Living Life in a Sandwich: What it’s Like to Raise Children and Care for Parents All at Once (Part 2)

Last week I pulled back the curtain slightly for you to see what it is like for our family (and others) to have three generations living in one roof at the same time. You can read that post here. If you are thinking the Waltons, then you are only partially right. Those children were older, and the grandparents were still in decent health. That is not our story.

We knew when our youngest child was born (she’s now three) that we had to make plans to care for my parents. We prayed. We searched for good living situations. We knew two things for certain: they couldn’t stay hours away from us and they couldn’t afford to move into an assisted living facility. We also knew they couldn’t move in with us in our already overcrowded apartment. So, prayer to God and lots of conversations with them and with others began and lasted for well over a year.

We were trying to sell our house in Tennessee and had been for a long, long time. It wasn’t moving. We were paying rent for an apartment where we lived like sardines and we were paying for a house no one lived in. At the same time, the situation with my parents was getting more desperate in South Carolina as we discovered Mom’s dementia had caused several crises with my parents’ finances, health, and daily living. Mom forgot to pay bills or hid them or threw them away without Dad’s knowledge. Dad’s diabetes (because of stress and having to fend for himself) had reached the point where his own health was failing rapidly. To top it off, Mom got lost 20 miles from home when she left a restaurant and turned the wrong way. Things had to change.

We thought we could handle everyone in our house in Tennessee (all 8 of us) with some slight modifications. My employer graciously allowed me to move back to Tennessee into that house to work from home and make plans to move them in. Unfortunately, there were some limitations with the house and lot, along with my parents’ health, that made it impossible to modify that home. So, we had to sell it and find another one.  I’ll save the rest of that story for another time.

To recap: new baby, move to another state, start working from home, sell and buy a new house, and make plans to move my parents to live with us all in a matter of months. This was after changing careers and moving from the Southwest back to the Southeast. Lots of stress for certain, sometimes more than seemed possible to bear. God is real and He is true and faithful and He was with us.

Moving my parents out of their house (that was also once my grandparents’ home), taking them away from church and friends and community, and asking them to decide what to take and what to leave behind will forever rank as one of the most traumatic experiences for them and me (and my other siblings). It was like a mandatory evacuation order had been issued but there was no chance you would ever return…..breakdowns, tears, frustration, anger, and fear all were alive in that house for 2 days.  Some of those things linger still after almost two years.

I promised some of the things I wrote about all of this would be fun, but I’m nearing a panic attack while writing this post. So, if you can imagine going to a gas station in a tiny town that looks like it was stuck in the year 1978 to rent a truck, and then take it to a place with over 50 years of accumulated items only to start feverishly loading any item Mom or Dad wanted into it at a breakneck pace….then, you would have laughed a lot…when you weren’t crying.

When the truck pulled into our driveway in Tennessee it was filled with more than possessions, it was filled with emotional baggage and fear I cannot describe. I’ll unfold it for you along with some more comical moments in the next couple of posts.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for caring.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. (Ephesians 6:1-3)

Timothy (Tim) Gunnells started his blog "Desert Spiritual" while living and ministering in the desert in Arizona. He knows the world in which we live is a "dry and weary land where is no water" and souls are thirsting for God (Psalm 63:1).Tim currently lives with his family in East Tennessee. He is available for retreats, leadership development seminars, and church consulting. He enjoys hiking, singing, spending time with his family and friends, and blogging about Christian spirituality, culture, and life in general. He may be reached at timothygunnells@gmail.com.