Empty Nest Day: Time to say Goodbye

I can’t believe that it has been three years since I wrote about my daughter going off to university.   Now I have experienced my final Empty Nest Day with my son leaving for his first semester.  The partial Empty Nest has become  finally empty.  The first cut was not the deepest. It is when the last child leaves the single parent home that the silence becomes deafening.  This juncture of life can throw you off balance.  A friend whose daughter has just left to study abroad experienced stomach pains and the desire to be left alone.  This is part of an ongoing process of letting go and coming to terms with ones new reality.

Strangely enough recent unfortunate events  have cushioned any adverse effects of this Empty Nest day.  My heart is filled with gratitude that my son and I have made this incredible journey together and like Mr. Spock used to say, may he   “Live long and prosper.”

“It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.”
—Ann Landers

My incredible, smart, handsome son is off to the farthest place he could go in Ontario, Canada.   A  place that I will have to fly to in order to surprise him. Was it something I said?  He returned briefly from a summer job that took him away from home for a couple of months  just before he left for university. He chose a small university with a great all round reputation,  and a very inclusive student population. The deciding factor was the opportunity to occasionally see the Northern lights.  How incredible is that?

Aurora-Borealis - EmptyBesters
Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis

The day of the emptying nest was a lesson in delays, from full parking lots, to airline baggage belt line break downs which caused backups for international and domestic flights.  It only got better.  My son had to go to the area for fragile baggage as he was taking his guitar.  Another young man about my son’s age was also dropping off his guitar.  He processed his guitar then came back about a minute later, saying that he had forgotten to put new destination tags on the guitar and the one on it  was old.   The staff went to a lot of effort to stop the baggage line and crawl into the baggage area to retrieve the guitar. Unfortunately, when they put my son’s guitar on the belt afterwards it would not start. It was as if the ghosts of  Empty Nest parents past were saying, “Don’t go!”  By the time we got to the boarding area it was the last call for the flight.  Whew!

The university was absolutely amazing, a whirlwind of activities to encourage even the most introvert personalities to feel at home. There was a lunch for hungry parents who had made this long journey.  A beautiful welcome from local dignitaries: the president of the school, a First Nations Elder and the Mayor of the City, who encouraged the newbies to stay in the city after their studies were completed.  Not what we want to hear Mr.  Mayor!

“I want my children to have all the things I couldn’t afford. Then I want to move in with them. “

Phyllis Diller

The parents were bid Adieu.  Many parents took this opportunity to go to the local mall and purchase necessities (large screen TV’s),  while the frosh went off to scheduled activities.  It was the parents who seemed lost as their newly freed fledglings congregated and bonded together faster that you could say “Lord of the Flies” without even a backward glance as they left.

“Your child’s life will be  filled with fresh experiences. It’s good if yours is as well.”

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Flying home over the mighty Lake Superior the image of the waiting Empty Nest  loomed closer.  The vastness of the lake echoes the chasm of time and distance that will now separate me from my child. It has been a long time coming.  Can you ever be really prepared?


A lesson in Living Simply – Negril, Jamaica

The main reason to take holiday  in Jamaica in the first place is to chill. To feel the sand beneath your feet, the sun on your back, and not think about the rat race you left behind. Walking along 7 miles of beach in Negril, (not really seven, but who is counting), of white sand beach with various star rated hotels, and great restaurants is ideal.  Some tourists have even been inspired to put down roots and become part of tourism landscape in Negril.  Can anyone really leave behind the life that makes you want a holiday in the first place?  What is it like to live a simple life while making a living?

While taking a lazy relaxing walk along the beach strip in Negril, I came across the enterprising set up of Rasta Ringo. Was it the smell of frying fish, or the  almonds drying in the sun. Here was a busy Rasta man  preparing his feast.

Almonds in the sun, Negril Jamaica

For the average Jamaican employment is always a struggle. Opportunities are few and  Negril is a tourism mecca whose mainstay is  package holidays of varying degrees of luxury. This feeds into the tourism economy of the island. Those who are enterprising are able to tap into this economy to either make it their full time income or supplement other sources of income.

Meet Rasta Ringo, an old school dread.  Living the authentic Rasta life on the beach in Negril,  He is slim, and constantly moving.  He is extremely fit, not in a bulky way but with boundless energy as he moved around the make shift kitchen on the beach.  It was the aluminum frying pot perched on folded chicken wire that had caught my attention in the first place. Frying fish on the beach, it couldn’t get any fresher than that. Chef Ringo in his beach trunks deftly bent over to turn the fish and expertly checked its tenderness. The method was basic and the food was cooked with love for its gifts.

Fried Fish, Rasta Style, Negril Jamaica

This was authentic, not the life of the celebrity Rasta.  Not the life where the dread locks are a fashion statement. The Rastafarian movement has a long and colourful history in Jamaica. From here it has taken root in many countries all over the world. Bob Marley was definitely the its most well known evangelist, and many others have worn the locks without the theology. But here at a little beach front restaurant in  Negril, this is the real deal.

Spirituality is not theology or Ideology, It is simply a way of life, pure and original as was given by the Most High of Creation. Spirituality is a network linking us to the Most High, the universe, and each other.  Emperor Haile Selassie I

He invited me over and explained that he had caught the fish himself that morning.  Looking out towards the bluest sea was his painted boat, now serenely resting on the sand after helping to deliver the morning catch. I couldn’t help but think of the times I have stood over frozen fish in the grocery store wondering how long it had been frozen, and if the white fish was really the fish named on the package.  At Rasta Ringo’s, the food may not be fancy, but it is fresh and ITAL.

The boat, Negril Jamaica

Ras Ringo moved deftly from seasoning and tending the fish, to turning the Almonds which he had drying in the sun. He pointed out that they were high in protein and were great for supplementing the diet. “Come”  he said as he move towards a narrow path, just behind the wooden building. He led the way to the back of the restaurant.

A lush green oasis awaited. This was Rasta Ringo’s herb garden The banana trees, which are the largest herb in the world. loomed majestically,  and heavy with fruit. He was growing yams, cocoas.  And like the knowledgeable herbalist that he is, he pointed proudly to each plant and listed the health benefits  like a father proud of his offspring. This was a health food garden, a place of healing in more ways than one. Everything he needed for himself and the restaurant is here in the garden.

Banana Tree, Negril Jamaica

Back in the bar, Ras Ringo spoke of the herb that is a sacrament to the Rastafarian community. You know the one, which has at least twenty names in Jamaica.  A small amount is now legal in Jamaica, and he said that he wanted to thank the Canadians, who were supportive in bringing about this change. Way to go Canadians.

Rasta Ringo, Negril, Jamaica

Could we grow our own food? Catch our own fish?  It would certainly be more healthy, but not practical. everything seems geared towards getting us to do more in less time.  Buy processed food, put it in the microwave, run to the gym to get exercise and repeat. Because the lifestyle we lead and the food we eat is rushed. We are cheating ourselves.

We work hard and we want to play hard. We may or may not get great joy from the work that we do to earn the money we need.

As we grow older we begin to question the rat race and wonder how  can we change to get the lifestyle we want?

Give me the simple life.

A Coma in the Family: When the Bear Eats You

Some days you eat the Bear and some days the Bear eats you.”

One day your world is bright and full of possibilities.  It is not perfect, but everything is manageable and there is a future where great things can happen.

This world can crash at any given time.  That is the nature of the beast.  But when it happens to you, you never really expect it.

Writing is therapy and if these words can help others I am grateful for this gift. The words every mother of a child with a Heart Arrhythmia dreads to hear after a cardiac arrest: “We can’t wake her up.”  The potential is always there, but one never wants to take ownership of negative thoughts.

When I started this blog I wrote about my beautiful daughter leaving for university. So here I am, four years later in the intensive care unit, waiting to know.  All that can be done is being done.  The spiritual side is being well taken care of as family and friends extend their prayers and kindness, for which I am truly grateful.  The doctors and nurses, who are always professional and gracious, know that their bad news is never wanted, and are delicate and caring when delivering it. Their stealth like qualities are remarkable as they keep calm and provide compassionate care.

During this traumatic time as this life changing drama plays out, what else is there for someone who finds comfort in the written word to do, but write.  Write until the words bleed from the depths of the soul as they pour out to the Great Mystery called God.  The experience of anguish and pain that moves time and space as a young woman lies on a hospital bed. We are all connected like the images in woodland paintings of which my daughter is so fond.

By a twist of fate.  I have been reading Joan Didion’s book, The year of Magical Thinking,  to do a review for the blog.  I wanted to know how this brilliant writer coped with her own loss and trauma that involved her husband and daughter. It is described as ” an attempt to make sense of the ..weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness…”  Now I too will learn first hand.

Someone you love, doing the most ordinary of things is propelled into a life changing existence. An alternate reality that bears little resemblance to the one that existed before the event.

I read a story once about a young woman who had a terrible skiing accident.  Bones were broken and crushed. As she lay in pain recovering, she noticed her favorite songbirds tapping on the window.  In the past this had always been a lucky sign for her, throughout her life songbirds tapping on the window had always foreshadowed a positive event.  In anger she looked at the birds and thought, “You were supposed to protect me.”   At that moment, the answer came back to her.  “You are still here, aren’t you?”

Because my daughter is here all things are possible.  The future is bright because my daughter’s Hope Chest is still full.