It’s Sunday morning. Early. I can hear everything in this quiet. My fingers tapping on the keyboard. Squirrels scampering across the roof. My own thoughts, uninterrupted, except by the usual conflicting voices – the one that is telling me to breathe deeply and enjoy these moments. The others – nagging me to get to the dirty dishes, the stack of bills, the laundry, the online job boards. Internal voices rarely take a day off. If the worries don’t, the voices won’t.
* * *
I’ve been raising my sons alone for years. An indescribable journey, and it isn’t quite done yet. They have been my privilege, my most important work. They have also been exhausting, beyond anything I could have imagined. There has been no family to help, never enough money, and the physical demands, more difficult to weather as I have aged.
Despite 25 years in the work force, 16 years ago I realized that my primary job – and most rewarding – would be to raise two good men. At times it seems a small contribution to the world. At moments, it seems enormous. My goal: to encourage my sons to be respectful, open-minded, responsible, capable of finding and giving joy, and capable of owning themselves.
* * *
Like most good parents, I am raising my children to leave me. My older son will move away in August, heading to college. Thankfully, with a scholarship he has worked hard to earn. He is only 17, but independent. An old soul and a young man of judgment, humor, and intuition.
We’ve been through difficult times and difficult choices. I wouldn’t have wished any of those experiences on him, but they all served as good lessons. Hard times are never desirable, but they teach us to never assume. They instruct us in resourcefulness, appreciation, and compassion.
* * *
My younger son is of a different temperament, and different talents. Two years still to go, though he is exercising his independence more and more. It feels harder – on me – this second time around. Fatigue. Debt. Both are catching up with me. So is debt. But like his brother, he is an extraordinary gift. Both boys are either here “en masse” – with friends in tow (and usually here overnight), or, they are not here at all.
I am tasting their absence. The emotional emptiness. My own restlessness. I’ve been through layoffs. Four in the past eight years, two of which were just last year. Being downsized is painful, but I suspect the most painful layoff is to come. In August.
* * *
The job I’ve poured all my skills, resources and passion into – while retaining a self despite everything – is nearing its end. I may be called upon to “consult” from time to time, but the daily job of parenting my older son will be done. His life is his own, as he goes out on his own. As it should be.
In this quiet, I can hear myself think. The words flow uninterrupted and quickly. I can imagine starting a project and completing it. I can imagine walking freely in this space without stepping over sleeping boys on the floor, tripping over Converses and Nikes. In this quiet, I am relieved, and saddened, sensing what is to come. The end of another job. The most important. The most loved.
And the beginning of whatever is next.
ADDENDUM: There is a silver lining to many of life’s challenges, and certainly to encroaching empty nest syndrome. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I hope I will still be energetic enough to enjoy it. I will be free to move if I wish, to travel if I wish, to reconfigure my life in any way that I please, and however I can make it work.
© D A Wolf