By Lorraine Duffy Merkl
About Lorraine Duffy Merkl:
Author of the novel, Fat Chick and a freelance journalist, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Lorraine Duffy Merkl lives and breathes her role as attentive mom and daughter perched inside The Sandwich Generation.
This election year we’ve been challenged constantly as to whether we’re better off than we were four years ago. What they are talking about is finances: Do you still have a job? Is there more or less money in your take-home? Can you afford to buy or keep your home? Are companies hiring or laying off?
This are big picture issues that we all need to be concerned with, but each family has its own personal issues and so I looked at mine to see how we are faring.
In 2008, the crash devastated many. I remember waiting to pick up my then-fifth grade daughter Meg from school and hearing one mother say to another, “Well, now all the divorces start.” Luckily that did not happen to my marriage.
Although, my husband kept his job, he is more stressed now as four years ago our son Luke was starting high school, and now he’s applying to colleges where tuition is three times as much, the economy is worse and job security is a punchline.
Back then, 14-year-old Luke was a freshman as well as baseball catcher. Now he is a senior playing rugby. He is more self-sufficient these days, and leaving the sport he played for ten years, I believe is part of his exerting independence and showing that he’ll be making his own decisions, thank you very much.
Even though I will miss him when he leaves for college, I am confident that he will be able to navigate the world; but currently the world is a more depressed, angrier, hurting place than it was when Luke was in 9th grade. So my assurance in him is often eclipsed by my fear of everyone else.
Soon-to-be-15 Meg is more autonomous as well. She takes the city transportation now instead of the always-a-drama school bus, which has reduced my headaches considerably. But they have been replaced by the anxieties that go along with being the mother of a teenage girl.
As my children have progressed and are moving away from me (literally and figuratively) my mother is moving closer, aka clinging. Four years ago she was 86, her hearing aids helped a lot and her sight was better. She was a walker who could cover many city blocks in an afternoon and found her time outdoors invigorating. Distance is no longer her friend and her walks are shorter and tire her out quicker. The hearing aids have become virtually useless. I repeat everything I say so many times I sound like a myna bird. But she’s still here with me and that gives me comfort.
So am I better off? Even though circumstances have changed, some for the better, others not, life is basically the same in the sense that there are always good things that happen along side downfalls. Gratitude for the former is what gets one through the latter.
I assume this will hold true for the next four years regardless of who is president, so I’ll continue to tap into my inner “Nemo” and just keep swimming.