The word “middle” conjures up many images. Some apply to my life, others do not.
There's the middle child. Not gushed and gooed over like the firstborn, not pampered and spoiled like the baby, the middle child has been the subject of numerous psychological theories. Being the oldest sibling, my odd behavior fell under a different category.
Middle school. Here, I was no longer treated like a little kid. Yet I still got to play before the responsibilities of high school set in. I was in that middle place so long ago, it’s like a different lifetime.
Middle age. Well, who is to say when one reaches the exact middle of one’s life? It’s not until we reach the end, that we know where the middle has been.
I’m fairly certain I’ve passed that point, unless I live to be one hundred and thirty.
But there is a middle that fits my place in life today.
With a generation above me and one below, I am sandwiched in the center, sometimes like a flattened piece of processed turkey, other times like that sweet spot in the center of a Tootsie Pop. It depends on the day, the hour, the circumstances.
Above me, I have a mother approaching 90. My mom is a spry, active, Internet-savvy woman. After taking care of my father for several years, she is now living on her own in a retirement village.
It took some adjusting on both our parts. She won’t ever say she’s happy. But she is content. And she now leans on me as I used to lean on her.
Below, I have a 34-year-old daughter who has three children, an ex-husband and many insecurities. She, too, leans on me, yet is not yet ready for the reverse situation, nor should she be.
Every morning I call my mother just to check in. She often cries on my shoulder. Every morning, my daughter calls me and often does the same thing.
For the record, I have very small shoulders. But like a person who gains super strength to lift a car off a crushed child, my shoulders expand to embrace each situation.
This past weekend, I realized even more what this middle position entails.
In the wee hours of the morning, I watched my daughter receive a martial arts recognition. My heart swelled with pride, as it always does when watching her. I wanted to shout in the air, but I held back. I’ve embarrassed her enough throughout the years!
Then I went to visit my mother and flipped into daughter-mode, haphazardly tossing my purse and iPad onto her kitchen table. Grabbing an apple from her refrigerator.
As I swam laps in her pool, I could feel her eyes on me. She watched with a proud smile on her face, complimenting me on my graceful strokes.
When it came time to listen, I did so as a daughter, but listening as a sixtysomething child is not quite the same as listening as a young adult. Now I seem to be giving advice and I am being listened to in return.
Still, she has the final say. After all, she is my mother.
When I am in her home, I revert to my daughterly ways. At my house, my daughter falls back into her younger self, leaving a mess everywhere. Old habits die hard.
I'm gathering strength from my mom and hope I pass this on to my daughter.
Driving home, back to the quiet of my three bedroom house, the reality of my situation digs itself deeper into my psyche.
One day, I’ll move to the top, not by choice. And you can bet, as difficult as this sandwiched position is, I won’t relinquish it easily.
Sometimes you just have to give life the middle finger.