Empty nester

Tonight I write with the winter ale, “Ursus,” as my companion. Ursus is a seasonal beer put out by a local brewery, Greenbush. This is a brewery that has known phenomenal success since opening just a few years ago, and has turned our tiny hometown into a destination. We have watched its’ growth in amazement, and hope the success continues. For craft beer lovers, (and foodies), it is pure pleasure. Ursus packs a punch at an 8.5% alcohol by volume. What this means for you, the reader,(and my husband) is that my inhibitions will soon take flight and I will probably need to do heavy editing later on. So be it, friends!

So now I have become a total cliche’ and am wincing at the thought. Our youngest son has been launched an hour away, at a community college, with new roommates, apartment, and a new routine. Of course, we have been down this road before with his brother, but it really was different with him. He was soooo independent, so irritated and chafing at the small time life here, that it was relatively painless seeing him off. So what if I kept the door to his room closed for weeks to pretend he was coming back? Eventually I opened it up so the cat could lay on his bed. And I just swallowed the pangs away. Probably with the help of the aforementioned local brews.

If you read one of my previous blogs about Danny, “The Road to Holland,” then you are familiar with our life’s path. It began with worry and I wonder if it will ever end. I worry that he is going to get cancer or a heart attack from eating processed food 24/7 and that he won’t wash his sheets for weeks and that he will give up on himself under the weight of demanding college classes and that his oddball roommate could possibly be dealing drugs. Did I mention there was a shooting in his complex? That was a nice bit of news to hear. My husband googled the incident only to learn we signed a lease in an area that is known to be a “hotbed of violence.” Great! I feel like I have thrown a newborn calf into a pen of wolves, although I know that is ridiculously dramatic.

He will be fine, though he doesn’t know it yet. His anxiety is palpable, and I must bury my own somewhere with those pangs I swallowed, lest his tiny seeds of confidence fail to take root. I have fought so hard for him to get to this point. I have to trust this growing process, let my Leo the late bloomer blossom as I always said he would.

He will be more than fine. The question I am asking now is, what about me?

Women my age are now in the prime of their careers, reaching salary peaks and desirable positions. My career is making his way in Nashville, and in western Michigan, while I sit and wonder if I gave it enough, or too much, and why couldn’t I do kids and a job like everyone else?

I did work in the early childhood field. But it’s always been on and off, and I never felt as if I could do a job and family well at the same time. Because when they were little and I tried to do both, I was a hideous, miserable multi-tasker. Upon further reflection, my husband worked long and demanding hours in those early days, and I was firm about not being an absentee parent. I have no regrets, and I had no qualms about knowing there was only room enough for one “career” in the house. Indeed, that career has been very good to us.


I really never thought about what would happen later. We tried hard not to be so child-centered that we neglected each other, and I think we succeeded in that. I don’t look at my husband and think, “who the hell are you?” No, now I am looking in the mirror and asking those words of myself.

Who am I, without “helping” with years worth of homework anymore? Without prodding and pushing and rescuing and morphing into a warrior for special education? And I torture myself thinking it was overkill. Did I neglect our older, so-competent son? Did I tell him enough how proud we were of him? What if boy number two crumbles like a cookie in the real world, because I didn’t teach him to rely on himself, instead of me? I pray feverishly this doesn’t happen. If I am truthful, which with Ursus’ help I will be, I will admit that this scenario scares me more for me, than for him. Because I will have the answer that who I am, is a failure. After all, from the minute they are born children are separating from us, and that is as it should be. We are supposed to be showing them how to become their own selves, not to glom onto them because we don’t know our own.

I know that what I am experiencing is a normal process and I will hopefully figure it all out sometime before I die. I have time to share and I am eager to serve. In the meantime, I just simply miss their boy presence around me, their boy smells and smiles, and I fear there is no amount of volunteer work that can fill the empty space of my heart.


The animals begin eyeing me warily as I chase them down for cuddles and comfort.

Humane Society, here I come.

Cheers to new beginnings, friends!