It's said that people my age are living in the "sandwich" years. This means we have kids who are young enough to need us, and parents who are old enough to need us - leaving us sandwiched in the middle, meeting needs at the speed of lightening, or at least as fast as our minivans will go.
It isn't always easy. Today's been one of those days. My 17-year-old daughter needs lots of things. She needs privacy. She needs her friends. She needs her hair straightener. She needs her iPod. She needs certain labels on her clothes. But most of all, she needs her cell phone. Today it broke. The screen froze up and refused to function. This made her irate. At me. Apparently this was my fault. Or if it wasn't my fault, it was definitely my duty to fix it. Either that, or get her a new phone. I opted for the fix-it route, and went online to a support site for cell phones. I got the screen to defrost and managed to clear some of the memory, but within half an hour the phone was refusing to function again. My daughter shifted to her slumping, sulking stance faster than you can say, "Text me." This time I wasn't so fast to become the Maytag repairperson of cell phones. I'll be honest; her attitude was getting to me. Besides, I was having a bad day myself. I'm sandwiched, remember? Earlier this morning, I'd been researching Alzheimer's disease. It's become a part of my life, or more specifically my mom's life. Last week, after what I thought was a pleasant telephone conversation, my mom decided that she and I had a whopper of a disagreement where I became terribly angry and said that I wanted to shake her, cut her in half and cut her head off.
You read that right. Unfortunately. Of course this is ridiculous, but that doesn't matter. According to what I read online, she is convinced that this happened. There is no question in her mind that I told her I wanted to cut her head off. And to her, that is all that matters. So this morning I was Googling things like, "Alzheimer's paranoia" to see what the prognosis is for my relationship with my mom. Not good. It's the Catch-22 of the disease. People with Alzheimer's can't remember what they ate for breakfast, but their suspicious thoughts and feelings of paranoia stick with them like a cell phone to a teenager. It's likely she is running and rerunning our conversation over and over in her mind, and her version is getting stronger by the minute. I also learned that delusions of people cutting off body parts is not abnormal. I'm not sure if that was good or bad news. No one's ever said Alzheimer's is a pleasant experience. So, when my daughter's cell phone gave out, let's just say I was already feeling a bit spent. I needed to talk to my personal psychotherapist, so I called my husband at work. "Just put your feet up and try to forget about it for the afternoon," he suggested.
He gives good advice. I should probably listen to him more often. An hour later, things did feel a little better and I was ready to give it another go-round with the cell phone repair. I went back online and got the darn thing working. My daughter wasn't convinced. "It's just going to break again," she said, giving her best bid for a new phone. "Let's charge it up and give it some time to rest," I suggested. "Sometimes resting helps." She disappeared into to her room. Still unhappy. I thought about my daughter and her teenage attitude. I thought about my mom and her struggles with Alzheimer's. I thought about life and how wonderful and awful it can be to have people who truly need you. I went into the kitchen and made a cup of cappuccino my daughter's favorite. I brought it to her and set it on the nightstand. We exchanged just a few words and I left her to her thoughts. As I turned to go, I knew that if her cell phone freezes up again, we'll probably have to get her a new one.
Jill Pertler is a syndicated columnist and award winning freelance writer. She appreciates your comments and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can check out her website at http://marketing-by-design.home.mchsi.com/.