It’s Shabbat and instead of blessing candles and saying kiddush, I’m caring for my 101-year-old mom who’s not feeling well. There’s a mini-COVID outbreak in her independent living facility in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, but that doesn’t seem to be her issue this evening. She’s very nauseous and weak and needs constant attention (and fluids) to get through the evening. After-hours calls are made to a doctor, a nurse comes to check and a down-to-the wire overnight care arrangement is set up.
Two miles away from her, also in Jamaica Plain, live my daughter, son-in-law and 11-week-old grandson. Their growing family is thriving, and awash in all that goes along with caring for a new baby.
I recently “retired” from my role at the Israeli Consulate in order to free up time to attend to my new grandson and my mother. Before my eyes, I am now experiencing the circle of life on a daily basis. To a large degree, both family members are helpless: the baby is not yet walking or even crawling, while my mother is barely walking. Both are dependent in vastly different ways. Both represent blessings of a different magnitude. And both need my help.
I feel so fortunate despite the occasional disruptions to my life. How many adults live to see a parent reach 101 with her mind totally intact despite her physical challenges? And how many people nowadays have children and grandchildren living in close proximity and who appreciate frequent visits and impromptu babysitting?
For years I’ve been the classic devoted daughter attending to my mother’s needs. I thoroughly enjoy the elder set who make up life in her retirement community and am accustomed to the special vibe that pervades these establishments. Her facility is a little like a dormitory at Wellesley College (where both my mom and I studied), with a few errant men thrown in for good measure. The vibe at my daughter’s urban home is totally different. It’s messy and chaotic, yet calm and filled with the latest baby equipment and the sounds of Raffi and other children’s performers.
So, off I go like a yo-yo, back and forth in Jamaica Plain flitting between the very new and the very old. The circle of life is no mere abstraction for me; it’s a 10-minute drive providing me a unique window into God’s ultimate plan. I embody the “sandwich generation” and it fills me with joy and at times with some sorrow, but mostly with gratitude for this unique moment in time.
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