

I have been unusually quiet in this space even by my own standards, I wish I could say it was strictly because it’s hot as hell (global warming is real, we had tornadoes in Maine last night!!!) but truth is I am bogged down with family issues. This is one of those times when maybe I am about to share too much of myself in this space, but the truth is for me letting things out is often healthy. So here goes.

Right now as I type this, my remaining parental unit stands on the brink of homelessness. I am talking the odds are high that tonight he will sleep on a bench or in a shelter. I wish I could say it was because he is a super asshole but really he is not. No, he is just an aging hippy turned preacher turned widower yet a man who instead of planning chooses to live on faith. Long story short when the feds decided to play games with the extended unemployment benefits, my Pops got caught up in that mess. It’s been a month since he last received an unemployment check and living in a rooming house where rent is due weekly this is real bad. Regular laws governing eviction processes don’t apply to him and while I have been able to ensure he isn’t starving, there is no way I can pay my bills and his damn near $200 a week room rent.

My father is a prideful man, so rather than go to his family and by my last count he has at least 9 siblings still alive, he waited a couple of weeks before sharing this news with my brother and I, neither who are in a position to do much. Like I said we are keeping him from starving and I have extended an offer that he is welcome out in my neck of the woods and I can probably pony up the cash for a bus ticket to get him out here but really that is the best I can do.

Having worked with the homeless in Chicago I am quite familiar with every shelter or source of help for folks in Chicago yet he has not wanted to discuss those options, though he did call 311 the city’s homeless prevention helpline though without a guaranteed source of income he was pretty much shit out of luck.

My heart is heavy this morning, but at the same time feelings of anger are creeping up. See, to some degree we have been here before. When my Mom was at the late stages of her battle with cancer I helped my folks out, spending thousands on rent and her insurance. When my Mom passed, I helped out even more. None of that money was ever repaid back and really it wasn’t my money I spent it was money I owed to the IRS. This is one of the reasons I have that pesky tax problem.

See, my natural instinct is to help folks but the older I get, and as my own responsibilities mount its pretty clear that I can no longer dive in head first to help loved ones because in my mind I owe it to my kids and husband to make sure their needs are met. Yet I am struggling with the very idea of what do we owe our parents? Presuming they were decent folks who loved us and raised us, do we owe them anything? Two old friends of mine admit they have always admired the lengths I have gone to, to help family but also admit they would not sacrifice their own financial futures to do so. On the surface that pains me yet deep down I am starting to think it’s true. Part of me feels like due to past help, perhaps I have set a bad precedent in helping. I have family members who assume based on silly superficial shit that I must be well off financially…um, no. I still struggle with money like many I suppose but I also know that I try to stay one step ahead and plan for shit and deep down it bugs me that others don’t.

Anyway that’s what’s up with me. Is there anyone out there that is struggling with family in need especially parents? If so I would love to hear from you.