Mel is packing, preparing to leave for a week-long visit with her fiancé who is flying in from England later today. She’ll spend a week with his family, and then they’ll both return here for Easter. It’s only a two-hour drive, and she’s gone on these trips before, but there’s something different about this one. It reminds me of the time I dropped my oldest son off at college and drove away. I knew he would be home for fall break and every other holiday, but I still had that off-kilter feeling I left behind a bit of my heart. I feel that with Mel right now. With each visit it’s like she’s flying farther and farther from the nest.
(I better stop here and address my middle child, so I don’t make the syndrome any worse <wink, grin>. When we dropped Adam off at college—nearly seven years ago—we moved to China two days later. That was a whole ’nother ball game. Adam, if you’re reading this, I missed you, too—equally much, but the emotions were entwined with terrible homesickness… yuck! yuck! yuck!)
What I feel right now is not homesickness. Every time one of my kids have left the nest, I’ve been excited for them and the adventure that awaits. Mel’s fiancé graduates with his Bachelor Degree in a few months, and Mel’s plan is to follow him to Grad school. Could be England, could be Canada, could be a state here in the Midwest. He doesn’t know yet. Soon. He’ll know soon and then the real planning will begin.
My heartache is normal. I understand. A girlfriend of mine warned me what empty-nest would feel like when Mel moved out, and I’ve watched other friends cope with the change. I don’t want to say my experience will be different because everyone has a unique experience, but Mel and I are super close. We went through a rough patch of life together after the divorce. When we moved, we started over—new house, a new community, new careers. We’ve been on this writing adventure the last three years, sharing an office, bouncing ideas off of each other. We acquired an agent together, signed a two-book deal together, and found healing as we boosted each other’s confidence and faith.
As I write this, Mel’s loading the car. I sense the change coming. The next time she packs and leaves to see her fiancé it’ll more than likely be permanent. I don’t dread it. I’m not afraid of the change. I’ve been through so many in my life that now I’m just curious. How will the future unfold? How will our relationship and writing partnership change? What new challenges or adventures will arise?
It’ll be the first time we haven’t shared an office.
No longer will she have to listen to the useless facts I uncover while researching. Did you know that when William Henry Johnson (also known as P. T. Barnum’s “What Is It?”) died, his friend and manager was so distraught that he died a short time later? That may or may not be of significance to anyone, but it makes me pause and reflect on what kind of friendship that must have been. William Henry Johnson lived with cognitive disabilities and loved entertaining. Those in his company loved him. This tid-bit has little to do with what I’m writing, but it’s worthy of discussion. Who will I discuss these things with? <Scanning my crowd of blogging friends…>
Could this be why Mel wears earbuds? To tune me out? I refuse to believe that. She likes to listen to music, YouTube, and Podcasts while she draws, and I can‘t write with other words floating around the office. She’s kind enough to adapt for me. I’m certain we’ll accomplish more apart than we do together. No more spontaneous road trips to IKEA or to the zoo…
…Well, we said goodbye. I prayed for her safety, hugged her, and watched her pull out of the drive and head down the street. It’s only a week. I won’t be at a loss for things to do. In fact, after I finish this blog I’m going outside to work in my fairy garden. The weather is beautiful and Easter is coming. Mel and her fiancé will be home in eight days. The house will be full of family and friends. Life is good.
Do you have any advice on how to best handle empty-nest syndrome?
What is something you enjoy doing when your kids aren’t around?
Do you prefer to listen to music through earbuds or crank the speakers?
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