The sandwich generation: Guest blogger

Sue Wilcox and her mother.

Sue Wilcox and her mother Betty Deneke..

By Sue Wilcox

Sitting in Mom’s quiet room feeding her yogurt in small spoonfuls, I listen to her babble between bites; the words are mumbled except for an occasional name. She is thin, frail, unable to hold up her head, so she is supported by pillows.

Her eyes open wide with a thought, but she is unable to grab the words. She looks at me in frustration, both wondering why I can’t understand but also trying to figure out who I am. I address her in a soothing soft voice, nodding my head in agreement or telling her it will get done. “It” has no meaning to me; for her “it” is a task she may have left incomplete many years ago.

As I listen to her, my own mind wanders. I look at my mother and think of my granddaughter, taking her first wobbly steps, babbling then suddenly blurting a word that I can understand. I can’t help but compare these two females over the last year, one entering the world dependent on all around her, the other, once independent but slowly declining. With every advancement my granddaughter makes my mom seems to lose. It’s as though they are trading places and Mom is making room on this earth for this new human.

Betty & Ella

Betty with great-granddaughter Ella at Thanksgiving 2014.

Mom passed last night peacefully in her own bed, a Betty Boop doll tucked beside her. She had bounced back these last few days, thinking clearly, smiling, chatting and up out of bed. Then she was gone, leaving us bewildered at her sudden passing. Mom left this world happy and content, having lived a long full life. At 89, she has left that space for her great-granddaughter to flourish and grow, delighting those around her.

There will be no more comparisons of these two females, only past memories of Mom and future memories still to be made with my granddaughter. These two females have played an important role in my life, making me the woman that I am and continue to become.

Sue Wilcox with granddaughter Ella.

Sue with granddaughter Ella.

It’s hard not to cry as I sit here writing. Being the “middle” of the generational “sandwich” has been a huge part of my life over the last year. Now with Mom gone I am switching roles; no longer am I the middle of the sandwich but the bread. Hopefully like my mother, I too will live a long full life, the top slice for many years as the middle grows and flourishes.

Sue Wilcox is a fifth grade teacher at Alameda Elementary in Portland, Oregon. She grew up in Salem and is a true Oregonian. She has lived in the Grant Park neighborhood for the past 27 years where she and her husband Eric raised three fantastic kids. She is sad to no longer have her mother be part of her life but thrilled to focus on this new phase of being a grandmother.


Editor’s note: Lori and I had the pleasure of raising our three kids virtually alongside Sue and Eric. With our houses two blocks apart and our youngest children — our Jordan and their Becca — born days apart, our friendship goes back to the days of toddlerhood. It has only grown stronger as our sons and daughters have grown into likable young men and women with lives all their own..

5 thoughts on “The sandwich generation: Guest blogger

  1. Sue – I am very sorry to learn of your Mom’s passing. Thank you for sharing such an intimate time of your life with us. In spite of your loss and sadness, you provided a positive message for others who reside in that sandwich.


  2. Cheers to bread and its ability to hold a sandwich together. In this context, the bread does that in a different way. But it is no less important and adds so much texture.
    I am sorry you had to say good bye to a woman you loved, Sue.

  3. Sue, So sorry to hear about the loss of your mom. No matter how full a life someone has lived it is never easy when they are gone. Your personal story, written so close to your mom’s death, reflects your deep love for your family.

  4. Beautiful writing, Sue. My condolences on your mom’s passing.

    I was looking at my grown kids (one of whom was one of your students) last week, so startled to realize that they are truly adults and I’m…old! So interesting to watch the changing of generational roles. Enjoy your time with your granddaughter.

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