It’s not easy being the oldest. Just ask my daughter, Sarah.
She was the most beautiful baby! People would stop Beni and me and compliment us on her. Twice, strangers came up to “meet” Sarah and then gave us money to buy her something. Not only was she beautiful, she was a delight (except when it was time to go to sleep). I had so much fun with baby Sarah!!! I’ve often thought that, had she been an ugly or a difficult baby, we probably wouldn’t have been so gung-ho about having more kids. But all I could imagine, when I thought about siblings for Sarah, was a house full of almost–perfect kids just like her.
As it turned out, we gave Sarah three siblings, all sisters. All of them were pretty babies and all of them were fun, each in her own way. But I found out that I could never have the same experience with the others as I had with Sarah. . . there were too many of them!!!
Sarah went from being my constant companion and playmate to being one of a crowd, so to speak. Not only that, she was stuck with taking care of her younger sisters as oldest children often are. She had to show them the ropes. She had to warn them about Mommy’s and Daddy’s pet peeves. She had to share her toys and her Chipmunk, the cat we had who grew up with Sarah and her sisters. It’s not easy being the oldest!
As just about everybody else in the universe, Sarah had a rough adolescence. Her mother and I worried and fretted and did most everything wrong. We learned how to be parents by practicing on Sarah. Her siblings had it much better than poor Sarah, because Sarah paved the way for them by breaking us in.
Sarah met Matt when she was in her late teens. Once Matt showed up, two things happened: (1) Sarah calmed down considerably and (2) her life had a center that wasn’t us. It was a very difficult adjustment for me to make. Even though she’s been married to Matt for years now, I still have a really hard time remembering that her last name is no longer Hawkins.
Sarah went to college after being out of school for four or five years. She had decided she wanted to be a registered nurse. She took courses like anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry and aced them all. That impressed the shit out of me. I got C's in biology and in physics when I was in college, and was relieved to get them. I was blown away by Sarah's A's. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree magna cum laude. She now works as an RN in a hospital not far from here.
For most of my career, I worked with physicians and nurses, and I grew to admire both professions, but I came to understand that, for the sick person, the nurse is the one who actually heals. Physicians can fix things, physicians can diagnose, but it’s the nurse who heals. That Sarah chose the nursing profession, and that she graduated with such honor from her nursing program are two of the best things that ever have happened in my life.
She had all the burdens of the oldest child, but she turned out to be another hero of mine. I am in awe of Sarah!