Kids Find Joy in the Sandwich Situation.
by Leslie Morgan Steiner
My 75-year-old mother, known as “Grams” to my three kids, is dying of cancer one thousand miles away in Florida. Three months ago she was playing tennis four hours every day. Now she can barely sit up in bed to watch the Australian Open on television. Last Monday her oncology team referred her to hospice care, meaning they are halting the chemo and radiation and transitioning to palliative care.
After tears and reflection, my siblings, Grams and I decided the next right step would be for her to move in with my family in DC. We are not an ideal choice. Our household is noisy and nutty and I clearly reached the bottom of my lifetime allotment of patience long ago. But Grams lived in our neighborhood for over 30 years, raised four kids here, worked as a special education teacher at a school a few miles away, and has many relatives within 200 miles of our house. She will be with family and have many, many loving visitors. It is the right thing.
As we made the decision, my husband and I grappled with what this will mean for our family. Our household is loud and chaotic – how can our three kids, ages 12, 11 and 7, learn to respect Grams’ need for rest and quiet? How will I cope with caring for the kids, a household full of pets, and a dying mother without losing my sanity? How can we get a woman with no appetite to eat? Can we fit a hospital bed into the guest room? Can my husband jerry-rig the Tennis Channel in her room?
Then I broke the news to my kids with no small amount of trepidation. Would they resent Grams coming here? Be traumatized for life by early exposure to death? Run away to a new home free of dying relatives?
To my surprise, my 12-year-old son’s reaction was a HUGE smile. “She’s coming to live with us?”
He looked like I’d given him a new iPod.
“I’m in charge of feeding her M&Ms!” he shouted.