Friday, May 30, 2008

Stuck in the Middle with You

It is a familiar place for me. I grew up in a huge foster family but in the ranks of my natural siblings I was dead center. Two older sisters, two younger brothers.

It wasn't such a bad place to be. Not paving the road but not stuck in baby position for life. By laying low and staying out of trouble I had much more freedom than the older sisters.I watched them navigate the jungles of junior high then adjusted my expectations accordingly. I let them figure out the whole college application thing then used their experience to breeze my way through the process my senior year.

Laying low in the middle worked for me.

Fast forward two decades. I go to work to find myself in a familiar place - right in the middle.

The residents I work with are in their late eighties, even high nineties. The decades they have navigated make me feel young indeed. Forty doesn't seem so old when I realize these people were fifty when I was born. It makes me feel like I have a heck of a lot of time left.

But I am also surrounded by twenty year olds - my coworkers. It is a common demographic in a residence for the elderly. Many of them are working on nursing degrees. Some are just bringing home paychecks until they figure out what they want to do for the next sixty years or so. But they are all young. Very young.

Young like having no memory of days without cell phones and Internet. Young like not being alive when Reagan was president. (while I stood in line in college to get a glimpse of the visiting president)

Things come up, stories are told, and sometimes they don't believe me. I have had a lot of life experiences since I was their age. And they can't comprehend it. They don't have any idea how much can happen in life in a short twenty years.

And it makes me feel ancient. In these moments I find myself seeking out conversations with the octogenarians around me. It puts things in perspective.

I'm still the middle child in my sibling group, but once we all passed our twenties it didn't really seem important anymore.

And I am definitely feeling the middle squeeze at work these days.

But it's not so bad.

Some day, some day that will come way too soon, I will be the frail old lady on the couch. And I will miss that special place, being stuck in the middle.

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