Empty Nest Day


Another Empty Nest Day has come and gone. Mike packed his computer and clothes into the Rodeo and left at about 8am yesterday. This was my fifth Empty Nest Day. The first was by far, by far, the hardest. They get easier. I still felt sad, though. I still get a hollow feeling in my chest. The dog feels it too. He spent the entire day waiting for Mike to come home. He slept outside Mike's bedroom door last night.

Mike didn't go straight down to Charlottesville yesterday; instead he drove to Joe's house, where they waited for John to show up with a rented truck. From there they convoyed down to Charlottesville, got Mike's and Joe's stuff out of storage, and moved into a three-bedroom apartment they're likely to live in for the next three years. Mike, Joe, and John all went through high school and college together. Mike and Joe have roomed together for the past four years; Mike and John have known each other since kindergarten. Now the three of them will go through law school together.

Last week we had Joe and his mom over for a surf and turf barbecue/steamer supper. It was really, really nice, and after we ate, Mike and Joe went to the driving range to hit golf balls, leaving Joe's mom and me to talk. We have an extraordinary amount in common. Both married way, way too young, both lived in San Francisco in the early eighties--me in a tiny studio on Telegraph Hill, Joe's mom on the top floor of a Victorian in the Haight. We both chose men who turned out to be terrible fathers. We were both desperate to get away from home as teenagers, and neither of us lived at home after the age of 17. We both, by some bizarre karmic payback, gave birth to exceptionally gifted kids. We both look at our own kids--my son, her son and daughter--and know they have a lot more sense than we had. She celebrates every milestone that represents a mistake her daughter hasn't made (Nineteen and not pregnant!)

I wonder if this is because Eileen and I did something right? I wonder if it's because based on our own younger years we had the attitude that parents should butt out of their kids' lives, and so our kids didn't grow to resent us? Or could it be that our two sons, both having shouldered a lot of responsibility as "man of the house" when their fathers failed to do so, know that our relationship with them is much more that of equals than that of parent and child. We never tried to steer their ships; we hung on, terrified, up in the crow's nest, watching for signs of danger, knowing that if danger came there would be little we could do to avert it. Maybe we just got lucky.

May 2009

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