Confessions of an Empty Nester

I heard the door close shut for the last time as my daughter carried her suitcase to her car and drove away. Actually, I really didn’t hear the door close because I wasn’t home. We would say our goodbyes later. But, the way my emotions were going, I swear I heard that door slowly squeak shut when she texted she was getting into her car and leaving her childhood home.
Having my youngest daughter, a recent Purdue University graduate, live at home for a few months had been difficult for all involved. She was miserable and my husband and I bounced between trying to make her happy and hoping she would decide to leave so all of us could go back to whatever we thought was our normal lives. Yet, hugging my daughter goodbye as she set out on an adventure before heading to law school in the fall, I had mixed emotions. I knew this arrangement would be better for her; she needed to get out on her own. But, I was sad that our time together was over and quite honestly, I never felt like we got to enjoy it.
The other reality was the fact that my husband and I were now true empty nesters. We had dabbled in it for a few years. There were long stretches of just he and I as our daughters attended college many states and miles from home. Still, we knew the girls would come back for periods of time. We had the holidays with them, moments during the summer. Now, here we were with two vacant bedrooms in need of a paint job.
My husband and I are very social and we often find plenty to do on the weekends. But, I wonder, do we still maintain the same goals in life? I know for a fact we disagree on the purchase of a second home. What else lies between us and seems unsolvable? Can we proceed down our current path, both of us questioning if we agree on how to live out the next years of our lives? Will we live up to our wedding song words?
“Though the binding cracks and the pages start to yellow, I’ll be in love with you.”
Dan Fogelberg
Because of these differences, I have wondered lately, what keeps some marriages together, after the children leave, and why do others fall apart? I understand there are marriages that were just not meant to be and breaking up makes the most sense. Then, there are the couples who seem to have drifted away from each other but remain living together. Maybe it is the tiring thought of starting over that keeps a number of couples together. There are overwhelming questions. Who gets to keep the friends? How do we split up holidays with our children and with the hoped for grandchildren? How do I go forward from here, can the future alone be better? Consequently, maybe staying is easier.
Or possibly, staying as a couple is because of desires that go beyond boredom and monetary items. There is the anticipated warmth of a grandchild as they snuggle into your lap; the dream of once again seeing the belief in a child’s eyes at the thought of Santa. Quiet talks with daughters on how their lives are going. Being there for their triumphs and holding their hand when life throws a curve ball. Perhaps, as an aging couple these welcoming thoughts draw us together and allow us to continue a relationship over a quarter century old. Maybe it is too difficult to throw out all of those past life experiences that we have walked down and sometimes stumbled through. Memories can inflict a powerful hold, ones that give the heart an opportunity to cling to the thought of more good times to come. I have recollections that allow me to remain hopeful of a future together with a guy I sometimes find stubborn, withdrawn and grumpy. A husband I don’t always understand. As we move forward on our journey together a thought has occurred to me. I need, during those difficult moments, to learn to step back and allow my heart to search the caverns of its memory to a time when the anticipation of seeing him made it beat like crazy.

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6 thoughts on “Confessions of an Empty Nester

  1. Posey…another excellent essay. I see a second book forming! And many years of happiness for you and Paul because you are a committed woman.

  2. Wow. One of your strongest yet. Give yourself time to figure out this new stage, taking new steps, creating a new phase for the many loves in (both of) your lives. Be patient w/ yourself & each other; it will be richly worth it.

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