Sandwich Generation Blues
Guideposts|December /January 2021
First my daughter and her husband had to move in. Then my mother-in-law. So much for my empty nest
LORI DURHAM, Brunswick, Georgia

One a.m. and I couldn’t sleep. Rather than wake my husband with my tossing and turning, I’d escaped to the living room. I stared at my laptop screen, clicking aimlessly between websites. This was what stress had driven me to—the stress of having my ailing 84-year-old mother in-law and my 22-year-old daughter and her husband living in my house, all requiring help in some way. I was spent—and more than a little disheartened. I sank back into my old recliner. God, was it wrong for me to have had such high hopes for retirement?

It had been two years since I’d packed up my classroom. After 32 years as an English teacher, tethered to class bells and the public school calendar, I’d been thrilled to take control of my own schedule. I envisioned a future of leisure and adventure—John and me traveling, just the two of us doing whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted.

“What about an Alaskan cruise?” I’d asked, grinning.

“Or the Bahamas in January,” John added.

We’d dreamed of crossing off bucket list items that had been delayed by raising and supporting our family. Selfish? No, self-fulfilling.

I’ll have quiet time too, I’d thought. Time to write and to read the stacks of books on my shelf, which had been gathering dust for years. I imagined lounging on the sofa, totally engrossed in a new novel, my days of grading essays on The Great Gatsby far behind me.

My fantasies were short-lived. Five months after my June retirement, my daughter, Allison, called from Orlando, where she and her husband lived.

“We’d like to move back to Brunswick to finish my degree,” she said. “Brandon and I can’t afford to live here and pay for college at the same time. Would it be okay if we moved back into the house?”

When they’d first moved to Orlando, we told them they were always welcome back home if they needed help. Much as John and I were enjoying life as empty nesters, we knew the best solution was for Allison and Brandon to live with us while she attended college here in town. So we agreed without hesitation.

Allison and Brandon moved in just before Christmas. We crammed one room, floor to ceiling, with their belongings: tables, chairs, lamps, desks, storage tubs. Couldn’t they have downsized? I thought as we shoved larger items into the garage. A second room became their living area and bedroom. Their two cats, along with our three, made for a rambunctious five-feline household.

This will be okay, I told myself. It’s not forever.

A month later John came home from work with a grim expression. “Mom isn’t doing so well.”

John’s mother, Betty, affectionately called Granny, lived an hour away. She’d been suffering lower back pains, and her doctors practiced in our larger town. It made sense for her to come live with us, at least until she was strong enough to live on her own again.

“I’m sorry to be a burden,” Granny said.

“Not at all,” I assured her. “We’re happy to have you.”

And really we were. Granny and I had always gotten along well, and I knew she valued her independence. I felt guilty even considering how this could put a damper on my retirement.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM GUIDEPOSTSView All

Rock Steady

A World War II veteran gravely ill with Covid-19, an Army social worker on his first deployment and the relationship they forged

9 mins read
Guideposts
December /January 2021

Love's Pure Light

Ease back in front of the fire and let the singer from Checotah tell you about the gift we can all give at Christmas

7 mins read
Guideposts
December /January 2021

KEEPING THE FAITH

TY’ANN BROWN, Vice President, Ministries

2 mins read
Guideposts
December /January 2021

Sandwich Generation Blues

First my daughter and her husband had to move in. Then my mother-in-law. So much for my empty nest

9 mins read
Guideposts
December /January 2021

I'll never forget you…Grandma Honeybunch

EVERY WEDNESDAY WHEN I WAS 16, I’d change into a nice button-down and my best jeans after school. Then I’d ride my bike on the path between our house and my grandmother’s outside Meadville, Pennsylvania. Exactly at four, Grandma Honeybunch— we always called her that, though I don’t know why except that it fit her sweetness—would pull her dark green Dodge Stratus sedan into the dirt driveway.

3 mins read
Guideposts
December /January 2021

Hello Christmas

PEOPLE HAVE A LOVE-hate relationship with Christmas letters. I’m a lifelong letter writer, and even I struggle to hit the right note—newsy, fun, filled with holiday spirit but not bragging or full of details that no one cares about.

5 mins read
Guideposts
December /January 2021

Grieving Shirley

It was his first Christmas in 58 years without his wife. Author Cecil Murphey shares how he faced his loss

8 mins read
Guideposts
December /January 2021

Emilie's Light

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary eight years ago was one of the saddest events we have ever covered. Yet as her story from 2017 shows, this mother of a young victim found hope and healing

8 mins read
Guideposts
December /January 2021

Faith in Food

The acclaimed food writer gives tips to make this difficult holiday season joyous

6 mins read
Guideposts
December /January 2021

SOMEONE CARES PASS IT ON

SIMPLY THE BEST The first few months of the Covid-19 pandemic got my husband, Kevin, and me down. We slipped into the habit of saying “That’s the worst” whenever we heard an alarming news report or encountered a rude person. Griping only added to our unhappiness.

2 mins read
Guideposts
November 2020
RELATED STORIES

OF LOVE and LONGING

Portraits by Alex Venezia

5 mins read
International Artist
December - January 2021

A REVOLUTIONARY CHAIR

Revolving Windsor chair with writing arm. 1775-76 Mahogany, poplar, and other woods 431⁄2 × 30 × 331⁄2 American Philosophical Society. Gift of John Kintzing Kane, 20 April 1838.

3 mins read
Woodcraft Magazine
February - March 2021

TE JONES

BAT RESEARCHER

5 mins read
Muse Science Magazine for Kids
January 2021

Life in the clear

THE SECRET TO BEING (ALMOST) INVISIBLE

6 mins read
Muse Science Magazine for Kids
January 2021

‘FRIEND' WITH BENEFITS: COURTENEY COX TO WED

LOVEBIRDS Courteney Cox and Johnny McDaid are officially ready to become more than just “Friends” — they’re planning a special wedding in Ireland, sources spilled.

1 min read
National Enquirer
January 25, 2021

BRETT BOLTS FROM CLINGY CLARKSON

Kelly Clarkson’s desperate bid for a new man hit a sour note with country star Brett Eldredge — who found her messy personal life too hot to handle, sources snitched.

1 min read
National Enquirer
January 04, 2021

‘Josh is just a really good leader for us'

For more on what’s happening within Buffalo’s offense, here are some highlights from offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s recent press conferences.

6 mins read
Bills Digest
January 26, 2021

BEYOND THE CONDIMENT with Chef Brandon Collins

When it comes to food, we all have our favorites from sides, entrees, desserts, sauces and more. We caught up with Chef Brandon Collins who is the Mustard Sommelier of Maille, a heritage Dijon brand which also includes an assortment of mustards, vinegars etc. He told us about what his job entails, how he stays up on mustards and their variants as a whole and also shares the culinary history of this brand! He also provides insights into the healthy aspects of it as well as how it is more of a condiment and a phenomenal ingredient to use when cooking a number of your favorite foods or even enjoying it with quality ice cream!

10+ mins read
Athleisure Mag
December 2020

THE IMAGE MAKER

Afro-Latino photographer Brandon Almengo has his sights set on stardom

3 mins read
Maxim
January - February 2021

THE REAL REASON JOHN LENNON DIED

Chilling truth 40 years after tragic murder

3 mins read
Globe
January 04, 2021