An accordion. That’s what my life feels like right now, with pressure from two sides. I reflected on this in my first “Fine Winer” article, that I’m feeling the “middle” in “middle age.” My wife, Joy, and I are dealing with the growing pains of our young adult kids, and with aging parents.
We worry about our autistic son, who struggles with community college.
We are nervously happy for our daughter, in grad school and making wedding plans.
And we are making arrangements to move my wife’s 95-year-old mother to Texas from Florida. We had found an Assisted Living Facility about five minutes from us – and then she fell and broke her hip. She’ll be in rehab for a couple of months before she will be able to travel.
Sitting now in Starbucks, I sip a Latte thinking about all this.
The challenge for Joy and me is to find time for us. That means making more dates for lunch, a movie, an opera, a walk in the park.
We’ve also been traveling. I travel half the time for work, and have been bringing Joy on more of those trips—in recent months we’ve been to Santa Fe, Tucson, and Augusta, GA. In Santa Fe, we saw her brother for the first time in several years. In Tucson, we enjoyed quiet walks among the cacti in Saguaro National Park. In Augusta, we attended the military retirement ceremony for Phil, a college classmate of mine (and fellow student of Tim Berry)—his wife was a childhood friend of Joy’s.
The common points in each of these are that we are doing the kinds of things we enjoyed before we had kids. And we’re connecting with people who have been there throughout our lives, family members and the longest lasting friends.
We don’t have the flexibility to be as spontaneous as we were in those early years. We can’t on a moment’s notice take off to the White Mountains for a weekend of hiking, or a drive to Chincoteague to see Pony Penning Day. We have to plan for the trips away. But sometimes when the stress is great, I find myself just grabbing her by the hand and saying, “Let’s go”—to a park, to lunch, to a museum.
You could look at these as escapes. I see them instead as our attempt to reclaim the middle. Carving out space in the present, pushing back at the pressures of the ends, not letting them determine our life. Because it’s only from a place of peace, of wholeness, of strength, that we can show the love and be the support we need to for both our kids and our parents.