What an interesting, emotional time of life is middle age.
I’m finding so much joy in the smallest things. Watching Ellie sleep. Rubbing my puppy’s little belly. Eating olives and cheese with my Momma.
I’m finding so much sadness in the speed of life and how it changes. I miss my old profession, and I miss my teaching friends. Those supportive relationships meant more to me than I even knew.
And death is a more common part of my life than it once was . Losing my father, my grandparents, beloved aunts, uncles, in-laws.
But it also strikes me that one of the strangest parts of being this age is how the happy and the sad keep bumping into each other.
I have a story from today that shows that confluence of feelings. It shows how circular life is, and how nothing seems to ever really go away.
Today I opened a package of clothes I had ordered last week for my granddaughter, Ellie. It contained summer things, including the adorable little romper in the picture above. I had been planning to buy her some shorts and t-shirts, but her Mom told me that those cute one-piece rompers are popular now, so I ordered some.
And my first thought as I pulled the clothes out of the package was that my baby sister Liz and I used to wear those back in about 1960. I immediately pictured a matching pair of rompers, one pink and one blue. I remembered, more than five decades after wearing mine, how it felt with elastic gathering the material around my middle.
I also thought right away about my two Uncles, Bob and Joe. When we were little kids, and our parents were in their thirties, our Uncles were only in their teens or early twenties. They often baby sat for Liz and I and our older brother, Ed.
We were in awe of them.
We called them “Bobby and Joey” and to us they were an amazing mix of grown up and super fun. They always made us laugh. They usually gave in if we asked for something, like a cookie or a popsicle from the ice cream man.
They seemed to think we were amazing and fun, too, which made them seem like not-quite-serious adults.
One of my memories, so clear in my mind no doubt because it was traumatic, was a hot summer morning when Bobby and Joey were getting us dressed for the day. I think we were planning to go to the local playground, but I’m not sure.
I remember being excited, and I remember that I put my romper suit on. I was hoping that one of the big kid/grown ups could manage to put our hair into pony tails.
Suddenly, Uncle Joey said something that sounded alarming. It might have been, “What’s the matter?” or “What did you do?” I looked up from zipping my blue suit.
Uncle Bobby was kneeling in front of my baby sister, who was probably about two years old. She was standing perfectly still, but tears were pouring down her cheeks. Bobby and Joey both looked slightly panicked.
I remember one of them slowly unzipping Liz’s pink romper. And I remember the red line running down her skin.
She’d been caught in the zipper. Poor little kid!
I remember a whole bunch of reactions running through my four year old brain.
These two guys were definitely NOT real grown ups! And wasn’t it sweet to see how bad they both felt and how they cuddled Lizzy to make her feel better. It was funny to hear them kind of blaming each other, too. Like kids!
And, boy oh boy, this little problem better not stop us from going to the playground.
Today I smiled as I picked up Ellie’s little romper. I lifted it to my cheek to feel how smooth and soft it is. I thought about Ellie’s Uncles, Matt and Tim. My boys. How much they love her and how they play with her.
I hope that she grows up with memories of her time with them. I hope that they inspire her, as Bobby did when he refused to give up on his dream of becoming a doctor. I hope they make her laugh years after a great joke, like Joey did with me.
We lost my funny, kind, smart, tender Uncle Bobby this morning. Right about the time I was unwrapping Ellie’s little summer outfit.
I’m definitely going to take her to the playground in it one day soon.
Oh, and I made sure that I didn’t order one with a zipper. I know my own limitations!
Thanks, Uncle Bobby. For the laughs, the love, the tender care. Sempre La Famiglia.