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.”
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?
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. “
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?