Echo of the Empty Nest

I know, I know . . . I’m supposed to be writing about writing. Or writing about reading. And I’m supposed to be writing about some sort of FAVORITE thing (this being Favorite Friday and all). And although I did find a “favorite” to write about, it is not about writing.

Today I want to write about my son. And how he just got his license a couple weeks ago and how he’s coupled that newfound freedom with the used truck we recently bought him and now he’s gone. Off to school in the morning, coming home during the day only to shower, change and leave again. He’s picking up his girlfriend and bringing her over the house to “hang out.” He’s scooting down to Subway whenever he feels like it. He’s running errands for us. Gone.

In a seventeen year blink of an eye—gone.

I got to thinking how well my husband and I must have done our job. In the beginning, there was this fragile little bundle of baby who literally could not have survived without us. Everything he needed done had to be done for him else he would not have made it—simple as that. He was completely dependent on us. Then slowly he learned to do a thing or two—started dressing himself, started feeding himself, picking up his own messes (okay so, he still needs a little prompting in that department from time to time). Soon he was making his own snacks, then whole lunches, eventually whole dinners. Then he was deciding whether he even needed to eat at all! Started doing his own laundry, helping Dad in the yard then branching out into working the neighborhood yards for money—a job.

Over time the decisions we allowed him to make got bigger, carried more weight, became more critical to his success. Until now . . . when he gets up to his alarm, showers, grabs his lunch and heads on out the door at 6:00 am to meet the teacher for some additional tutoring he knows he needs. Off to live his life. HIS life . . . the one independent of mine.

I’m reminded of a poem I wrote a while back, when this boy of mine was just entering his teen years and the echo of the empty nest was only a distant hum in the back of my mind.

Growing Away

What do I say to this child of mine
who spends his days expanding
the distance between us?
His memories don’t include
the post-partum bonding spent cradled
at my breast,
or the feverish nights awake
and thrashing
in my arms.

He forgets the thousands of
neatly folded shirts, the love –
chunky and spread
over two slices of bread,
or blown softly
onto a scraped knee.

What do I say to the blush
of his cheeks, the turn of his face,
the expanse of his retreating back?

His eyes are focused forward
into a future where I
am a shadow in his peripheral.
How should I live this new reality,
this role of yesterday’s hero?
What will I spread over the
emptiness once it’s
too thick to cover the bread,
too wide to fold into form.

Should I grab hold of it in fistfuls,
clutch it to my empty breast,
hold it so tight it can’t get away?
Or open my hands
and set it free?

If our role as parents is to create capable, independent and productive adults, then this growing away is as it should be. And perhaps the fact that it happens naturally is a measure of our success.

But oh, what a bittersweet thing that kind of success can be.

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4 Responses to Echo of the Empty Nest

  1. My oldest son turned 27 today. God, it flies by.

  2. Dorothy says:

    Awesome Linda… I am here in the same boat with you, wondering where the time went and torn between letting go and holding tight. So elequently put into words.

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