I wish I had a nickel for every time someone had warned me last year, my son’s last in high school, against the dreaded “empty nest”. Was I prepared? How were my husband and I going to manage, especially given that we had only been blessed with one of the little bundles?
I got so tired of the question that a part of me couldn’t wait for him to leave, just so I wouldn’t have to think of an answer anymore.
I had taken the advice of one my patients years before who had not seemed to suffer the blight of empty nest. She had simply stated that she had relished each stage of her children’s lives, and thus had been able to let go of each receding stage and watch as the next arrived.
I took her advice, and relished.
We gave homemade birthday parties. We had ‘Mommy/Rob days”. We cooked together, laughed together. When he became a golfer, I watched a lot of golf. I relished. And it had seemed to work. But now was the time to relish college and leaving home. Hmmm. A bit more difficult.
I can remember walking into my parents’ home after each of them had died. It was a devastating feeling of loss.
Walking into our home after taking our son to college was not equal to that, but something connected to that. There was this awful emptiness. My gut knew that my world had shifted permanently. I had put one of his dirty t-shirts from the bakery where he had been working in a plastic bag and hidden it in my closet before we had left to take him to Vandy. I went upstairs and smelled it.
That first night was very quiet.
I had planned to go to work the next day. I couldn’t. I didn’t know what to do with myself, but I knew I was not in a mental place to be there for others.
I began to allow the enormity of the change to settle into my soul. I didn’t like it. At one point, I crawled into the driver’s seat of my son’s car and got in fetal position. Out of a place I didn’t know existed came a couple of primal screams. “I changed my mind!! Come back!! Come back home!!”
I sobbed for a minute or two.
I felt more than a little ridiculous and went inside.
As I wandered around the house, I was drawn to a picture taken at Christmas about 18 years ago. My two brothers’ families and myself, my husband and my son. I thought of how I had watched my four older nephews through adolescence and their twenties grow and change — through heartache and challenge, joys and accomplishment. I hadn’t had any problem with them growing up.
Then I looked at the then toddler in my lap.
My tears dried up almost instantly. How could I expect my son not to grow up and away as my nephews had done?
I hate perspective.
I went to the movie. It was Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones in “Hope Springs” , a movie about reinvigorating your marriage.
I knew my husband was going to be so glad that my energies could now be directed toward him.
I seem to remember my father’s delight, after my own departure.
What goes around comes around.