Much has changed since I last wrote about one of our kids returning for a visit after a lengthy absence. It was our middle child’s first year at college, and we still had a full house and not a single spare bedroom.
Now, my husband and I are officially empty-nesters. Instead of living lives centered around our children’s needs, we have lengthy conversations about what comes next. Retirement? Downsizing? Relocation? The situation’s pretty new yet, and my emotions fluctuate between terror and optimism. Occasionally I rise to the challenge, self-satisfied with how well I’m filling my waking hours. At other points, I crumble, straining to find purpose and meaning beyond the core role I’ve played for decades.
What proved a true tonic for my twanging nerves, spinning brain and sore heart were the three weeks spent with our Navy corpsman son, whom I hadn’t seen other than in photos and on video calls for two days shy of a year. I was over the moon that he opted to spend as much of his pre-deployment leave with his parents as possible.
Our visit began with us meeting up with him and his girlfriend in Las Vegas, and continued on to key tourist spots in southern California, constituting my first real vacation in over five years.
It was good to be away, and even better that our son travelled back to Woodsboro with us, where he had nearly two weeks to sleep in his own bed, hang with friends and neighbors, check out everything that’s changed in his old stomping grounds and get his fill of all things Maryland.
My husband and I had worried the young man used to a completely different life might soon grow bored. We’d made up a short honey-do list to keep him busy; but it proved unnecessary.
Instead, he had plenty to do — working to master online crosswords (his newest self-improvement venture), binging favorite TV shows, taking his dog for walks, visiting his grandma at her assisted living center and just chillin’ — which is something he’s rarely able to do in the course of his usual workdays.
He delighted in cooking delicious dinners, sipping his favorite local brews and leaving a trail of clothes and empty glasses throughout the house, which in the old days would have been fingernails on a chalkboard, but was okey-dokey by me. His noise and clutter filled our home and lifted my spirits. It was a chance to seize and savor the moment, because we knew from the start the reunion wasn’t without end.
When we’re together much of the time, it’s easy to take each other for granted and grow complacent in the thought that things will go on just as they are. And that’s where we get fooled, without exception. Babies become children. Children become teenagers. Teenagers become young adults. Young adults launch lives of their own, often far from the homes we made for them, and they in turn made for us, leaving everyone needing to grope their way forward.
It’s possible our son already understands how this all works. Within minutes of his return flight touching down in California, we received a text from him saying, “Thank you guys for another memorable visit.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Susan Writer hopes all your visits this holiday season and beyond leave you with only good memories. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit her at Uexpress.com’s Ask Someone Else’s Mom.