Many local baby-boomers have parents who make the annual "snowbird" trek southward for the winter. Many of us take care of their apartments or houses in their absence, checking up on such things as security, the heating system and the property.
But sometimes, something important falls through the cracks while they are away, and, when finally detected, it hints at our parents' inability to continue managing their own lives. Such an event can instantaneously segué to thoughts of our having to step in beyond the exigencies of snowbird season. It may also force us to face the prospect of an indelible shift in family dynamics that requires us to serve as parents to them. Hence, the term "sandwich generation."
The good news is that, on closer inspection, the problem may turn out to be someone else's fault entirely, perhaps even a simple bureaucratic snafu.
This happened recently when a 20-something granddaughter, visiting her snowbird Grandma, uncovered a problem that initially sent the family into such a tizzy.
Granddaughter responsibly requested Grandma's automobile registration prior to borrowing the car. Grandma inadvertently produced her driver's license, which had expired a month earlier.
Was Grandma losing her ability to handle the details of her own life? Could she imminently be trading snowbird status for a jailbird mug shot? Both were cause for great concern.
Something didn't add up. Grandma's liability was contraindicated by her all-around competence, enviable energy and successful adjustment to independence after the loss of her husband of over five decades. There was more investigating to be done.
Granddaughter discovered in Grandma's files a cleared check to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), plus copies of renewal forms with timely dates. A phone call to Albany revealed that Grandma had indeed been renewed to drive through February 2002 according to the DMV computer.
Yes, she had dotted her i's and crossed her t's, but something had kept Grandma and her license tragically apart.
The official license envelope mailed to her legal New York address was labeled "Do Not Forward," so the U.S. Postal Service returned it to the DMV, which subsequently destroyed the documents. Fait accompli.
Grandma then called Albany, had a temporary license sent to Florida (this is legal), and the permanent license re-sent to New York in sync with her return north. However, if it arrived before the mail forward order was stopped, the license would again bounce back to the DMV and be trashed.
As of this writing, Grandma is in full possession of her wits as well as her renewed license. The family is understandably relieved.
For the record, try to give your elderly parents the benefit of the doubt when things go awry. Anticipate upcoming document renewals, many of which are birthday-based. And help your parents wade through the bureaucratic red tape that can bollix up everyone's wintertime bliss. We hope, like us, you'll be glad you did.