Thursday, July 2, 2009

empty nest empathy

My sister called last night just to talk to someone who gets the pain of the empty nest. Her girls are gone for the summer, but it's just the prelude to being gone for good.

My sister and I went to live in Switzerland the first semester of our senior year in high school. My grandfather, a gifted theologian and teacher, was going there with my grandmother to teach for a semester. They were brave enough to invite two 17 year old teenagers to tag along. It was no less than a life altering experience.

I tell you that because it was my own mother's first experience with the empty nest. I remember her telling me later that she would sit at my desk in my bedroom, looking at all my high school paraphernalia, and feel the empty ache deep down in that hole that had opened up at the departure of her daughters.

I chose to go to college far away from home and again, my mother struggled privately with saying good-bye, leaving me there on the sidewalk in front of the dorm, knowing it was a temporary separation - a trial. The real leaving home would come later.

In reality, my sister and I don't really have empty nests. Our daughters may be gone, or still coming and going from college, but our houses are full. My house now holds four adults - two generations coexisting, plus Tessa for a few more weeks. We've exchanged caring for children for caring for parents. (My precious in-laws are probably wondering how it came to be that they are once again sharing their home with their children) My sister and her husband are opening their home to a couple of young women, providing transitional time and space. I think the empty nest is more of a heart issue.

Yes, we knew this day was coming --the day all of our years of mentoring, guiding, disciplining, dance-chaperoning, arguing, laughing, playing, cookie-baking, knee bandaging-- would come to an end. That's the plan, the goal, and we are grateful for it. Knowing we did our absolute best, knowing the daughters are relatively prepared for life, and leaving the light on and the bedroom available...those are the only things that soothe.

And maybe a phone call to someone who gets it.

3 comments:

Shari said...

Thanks for putting it so well. And thanks for picking up the phone.

Stephen said...
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jenX said...

I'm 7 years from the first one leaving and this just about had me crying my eyes out. The little ones have many years to go b/f they leave. They're not even in school yet. But, by the time they leave I'll be an old lady and will probably need to move in with the younger one. I shoudl have planned this life thing out better.

Such a tender post, Cari. I really had a nice takeaway. Blessings, jen