Empty Nest

Connie Wright returns today to give us a glimpse (or a reminder) of what lies ahead. One day, we will no longer be the most important person in someone’s life.

For days there has been that sound; doors and drawers slamming – “ugh”s, and a frustrated stomping of feet. There were piles sorted and resorted – stay, go, go if room, stay and bring up later. The last child packed her bags. The car was stuffed like a tetras game – each item fit in tightly with no spare room, I couldn’t see out the back.

Dave sort of hung low, skulking around corners to avoid the confrontation of our daughter. He has never handled transition well and seeing his offspring physically manifest her frustrations with this transition through her packing gave him pause. He turned to his own “make busy” work to keep out of the way – she had him in her crosshairs – now seems like a great time to trim the trees and chip the trimmings.

It was easy for him to avoid driving her up to school – there were only two seats left in the car and driving a second car to campus was absolutely redundant – mother and daughter could handle the unpacking – and there would be no fireworks.

The drive up to school was easy and we chatted – she had pushed away her father, but had not yet done that to me – she was going to make the trip a pleasant one. I got to listen as she chatted about seeing friends again and not knowing people in her dorm. She was processing the comfortable with the unknown. Once there – I let her do most of the shuttling of boxes up to the room – after a few trips I set to my ritual that I have done with each child when they get to school – I make their bed. This is my way to assure that I can visualize them when the lights do eventually go out. I did a few more box runs and tried to unpack the clothes – but the separation began – she started to push – get a bit annoyed with my efforts – we were done now. A hug goodbye and I was set on my way for the drive home alone.

Not sure how I got here – 50 something with 3 kids – skating back and forth to make peace when the house explodes, to help each child get to where they need to be in life and assure them that they are on track and doing just fine. Though not completely grown up, with two in college, I tend to see my job mostly over and if they ask me for advice, I am overjoyed that they seek my opinion. They don’t need me so much now – and that is as it should be.

The hugs are rarer, they don’t need my reassurance- and I think that when they do hug me, we turned that corner that where the hugs used to be for them, now they are more for me. It happened slowly- for the boys; hugs just stopped being cool. I still got them –but in private and when they needed reassurance. Now – they seek to measure my mood and other than arrivals and departures (where hugs are the ritual) the hugs come because they see me in distress or think I am in need of a hug.

The house is empty, sans my husband – quiet except for computer keys typing away – I can even hear the refrigerator going – now when was the last time you noticed that! They come home for holidays and summers, at least sometimes – and with my oldest – this might be his last Christmas with us – pout. So now what?

It hits me – I have become my mother – my children are leaving – and they will build their lives – for awhile they too will have that lifeline back to me, should they need it. If their world comes crashing in – they can come to me to rebuild. I lost that lifeline with my mother some years ago – without knowing it. And now I have flipped into a new role. No longer anyone’s anchor; I have, however become safe harbor.

Connie’s post reminds me that the clock is ticking, for all of us. The big question then – what will we do today to….. Live, before we die?

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By jeff noel

Retired Disney Institute Keynote Speaker and Prolific Blogger. Five daily, differently-themed personal blogs (about life's 5 big choices) on five interconnected sites.