Sunday, September 13, 2009

Reflections on an Empty Nest

About this time last year, after I had dropped Marissa off at college in North Carolina, a well-meaning individual offered their sympathy over our adjustment to an empty nest. Greg and I had a chuckle over that one morning when we met nearby for breakfast. Two things were wrong with that person's perception at the time. For one, our nest wasn't empty. Kelsey had moved back in and brought all the old tension and worries that we had struggled with for years back with her. It was as though, as soon as she moved back in, we all regressed a step or two, and it had been a strain. For another, we actually were anxious for an empty house. We wanted the time to ourselves to be perfectly honest. We were both exhausted by the last eight years. But, more altruistically, if we could get both girls living independently at the same time, then we could take some hope that all the struggles over those years were worth it. But, in the meantime, we had almost snuck out of the house for a little quiet time to ourselves that particular morning.

Be careful what you wish for. We moved Marissa back into a dorm three weekends ago and suddenly we are the true Empty Nesters we fantasized about that long ago morning. For a while, even after Marissa had another official place to live, she was back here so often or I was there with her, that we were probably seeing one another more than when this was where her pillow was. But, I didn't hear from her at all on Friday, and saw her only fleetingly yesterday. She is doing what we hoped for, it appears; moving on with her life and beginning to cut the cord that has existed between her and I since her very beginning. I know this is what is supposed to happen. For that reason, I am happy, but it will take some adjusting to on my part. So, finally, the house is quiet. And really quiet it is. Of course, it is hardly empty. Eight dogs, two cats and one fish are always here. But, while they cause a ruckus some of the time, they generally like holding down the sofa for most of the day.

One thing I've learned, even as I've turned a corner on my most deep grief is that I've lost the ability to enjoy that quiet. Over the years, I loved having the house to just me and the pets. It so rarely happened. I loved those stolen moments of being able to do whatever I wanted. Dance around like an idiot to rock from my youth. Curl up in corner and read a book. Watch a World War II movie I've seen a 100 times without listening to, "I can't believe you're watching that again." The possibilities were endless, the opportunities not so. But, now, suddenly, I find I hate being in the house alone. I hate that pounding quiet. Only because of how I came to earn it, I know, but there it is.

This is not a ghost story. I have no odd occurrences to report. No odd bumps in the night. Nothing ends up in places it wasn't before. I think I might actually take some comfort in that. But, the void is complete. So when Greg announced yesterday that he was going to a friend's house to watch the game and there was no ensuing invitation for me to join him, I panicked a little. I spent the day trying not to be upset and hurt, with mixed results. But, as he left today, I couldn't help but be catty about it in what was definitely not my proudest moment. I didn't want to take away his chance at a little break from his own pain, but I didn't want to face the long hours alone in the house.

I have plenty to do. I really need to be here working off a long list of pressing items. And that's what I'll do. But, I was mixing up a batch of pumpkin cookies as he left. I have made that recipe since I was a girl. I'm known for them; I never mess them up. They are a complete disaster. I need them for a meeting tomorrow, but I'm not sure I can use them. Not sure what I did wrong, but my composure was shaken to the point that I either left something out or added too much of something else, but they flattened out on me and don't taste quite like they always do. What a mess.

But, the long and short of it is that he left and here I sit, with eight sleeping dogs all around me. So, I turned the television up, and I'll concentrate on working through my to-do list while keeping one eye on the Browns, the Bengals and the Ravens, hoping they all lose and at least give me that much comfort. It did occur to me that maybe the reason older people turn their televisions up so much has nothing to do with their hearing. Maybe they, too, are blocking out the silence of an empty nest.

I want my house back. I want the ability to enjoy my own company. I grew up that way, an only child of older parents. I really don't want to lose that, but for now that's not where I'm at.

No comments:

Post a Comment