Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Mid Life

Many will doubtless consider it rather cheeky (or else simply self indulgent) for someone who is only thirty years old to write on the topic of middle age, yet the topic has been somewhat on my mind of late. As I was enjoying the cool autumn air the other day, it occurred to me that I was already more than half the age my father was when he died. This, combined with the fact that I married rather younger than my father and had children sooner often leaves me with the feeling that I am already advanced well upon life's road -- and by implication wondering if mine is shorter than most.

The above may make me sound rather morbid, but it's not really any fear of death that I'm thinking of here. Dante may have found himself, midway through life's journey, in a gloomy wood (even Dante was jumping the gun less -- he was about to turn 35 when he found himself in the gloomy wood in Lent, 1300, at the beginning of Inferno) -- by my experience is more of finding myself hurdling along at tremendous speed and wondering exactly I'm going, and how soon I shall arrive. We measure ourselves by the patterns we know, and so it seems natural to measure my life by that of my father. Yet having got married earlier, had children earlier, bought a house earlier, and settled on a single full time job earlier, I can't help an odd sort of feeling of: What happens later?

To add to the effect, outside the small splinter culture in which we live in our private lives, the people I know professionally have moved in the opposite direction, with most of them having first children in their mid thirties. The picture of the four kids on my desk marks me (depending on how people choose to analyze it) as being either a very young looking 38-40 or else quite dangerously insane. (For my part, I try to provide supporting evidence for both alternatives.)

In a world in which most people seem to expect to have college age children when in their 50s and being "father of the bride" in their sixties -- there seems little precedent for someone whose children will range form 27 to 20 when he turns 50 is supposed to do with the rest of his life. In a sense, it's rather exhilarating. Uncharted territory. Age-ward ho! Yet because it's uncharted, one can't shake the odd feeling that pretty soon all the path will be covered, and one will be left standing around saying, "Well. Here we are. Where are we anyway?"

12 comments:

Cliff said...

Amusing post. :) At 49, with seven kiddos (oldest 22, youngest 7), a wife, a mortgage, who has time to wonder what comes next?

Worry not about tomorrow, for today has enough troubles of it's own...

Cliff said...

Sorry if the above sounded too flippant. I guess I did mean to be a bit funny (haha), but life happens. You never really know what will come your way next.

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

Well, your maternal grandfather retired from the Navy at age 35 with six children, the eldest of whom was in sixth grade. He'd had 20 years of service. (He had a second career as a civilian.)

bearing said...

Are you *sure* your youngest will be 20 when you turn 50? For most of us, there's a fighting chance the youngest will be 4 to 8, rather. Which tends to answer the question "what will we be doing?" rather neatly.

Prof. Whimsey said...

I know exactly what you mean! At 34, part of me never thought I'd live even this long (and so married and had kids relatively early, hedging my bets just in case the next truck coming around the curve had my name on it).

In terms of what comes next, that's kind of up to you. Ideally, what's next is more of the same, only deeper (if that makes any sense). Novelty (and curiousity) kills.

Darwin said...

Are you *sure* your youngest will be 20 when you turn 50?

No. I was just talking extant children.

Big Tex said...

What comes next?

Grandchildren!

But I do see the shift in my own professional acquaintances. For the most part, they are either older with fewer kids or similar in age with no children, if they are even married. Most of the looks/responses I get to my foursome on display is tend to think that I am clinically insane. Those who are similar in age around here seem to think of me as the 400 Babies! guy.

For the record, I hit 33 on Repeal Day.

Rich Leonardi said...

The picture of the four kids on my desk marks me (depending on how people choose to analyze it) as being either a very young looking 38-40 or else quite dangerously insane. (For my part, I try to provide supporting evidence for both alternatives.)

We had the family picture taken this summer, and all eight of us are packed into a wallet size photo I carry with me. The reactions range from "Holy S#%&!" by (some) parents to "One, two, three, four ..." by the kids.

Brandon said...

If you haven't already reached the "Well. Here we are. Where are we anyway?" point, it can only be because you've married and had four children. I'm only slightly older than you, but, being single and childless I've already reached it at least twice. The world never stays still long enough for the story to end there; however many paths you completely cover, you eventually get forcefully pushed onto another that's going a completely different direction.

TS said...

Big Tex beat me to the punch. My parents spend a lot of time babysitting their grandchildren.

Roz said...

You're welcome to identify yourself with middle-age which is a conveniently elastic category. I referred to myself as middle-aged when I turned 50 (not that many years ago, thank you), and my son responded "Middle-aged? Just how long do you plan to live?"

lissla lissar said...

Hm. I've been thinking about old age, and how odd it is to be preparing for my Dad's eventual slide (he's just been diagnosed with Parkinson's). I'm 31. My Dad is 78. He married late.

So most of my friends have parents roughly 15 years younger than mine, and their grandparents are about Dad's age. Actually, my husband's grandad is one and a half years older.

It makes me feel young and unprepared (in spite of the kid pulling at my leg, I'm not sure I feel like an adult yet).