My 20 year old son Rob surprised me last weekend. He showed up Friday night when my husband and I were out having dinner.
I became a mess. Cried. Introduced him to the waiter. "This is my son. He works in Conway. I didn't know he was coming". As if that weren't perfectly apparent.
His father looked like a Cheshire cat, grinning from ear to ear. He had pulled off the surprise with Rob. Knew about it all along.
It had been 3 weeks since I had seen him. It had seemed like forever.
He will be a junior in college but has a new job for the summer. In a new place. Meeting new people. Totally on his own for the first time. No structure of college or classes.
We had talked a couple of times, fairly late at night. Texts had gone back and forth. He had sent me articles on what he was doing. It's an engineering internship.
I felt like I was reading Hindi.
I wrote a post recently about specific things to do to heal empty nest. I have done those very things. I have spent more time with friends. I have joined a book club. My husband and I have set some community goals together. We have accomplished projects around the house that we have put off for years.
My blog is a huge part of my "getting on with life". The time spent writing and communicating with readers and other writers has filled the hours that in the past were spent cooking big meals or going to golf tournaments to watch Rob play. It is immensely satisfying. And fun.
But the immediate incredible joy I felt that Friday night? The pit of my stomach, "There's just nobody else in the world who can make me feel this way?" And the feeling of loss when he drove away again?
I can't kid myself that I am over my empty nest. I am just good at diversion.
All of this makes me think of my own Dad. He never particularly cared for the fact that I left my hometown. He said that it bothered him that he couldn't help me in my career. Or careers as it turned out to be. I think now that I must feel just like him.
He would gently look at me as I was leaving. Especially if I was going through a hard time. "You know, you can always come home."
I would smile. "Thanks, Dad. I love you." Off I would go.
There are writers who talk about the nest not being "empty." Because the parents are still there.
For me, it's not that. It's just that people aren't replaceable. When they are gone, there is nothing that can fill the space that their particular energy or personality's absence has left empty. That's what makes relationships so special.
We are all unique. We matter. No one else can fill that space. And if it's your child?
Well...that space is taken. Forever.
You can read more of Dr. Margaret at DrMargaretRutherford.com!