A woman walking her dog through a park at sunrise with her elderly parents, including her father who has Alzheimer’s

Stuck in the Middle

“Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you!” That seemed the anthem of my life! I had a husband, two kids at home, a rescue dog, and two senior citizens, one with serious capacity issues, living under one roof. My parents had moved in with us, or rather we moved in with them after they moved up to Buffalo from Mississippi to beat the southern heat. They had become heat and holiday birds, if there is such a thing, instead of snowbirds.

Returning the favor

I was glad to help my parents. They had raised my brother and me while dad was in the Army, and we moved every few years. They had been to so many choral concerts, gymnastics and track meets, scout meetings, and countless sporting events. I felt it was my turn to return the countless favors. I could take the burden off my mother and help care for dad.

In a way, I saw it as a gift. I got to show my dad love and my mom. I made it a point to hug my dad and tell him I loved him. My husband was great. He would ask my dad questions to draw him out and tap into his elusive memory. My kids got to step up and help and show love. My son could go with his grandpa to the public restroom. I wasn’t crazy about either one of them going alone. My son was a little too young, and my dad a little too old. They could look out for each other. My son was so proud of himself. He was being kind and considerate and responsible. He still treasures that. I do, too.

Role reversal

There are a ton of books on raising children and dogs. There aren’t nearly as many on raising parents! We had recently gotten our dog, Bailey, from the SPCA. Our daughter had been working us HARD to get a pet that “knows it’s supposed to be a pet!” She had tried hamsters and even some voles and frogs she had found on our property. She found our dog on the local SPCA website. We named the black lab mix after the family on It’s a Wonderful Life. My dad was intrigued by her. “There is a black dog whop, whop, whopping, me with its tail!”

My dad would often sit at the kitchen table, and Bailey would keep him company and catch any crumbs he dropped. There was a small trash can by dad where he could throw out his Kleenex and a TV he could sit close to since his vision wasn’t good. I came into the kitchen to see how they were doing. Parents know, when it gets too quiet, there can be trouble.

What can you do but laugh

When I entered, there was a puddle on the floor near the little trash can. I looked at my dad, then at my dog. I thought she was more or less housebroken. Maybe less? I looked back at my dad. I thought, no..."Dad? Did you try to pee in the trash can?” “Why, YES,” he exclaimed so enthusiastically!! Of course! (insert palm to face emoji) I didn’t know if I felt better or worse! My new dog was housebroken, but apparently, my dad was not!!

When there are clowns to the left and jokers to the right, what can you do but laugh?!

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