this middle place is not mid-life. it is merely space in time, a mathematical equation of birth-life-death. we spin in orbit in this middle place. we spin out beyond ourselves, past freedom and invincible youth, but not yet to a place of rest.
this place is churning, it is frenzy. it is anything but slowing down. with one hand on a child and one hand on a parent we (those of us who find ourselves in this middle place) are metaphorically stuck. we are the balance, the weight centered on the rope in this tug of war. not yet ready to let go of either side. child or parent.
i sit wide-eyed with a nervous stomach because there’s nothing else to do but wait. and so i busy myself with tedious nearly manic cleaning, meaningless moments, i procrastinate real work and deadlines and clients.
it shifts so quickly, this space between. and it hits hard when i am alone. when he is at school and i have those few minutes between drop of and work and pick up again.
it shifts quickly. the focus of health, the teetering of test results and news of something new, something old, something different, something quite possibly sadder slipping from view. mother, father, child. i will always be your baby.
i have moments of great strength.
i have hours of great weakness.
will we never know our parents grief? what we remember is how they moved slow in the evening. how they rose early in the morning. how we always ate the same dinner on sundays after a day at the beach or an afternoon in the garden. will we never know that spark of person from their youth? it leaves us before we are ever ready. here we are again, always missing what we don’t have.
“oh dear” he says. then instantly there’s silence over the phone. i can feel it, i know his face is screwed up with tears, then sobbing like i’ve never heard in my life. my heart is breaking and it sounds like his sobbing.
and what comes out of my mouth is compassion. i’m surprised by my own strength. here, get on my back and i’ll carry you and this weight we feel. it’s come full circle now, for me to carry you. i am your baby but i’m stronger than you now. this i don’t tell him. but this he knows. this is where i am, welcome to the middle place.
there is so much empathy it hurts. i can feel his sadness with every molecule of my body. it is nearly too much, nearly.
i’m red-rimmed eyes hiding behind and under sunglasses and a hat. at pick up he runs to me as usual, in his shy afterschool way. and i scoop him up and quickly head to the car. he nuzzles down into my neck, i kiss his cheek and choke on my words. i love you is what i say, but what i’m thinking is please let me stay strong for you, i can see you as a grown man and i don’t want you, my baby, to have to carry me too soon. no parent wants that weight on their child. but sometimes it is required.
i don’t know who he’s talking to, my back is turned with him in my arms. but he yells out to the group of teachers and classmates we are leaving in his loudest proudest voice, “She’s Wonder Woman!”
my tears turn laughter at this parent-child-parent journey we are about to set foot on.