The Middle

Just Make Me Laugh

For most of my life I have opted for a good sit com over most any other form of television programming. Unfortunately my husband does not share this opinion; the ability to record TV shows has probably saved our marriage. I silently endure evenings with various alien or big foot hunting, animals eating animals, or Andrew Zimmern eating anything bizarre and disgusting. But, as long as that little red button is glowing, I know my shows await me for the next day’s viewing pleasure.

For the past nine years I have watched every single episode of The Middle. Who can’t identify with this lovable, crazy, disorganized family? While everything that happened with them was over the top, there was always that nugget of familiarity that allowed us to laugh at ourselves. Didn’t we all feel just a little better about our lives after watching the Heck’s antics? I know I did.

Above all, I love the relationship between Axl and Sue. Brothers and sisters have a unique bond and the teasing and jokes seem to be universal. Axl was forever rolling his eyes and giving Sue grief over her unique point of view and ways of doing things. In high school she embarrassed him on a daily basis, but in college he quietly made sure she was always OK. Through it all, he loved her and showed it in the way that was natural for him. Like Sue I openly adore my brother and have a tendency to want to cling to him. He, like the Heck men, is not one for being overly demonstrative in the traditional sense, but there is no doubt he loves me and would do anything in his power for me.

I Don’t Do Finales

The older I get, I find I don’t like watching series finales. Maybe it is because I don’t want to say goodbye to folks who have become like family, or that I just don’t like the lump I get in my throat when I know I’m going to cry. I try to delude myself into thinking that if I don’t watch it, the show hasn’t really ended. OK, I know that last one is pitiful, but I can’t deny the reality.

I had to watch the series finale of The Middle. The story of Axl leaving home for a job in Denver, was absolute Heck family gold. It was the perfect balance of laughter and tears; a bittersweet celebration of family. It was the perfect good-bye.

Frankie had tried to be stoic and “cool” so Axl would want to come back to visit, or just pick up the phone when she called. She had stuffed all those feelings way down deep inside, and was a time bomb waiting to explode.

While discussing their family cell phone plan, Axl said “Just take me off the family plan.” To him, this was a common sense solution to the problem of data use overage. But to Frankie this was symbolic of Axl leaving the family and she could no longer be the cool mom. She made Mike stop the car, jumped out and began walking back the way they had come. All her pent up emotions come flowing out, her family standing there, not sure what to say or do. Things were changing and there was nothing she could do about it. Through tears Frankie said, “This is the end of an era. The five of us will never be together like this again.” With perfect timing, love, and gentleness, Mike tells her, “That’s the way it is supposed to be.”

The family plan had worked well for twenty something years and now it was time for the plan to change.

Letting Go

I was usually the one doing the leaving. But now I see the change in the family plan from a different perspective. I am not just the child. I am the child, the sister, the aunt, the wife, mom, mother-in-law, and Mimi. We spend our lives living according to the established plan; everyone has their place, their roles, and and we are quite comfortable. A new person comes in or someone moves on and the family plan has to accommodate. But the family is still intact; we are all still connected because we are family. This was the truth I was reminded of as The Middle drew to a close.

I believe that many of us consider the weirdness of our family to be different from what happens in other homes – but it’s not. We are all more alike than different. Some are just brave enough to put it out there for the world to see. I think we should embrace what makes us and our families unique because only then are we fully who we’re created to be and able to impact the world around us for good.

Things will be different now that I don’t have the Heck’s in my life every week, but that’s OK…no, that is how it should be. Change is inevitable; it is how we deal with the change that determines the quality of the next phase of life.

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