Dear Almost Grown Up Sons Of Mine

College Campus, October 13, 2010
College Campus, October 13, 2010

Midlife wisdom and insight from Guest Blogger, Connie Wright:

Dear almost grown up sons of mine,

While you still need me for the tuition check and spending money, I know that you don’t really need me emotionally. At 20 and 22, you have full days (and nights!) filled with friends, fun, studies and stresses. You juggle your classes, social networking, parties and maintenance of your own home and selves. While I did manage to do my mothering in the small allotted time that parent’s weekends might avail me during our visits – you guys seem to be doing pretty well.

I did notice that you both had a pretty clean living space in your own bedrooms. Not sure if that was because of the descending of parents for the weekend or just the way you keep it. The community spaces in your apartments allowed me to do some clean-up and if I had more time I would have cooked –but that might have been a bit overboard – maybe. I hope your housemates didn’t mind my puttering.

But that is the small stuff – most importantly, I like the adults you have become. While you might feel you have arrived – you still have some roads to travel – and my comfort lies in that you are both pretty grounded and getting there without me and I like the paths you are on. I know you will have speed bumps and undefined paths that will cause you stresses and concerns and that it isn’t totally clear where you will end up and what exactly you will be doing – but you have shown me that you are pretty equipped to handle all that might be thrown at you.

I left each of your campuses with that bittersweet feeling. I wanted to stay and visit more, but knew that I was the intruder in a life that had a pattern to it and my presence was not part of that rhythm anymore. The bitter is coming to terms that you have those lives without me; the sweet is that you have those lives without me and as young men – this is how it should be.

I am fortunate – my days are very busy and full – I work and am involved in building a business that includes trips to major cities to work with our new offices. So my change of habits with the kids out of the house is not extreme – but there are changes none-the-less. This is a time of incredible changes – both for the you guys and for me. Having you both 1000 miles away (at different schools) makes it better (for you) because there are no surprise drop-in-visits.

The biggest area where I need to exert control is the phone calls. I just can’t call you because I miss them – who wants to talk to their mom about their day and what they did. And I’m not going to hear about some social issue that needs solving or a professor issue that I can fix for them. So my calls need to be spaced appropriate out. And timed – don’t call in the early morning – not an endearing trait to be the wakeup alarm. Too late and then its intruding on the social time and midday – well that’s class time. And I need something topical – something to tell you that is interesting or a real need to have information (so when does your driver’s license expire?).

You will come home for some more holidays – I have counted them. My oldest, you have only 2 more that I can be sure of; then you will have a job and more than likely live in another city far away. The 20 year-old you’re in a 5year program – so I have 4 more holiday seasons that I can count on – the summers – well with any luck you too will be in an internship and not home over your summers……ahh bittersweet.

Thanks for letting me share your lives these past two weekends!

Love Mom

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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?

Next blog

Mom Lost Her Keys

The All-American Family...
The All-American Family...

Our newest Guest Blogger at Mid Life Celebration, Connie Wright, returns today for her second installment of a story that will sound familiar to many of you. Take it away Connie:

Family started arriving 3 days before my nephew’s wedding; being the closest family member to the church and reception – I became the hotel for some and restaurant for many more. The house filled with 10 “residents” and dinners were for 20 or more. Days started early and ended late.

Mom celebrated in all the people coming and going – she had missed activity in her life the past few months. Life in Pennsylvania was quieter as she shut down the house; some stayed away because they thought that was what she wanted (and in the beginning she thought she did want people to stay away) and others stayed away because – well – you know- after you say you’re sorry about Malcolm dying – what do you talk about – the rest seems so trivial?

As the house filled with people, she caught up with family and visited with cousins. She liked the puttering of clean up “it gives me something to do”. My sister and I took her to the art museum where our great, great, great.. grandmother’s portrait hangs. Painted by Sully, a famous painter in the early 1800s, it was exciting for her to see the portrait. It was a busy week.

As the crescendo of noise and flow of people increased, Mom decided maybe she should put some of her cash in a safe place and move her keys to another safe place. But she didn’t tell anyone she was doing this.
Now I am blessed that at 85, Mom has her wits about her. She writes notes to help her remember, but most of the time – that simple act seals the memory and the notes aren’t needed. But she is passing through into another phase of her life and with it so am I.

There was a time when I harbored the unrealistic idea that if everything came crashing down in my world, I could grab what was most important and “go home”. Now I am that refuge for my mother. She will head to Florida on her own, but she knows it is borrowed time and it will be her; not me; grabbing what is most important when things start to crash down. I will be her safe harbor should she need it.

She remembered where she put her money, but the keys are a precursor and very symbolic of what will be next. How long can she drive? Will it be years or months of independent living? She worries now about when that time will come, how she will handle it and what it will mean. She did so much for my father these past few years as his illness made him so very fatigued, she gracefully moved him into that phase without making anyone aware of that. She knows it will be less subtle for her. She will be losing her keys; only this next time it will be “for keeps”.

Thank you Connie for your touching and poignant story. Living in Florida for the past 27 years, I’ve observed the choices seniors make, and don’t make. It would almost seem that simple exercise, like walking, would allow seniors to be some of the healthiest people around.

She Has Moved On

Road Trip
Road Trip

Guest Bloggers offer readers (and blog owners) several things, like a different set of experiences, different perspectives, and a state change. Today, Saturday, I’m introducing you to Connie Wright, a fellow Baby Boomer and Midlife traveler, who shares a recent story many of us can relate to:

So I spent two days wrapping up the final touches on packing up my mother’s house. Mom had spent the whole summer organizing, giving things away and packing. The “for sale” sign hangs out front. She would remind me of what little that remains in the house as to what came from where; what great grandfather or great aunt made or gave us what and who should get what when the house does sell. She repeats herself, but less out of forgetfulness and more to try to imprint in me all that she wishes to communicate. She has it down to the basics.

Saturday morning she looks around, sets the house alarm and declares she is ready, she notes she hopes it doesn’t sell and she can come back one last time “I need to get more done” and we hop in the car for the long 7 hour drive back to my house. She will stay with me for one week; celebrate my nephew’s wedding and then head to Florida.

The drive to my house is a well worn path that both my parents used to drive to visit my brother and me (he’s just an hour “down the road”). Now it is just us and Mom reminisces about the landmarks she’d pass with Dad and what they would do. The first hour is still near home – so there is much to discuss about what they did – some are memories from her youth – when my parents were dating (or as she says “courting”) others are more recent. We can’t remember the name of the greenhouse they went to one time outside of Mechanicsburg… For those of you who know me, you know I don’t lack for the gift of gab, but this is a time for me to just listen and to ask questions. There are times I’m not sure she is even speaking to me – though I know she knows I am listening.

As we get further from home, the conversation goes more to memories unrelated to our location. And she shares messages she wants to make sure I communicate to my siblings. She’s still a strong woman and should have many more years, but she is preparing for THAT tomorrow. There was a time I did not like hearing her face her mortality, not sure if it’s my father’s death or just that she has talked more about it – but I can listen now. I used to “pooh pah” these conversations and push them off, but on this ride, on this journey away from the town she grew up in with her knowing this could be her last time home, I listen.

The trip takes a path and so does the conversation – at the midway point she is most reminiscent of the past. We stop for lunch at a diner in Stamford CT. I see the habits of how she eats come out – insisting she isn’t hungry – but teasing her that I don’t want to share, she orders her own sandwich and of course eats it all. She talks about being the last sibling in her family alive and wishes she had someone from those times to reconfirm her memories or to recall a shared experience.

Back on the road, as we start to close in on my home, the path to our conversation starts to shift and she starts to move forward. What she wants to do when we get to my house; “you know I have not seen Alex and Justine’s house” and starts to make the list of what she will need to do when she gets to Florida. We make plans for the up coming week, she has moved on.

Connie, thank you for sharing your story. Florida is a great place for seniors and midlifers – we can exercise outdoors year round.

Florida Has Great Diners
Florida Has Great Diners