Tuesday, January 18, 2011

empty nest

[for those of you who might be confused by the order that these blog posts are appearing, i am actually back-filling. i had several ideas for posts that i started but never published, and after a busy streak in the schedule, i suddenly realized that i had gone several months without an update. i'm trying to complete them and put them in at the appropriate spots. -b]

some of you know that i was concerned about n heading off the university -- not so much for her sake (i figured she'd do great) but for m's and mine. the prospect of the empty nest was pretty daunting. m and i love each other and have for over two decades now, but pretty much everyone knows it's been a bumpy ride at times. thankfully, we're in a much better place than we were many years ago, but i wondered how we'd do 'on our own.' i had heard the stories of many couples who seemed to have nothing left to share after the kids were grown, and i had a certain amount of anxiety about how things would turn out for us.

not to worry. in the fall, i was delighted to find that the empty nest was actually pretty enjoyable. it's not that we didn't miss the girls -- of course we did -- but we savored our more frequent conversations, the simplified driving schedule, a new, healthier diet, and regular evening prayer together. it was surprisingly... nice.

when b and n returned for christmas break, we reveled in being a family all in one house again. among the highlights of the time: our family reading of the libretto of handel's messiah to celebrate christmas and a family prayer retreat. how cool is it to be able to really worship and seek God with your kids?

n was only home for a couple of weeks because she went on a caribbean excrusion with grandma p. her stay with us was far too brief, but i'm reluctant to complain about anyone getting a chance to cruise the caribbean! when we dropped her off at the airport, i felt conflicted about her leaving, mostly because her university experience has been a mixed bag, and i worry just a bit. but all of the concern was for her, which felt right to me.

the strange experience was taking b to the airport on monday. her stay with us was twice as long as n's, so we got in lots of time together -- working out, great conversations, and lots of eating. but as i unloaded her suitcase, i suddenly realized that i wasn't sure when i'd see her again. unlike n, who plans on coming back for spring break, b has other plans. and it's not certain that she'll come back at the end of her school year either; she's spent the last two summers in new york city, and she's still hoping to spend this one in washington d.c. as an intern at IJM (a christian non-profit dedicated to combating human trafficking,and the organization for which she may someday work). so maybe she'll come back in august for a visit?

a visit. ay, there's the rub. our daughters don't live here anymore. they come on break; they're great about calling (and as of the start of the new year, texting). but they have their own life, and much of it is happening elsewhere, in places we've only visited with people we don't really know. they're adults.

we hugged b, got in the van, and drove away. i couldn't see her in my rear view mirror. my melancholy was palpable. the minivan -- and the four bedroom house we live in -- suddenly felt embarrassingly and unnecessarily large.

don't get me wrong. i'm glad the girls are flying more and more on their own. i celebrate the amazing opportunities God has opened up for them. cheering them on and praying them up from a distance feels good, and it feels right. but the emptiness of the nest, while no longer daunting, is tinged with a just bit of heaviness.

only take care, and keep your soul diligently,
lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen,
and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life.
make them known to your children
and your children’s children
(deuteronomy 11:19)


marguerite said...

They sure do grow up quickly - I know what you mean about the car/house. Already our minivan seems too big most days. What a blessing to be able to pray with your girls.

gr8god said...

hi marguerite - yes, it is a blessing to be able to pray with them.

your family can still justify the minivan and the house -- you'll still have three at home this fall! but yes, they do grow up quickly. occasionally, i'll see two-to-four year old, and i'm transported back. that seems so long ago...