Tag Archives: empty nest syndrome

An Empty Nest on Mothers Day

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photographs a perfectly ripe pear on a mattress when her grown son moves out of the house.It’s when they buy a mattress, “Sealy Posturepedic, Mom. And a frame, and I got sheets….” That’s when you know: they’re really leaving home this time.

The sob-fest starts. It almost feels like grieving again although this is good news. For him. He’s so excited, “Mom, I leave Tuesday.” I’m happy for him, and very proud, but my heart is a cracked egg.

When he next lands in town, he’ll only be visiting and it’ll be on a round-trip ticket with a predetermined disappearing-date. It won’t be some temporary flight of adventure where, with maybe an hour’s notice he’s gone who-knows-where, and suddenly sometime later – surprise phone call in the middle of the night, “Mom, you locked the door. I’m here, can you let me in,” he’s found his way home, his mission ended or the money ran out. No, from now on when it’s time to go home he’ll scurry towards his own place, far away, where he’s parked his own mattress that he bought himself with 12-month zero-percent in-store financing and free delivery. Where beer cans and pizza boxes grow in the kitchen corner because he hasn’t figured out yet that someone has to remove and recycle them periodically. Where he thinks, at last he’s gonna get a pet pit bull.

No more of those soaring times when I cancel out on girls’ movie night, “sorry, my son’s grilling steaks tonight.” No more finally falling fast asleep after I hear him slip into the house safely at 2AM. And the exquisite elation of being needed, “Mom, I locked my key in the car,” or “Mom, is there anything in the house to eat?” No more. It didn’t matter how early or late or inconvenient, I will miss those times.

Okay. Big breath. Get centered. It’s not like he’s going to Syria. He got a job. Everyone with kids eventually goes through this. Empty-nest syndrome. It’s just a little harder for me, maybe, having “lost” one.

If I’m lucky, I’ll get an occasional phone call. But I don’t remember calling my own mother when I left home. Not until I became a mother myself did I even consider she might be anything other than thrilled when the house emptied out. And Mom always said, “You should have one just like you.” Sigh.

He left for his new home before he could eat the pear I’d saved for him, nursed for days to perfect ripeness. Seeing that prized pear sitting alone, uneaten, triggered a major meltdown. And when I finally stopped sobbing, there was nothing to be done but devour the pear myself. And phone my mother.

 

Please remind me, what’s so wonderful about Mothers Day?

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Reaching Out

The best relief from my own grief comes when I reach out to help someone else in their troubles. But one thing I still find impossibly hard is to reach out for help when I’m the one suffering.

Last week, driving back from the airport after saying goodbye to the one I love most in this world, I had to pull off the road and stop the car several times, unable to see through my tears. Finally arriving home, I howled in the driveway, begging, pleading, praying, …sobbing into my dog’s fur. I tried to summon my courage, strength, the spirits of my dead father and daughter. I even called on god. But the aching grew worse.

“Love the grief. Learn to live with the pain,” and “You are not alone, you can do this,” I went through all my mantras aloud. I desperately wanted to go back in time, to the night before, when we’d clinked our glasses of whiskey. “To you and your adventure,” I’d said cheerfully, looking more at the ice swimming in the whiskey than at the eyes of the one I love. Now there would be no eyes to watch, no celebrating, no more late nights toasting to the future.

Empty-nest-syndrome. A hole in my heart almost as big as when my daughter died. No need to bother anyone else about this, I told myself. Don’t be a burden, don’t be a wimp. It was late enough I could simply take a pill and go to sleep. And I thought how sad it was, having no one to announce to, “I’m going to bed.” And that started the tears and howling all over again until I thought of someone who might understand. Gasping for breath, I phoned her.

After sputtering out my story I said, “I’m okay, I just needed someone to say goodnight to.” That was pretty much true. So every day since, I’ve been phoning family and friends. Good morning. Goodnight. And sometimes I don’t know anymore if I’m reaching out to help or be helped. But maybe it’s all the same in the end.

 

What does reaching out mean to you?

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