Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I was born a middling one, and middling I remain,
Medium dull and medium bright and middling pretty plain.
The pleasant consolation for such a middling fate
Is that one finds so many friends in the same middling state.
--Marjorie Medary
She's my middling, as I am my mother's, as my mother was her mother's.

Such a middling. She has never asked for much; a piece of paper, an orange crayon, and a pair of scissors will occupy her for an hour. Her older sister could give courses on subtle attention-getting behavior (just wait till she's a teen!), but my middling doesn't need it.

I sat with her tonight until she fell asleep, at her request. She was not herself tonight, coping poorly with unanticipated challenges (like gravity). I figured she was tired, and put her to bed early. The footsteps I heard told me she didn't agree.

She didn't want to tell me why she was upset. She said, "I don't want to make you cry." And then she cried about Henry, about his cancer, about his impending demise and death. What can I tell her? My usual line of "It will all be better in the morning" didn't cut it. So I sat with her till she fell asleep.

The music coming from Henry's room was recently dug out of a drawer. It was the acoustic piano Christmas music that my husband and I played in the hospital room, just over seven years ago when my middling was born. In a very real sense, that was the last time she had our full attention. An older sister, a residency, a move, a baby brother, and then cancer. How can a middling compete?

She won't, I guess. That's not what middlings do.


SOCKS said...

What a beautifully written post - as always.

Somehow crying with someone else is medicinal, therapeutic and certainly bonding.

I'm glad you two midlings had that moment together.

rlbates said...

Beautiful post. Hugs for you and your middling.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Smak, you are a beautiful person, fantastic mother, and an amazing middling.
I am crying with all of you

to change the subject 180 degrees....does this mean I need to be nicer to my middling????? She usually drives me crazy

webhill said...

I don't know how old your middling is - mine is recently turned 6 years old. My youngest is blessedly healthy and my middling has no personal experience with severe illness in the immediate family (though has lost some elderly relatives she was close with), but she too has recently been asking for someone to stay with her til she falls asleep. She says she needs that time with a grown-up - she needs time when a grown up is "just being with me" as she puts it. She says we are always so busy during the day she doesn't get any "just being together" time and so she wants it when she is falling asleep.

Ah, the plight of the middling.

As always my heart goes out to you and yours. Take care.

Anonymous said...

Right now I feel real good about being a middling!


JeanMac said...

I'm a middling too - guess that explains all:) I feel deeply for you and your family. This darn disease affect all members - sending hugs your way.

...tom... said...


We have an oldest and twins. So I guess first twin out gets to claim the middle ground; she teases the youngest about being the baby of the family (if only by a minute or two) all the time.

In our case it was probably the oldest that feels the most . . .unattended.

That any child of 'a bunch' ever gets the quality one-on-one attention they need or deserve always seems like a miracle to me.

Nice to hear your voice again...


Ms. Fiddler said...

Ahhh, as the oldest I can never put my finger on what it is my younger sibling, the middle sister, has that is so spectacular... I often describe it as heroic... She is amazing because of her middling role.... So now I see, as you do too, that you and your "middling" as heroic as well - Mostly stoic, exceptionally intuitive, and so incredibly special. I am so sorry for her pain, but she is so blessed to know she can come into your safe harbor and talk to her "middle mate"

So well written, you make me love my sister, you, and your daughter so much more.... Thank you - As always I get another gift from you

Your ER Doc said...


Added you to the Your Er Doc blog roll - wanted to invite you to consider too

thanks and happy new year!