Inside the Sandwich: Returning to the Tree to Rest by Amelia Blades Steward

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Editor’s note: This ongoing column for the Spy Senior Nation portal reflects on the life of being in the Sandwich Generation. Amelia Blades Steward is a 56-year old mother, trying to raise two young adults, while caring for an aging mother and father-in-law, and working full-time. Even with the challenges these roles sometimes present, she tries to find peace and balance in my days. Through laughter, tears and reflection, Amelia attempts to juggle all the balls, but more often than not, she admits she drop a few – buy lived to tell the stories and some days, that is enough.

My friends and I often talk about being in the “Sandwich Generation” – spending time taking care of our teenagers and young adults while also caring for our aging parents. I started thinking about how powerful the message is in the book, “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. If you remember the story, it chronicles the relationship between a boy, who becomes a man, and his favorite tree. The boy loved the tree, but as he became a man he depleted the tree of all it had, needing the tree less and less as he pursued happiness. Not until he had aged himself, did he return to the tree to rest.

This week, I felt the effects of being in the Sandwich Generation. I found myself listening to the challenges my college junior is having with his semester abroad, while helping my recently widowed mother sell her house and find a new home for the next chapter of her life. The challenge was juggling all this with work deadlines, civic responsibilities, a husband who travels for work, and of course cleaning up a water leak in our house which happened while we were away. I was reminded in the chaos of the week to just slow down and be present in what was happening. There were blessings in it for me.

Much to my surprise, the message was reinforced further at the end of the week when a tree company visited my home to talk about tending the old trees on our property. As I reflected on the week’s challenges, I realized Silverstein’s message about trees couldn’t be any clearer. As children we experience the unconditional love of our parents, much like the unconditional love of Shel Silvertstein’s tree. As adults, we are then asked to return the love we received as children to our parents as they age. Sometimes it is just a matter of sitting and listening – taking in the details of who they are, how they think, and hearing them reminiscing about their lives. Other times, it is being reassuring during a major life change. The dreams they dreamed as youth become the histories and legacies they leave for us and for our children – and all of this is for us to relish now, not after they are gone.

So, the next time I feel harried by being part of the Sandwich Generation, I will remember Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree,” and when the tree said to the boy who had returned as a tired old man, “’Well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting. Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest.’ And the Boy did. And the tree was happy.”

Amelia Blades Steward is founder of Steward Writing and Communications, a public relations firm in Easton, MD. Her company focuses on copy writing, editing services, and communications plans for non-profit and for profit companies, small businesses, and local governments. She has written nonfiction articles for national, regional, and local publications for over 33 years. A lifelong storyteller, Steward published her first book in the spring of 2014, a memoir which she co-authored with Charles H. Thornton, entitled “Charles H. Thornton: A Life of Elegant Solutions.”

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