Blueberry wholewheat pancakes for Dad, Stephen, and me. Chocolate chips melting in Sam and Seth’s. Even after Dad left for work we lingered at the table. They teased me for offering hot drinks from the Keurig. Said I always pushed it on them these days. I’ll never understand why the men of this family can’t fully appreciate the joy of a steaming cuppa.
Seth needed to get on the road, but still we lingered. Stephen commented on how it would be Thanksgiving before he had time at home again. Sam said he needed just a little bro time before everyone scattered, so the three of them donned tennis shoes and played football in the cul-de-sac like they used to when they were little.
I didn’t watch, but my ear was tuned to their return, the creak of the screen door, the deep voices bantering about their “perfect” plays.
All three of them teased me about the food we loaded into Seth’s ancient red car, but it will save him grocery money, and I have plenty to share. Seth tells me it’s enough. No more. But he’s been on his own long enough to see the value in dollar signs.
Healthy food. At least that I can give.
I don’t know where I got the idea that empty nest was a one time event. That once the last left everything hurt for a while and got better.
It’s not an event. It’s a season of marathons. The first leaves, and it hurts. Then the next and next, and they all hurt. And then before someone else leaves one comes back, but not to stay. And when you just get used to the latest transition, there is another. Sometimes one moves out the week (or day!) another moves in.
Then suddenly the house is empty.
I was excited beyond reason to pick Stephen up from college a few weeks ago. A mom anticipates with such fervor! But soon he leaves for his summer job, which ends the day before his fall job at the college starts.
Thanksgiving break is an eternity away.
Fleeting. Every moment flies abroad. You can’t hold on so you try to live inside the moments. To fully embrace the treasured gifts of time.
But as the moments flee you are caught inside, reeling, turning, turning, turning inside time’s bubble. And you have to find a way out.
To set your feet in the new now.
Lounging in the family room, daughter and husband reluctant to leave despite their exhaustion. But it’s hard to leave when we’re all there.
It’s so rare we are all there.
It is difficult to be productive. A few times last week before Sam’s graduation I got that feeling I had right after Bernice died, when the energy inside is suddenly gone and you can do nothing but sit for a while and stare at the walls.
Everyone acts like I should be fine because the youngest will live at home another year to take advantage of free local college.
But he is a revolving door, to work, school, friends, activities. This homeschooling momma isn’t needed for academics or much else, her input more interference than help as he steps into manhood.
And when they are all gone, whether for a day or a semester, the house is quiet.
Jesus whispers that He doesn’t want me to think of it like I’m alone. That I’m never really alone.
But I miss the Jesus arms that hugged me through the arms of my sons, the Jesus eyes that met mine through those big green ones of my daughter.
Sometimes I wonder if hubby will ever get home from work. His Jesus arms heal, too.
I want them to go. To grow up healthy without their mommy hanging onto them. I want them to fly free and conquer their worlds. To find meaningful relationship and grow into adults and new families of their own.
I want to conquer my world, too, this new world where they don’t need much from me. Where I have expanded space to pursue my dreams.
But that, too, is slower, harder than I thought it would be.
At least so far.
Sometimes it’s actually fun when hubby is home. We find we can do whatever we want. Two. Without responsibility to anyone else. The kids call us teenagers when we curl up in our own bed, hooked on a Netflix series they wouldn’t watch.
But while hubby works that pesky quiet invades. It’s not just in the walls it’s roaring in my head and in my heart.
I’ve given myself permission to grieve. Maybe it’s time I give myself permission to stop grieving.
But I’m not sure I know how.