Life Goes Full Circle
By Carol Curtis
Life goes full circle. We’ve all heard that sentiment, but as I head toward the automatic, lifting-lounger phase of my life, I know it’s just not true. Life isn’t a circle; it’s more like one of the old-fashioned paddles with the ball attached by elastic. We start in a resting position, get launched full speed into the living and then, more quickly than we ever imagined, go through the same stages back to the starting place. I know that someday I have a good chance of finding myself swaddled in Depends (diapers), resting in my wheelchair (stroller), being fed oatmeal.
About two-thirds of the way back to the paddle, we reenter the middle school years. When my father gave up living in his own home, he moved to a senior residence. This provided him with scheduled activities, a dining hall, and a peer group. At this time, I was a principal of a middle school and immersed in the lives of 650 hormones-in-sneakers. I looked forward to visiting my father in his new setting and getting a break from adolescent behaviors. Within minutes of my arrival, I understood how a senior center was merely a middle school in an alternate universe.
My arrival coincided with a group of seniors going on a “field trip.” They had on name tags and the chaperone was reading a list of rules. Don’t go anywhere without your partner. Make sure you have your belongings at all times. Don’t expect anyone to carry your stuff. Be back to the bus by 3 p.m. See … middle school! Not only were the rules similar, but the senior men were acting like middle school boys. They were jostling in line … teasing the women … and asking about the food court.
Dad next prepared me for meals in the dining hall. The residents’ director decided that everyone needed to get to know each other. So once a week, she changed the seating plan. Middle schools do this, too. This way, the few men at the senior center could get to meet the plethora of ladies eager for their company. Great idea, but not everyone was willing to follow the chart. Gladys really couldn’t stand Betty. Herman was “going out” with Hazel and wanted to eat every meal with her. The “jocks” liked to eat together and reminisce. Yep, middle school cafeteria duty all over again.
Meals are looked forward to in the senior center and in middle school. If lunch is to begin at noon, you’ll find early creepers heading down by 11:45 a.m. No matter what is being served, half of those attending will start complaining in the hallway on the way down. And both places outlaw peanuts! No peanuts in Dad’s dining hall or my school’s cafeteria. This was before the peanut allergy alert, too. Reason? Well, middle school staffs are fearful of flying projectiles. In the senior center, it was the due to the staff’s desire for a minimum of Heimlich maneuvers at meal time.
Putting a group of peers together in tight quarters can bring out unkind behaviors. While listening to a high school chorus sing show tunes, the ladies were into whispering to each other … just as middle school girls do. “Look at Hazel’s outfit. Bet she got that from her granddaughter’s closet. Just how young can you look at 87?” “Herb is acting like he’s a stud! He’s not a good kisser, but he’s willing to practice.”
So, I know I’m headed back to middle school soon, but this time I’m armed with Twitter, Facebook, and a cell phone camera. Watch out, girls!
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