The Empty Nest

It certainly wasn’t an engineering wonder by any stretch of the imagination–just a few boards nailed at a 45 degree angle to support some shelving in our garage so I could get some old paint cans and such off the floor. But I stood back anyway to admire it with a sense of pride over what I had accomplished.

Kathy, my wife, made one more appearance into my ‘man-shop’, not to swoon over my glorious craftsmanship, but to confirm that her labor pains were no longer just a passing fancy and that it was time to get to the hospital on that late November morning almost nineteen years ago.

Funny how some things stick with us in our memory banks; simple things, everyday happenings, like what I was doing the morning on that day when Caralyn, the youngest of our three daughters would make her grand entrance into this world.

And it’s the clarity of that image tucked away in the recesses my mind that makes it seem like it was…just yesterday, as the over used cliché goes.

So today, on this Saturday August morning, I once again found myself doing ‘manly things’ around the homestead. It was car work this time, hot and dirty- changing oil and brake pads; fixing headlamps and wiper blades as I made sure the car was in good dependable condition for tomorrow…and the days and weeks to soon follow.

Reason being, that little ‘baby’ of ours who popped in on us 18 years & 9 months ago almost to the day, is leaving out tomorrow morning and driving off two hours away where she will being her first year of college. Actually, her mother and I will be in tow with our vehicles as well, loaded down with many of Caralyn’s belongings as we repeat this ritual for the third…and final time.

I realize thousands of families throughout the country are undergoing similar routines as college-bound students take part in this annual life passage of spreading their wings and moving into a new phase of their infant adult lives. So to the casual outsider who might be observing, there really is nothing special or significant to this event being repeated by so many of us aging parents who undergo severe attacks of self doubt that spurs us on to questioning our parenting skills during this transitional time.

And even with it being our third time to haul boxes and TV’s and fridges and clothes up flights of stairs to over priced-undersized cubby holes commonly known as campus dorms, there is something uniquely significant and special about this particular occurrence. Because when the final curtain is hung and the bed is made and computers are hooked up, and a final meal is shared to be followed by tearful hugs and well wishes, this time, Kathy and I will return to a much quieter home. A home that will have multiplied in size, seemingly; yet an echo of silence will permeate the walls and ceilings unlike anything we have ever experienced in our 25+ years of marriage.

It is the proverbial ‘Empty Nest’ that awaits us.

And on the eve of this personally significant milestone in our lives, I will admit, I am experiencing a wide range of emotions and thoughts. More so, many of them probably not quite the same as those Kathy is undergoing at this time. Yet, I am keenly aware that as the pages turn and we begin a new chapter in our lives, I seem to be experiencing a flashback of sorts. It is reminiscent of that day in the garage years ago when I stood back and with a sense of pride, smiled at the ‘project’ I had created with a few boards and nails.

Oddly enough, this time I again stand back, and with a smile of parental pride, I can’t help but to feel an overwhelming sense of appreciation as our ‘baby’ makes this step into her adult life. Again, you won’t hear me boasting of any ‘engineering wonders’, but I am quick to admit that we’ve been blessed with three wonderful daughters.

It’s hard, at this particular moment, to even grasp what lies ahead for us in the days and weeks and months to come, or what to expect as we enter this new phase.

But you can be sure of this: I am in no way prepared for Kathy to make another entrance with the announcement that labor pains are pressing, signaling the alarm to make another trip to a hospital for another child to begin the cycle all over again. It’s somebody else’s turn for that.