Last One Leaves the Nest

I am getting items together and gathering them on the dining room table. Jake is getting ready to leave the nest and embark on a life of his own making. I am happy for him, really I am. It’s his time and he is excited to take this next definitive step.

I gather things that I have been hanging onto literally for years, waiting for the kids to need them, because I don’t – need them, that is. Not anymore anyway. I’m trying to dish them all off on Jake, because as it turns out, the house he’s renting is bigger than mine. I think it only stands to reason that he should now own my junk. That’s kind of a circle of life isn’t it – the recycling of familial junk. Maybe that’s a stretch, but I’m excited for the chance to purge and yet there’s a counter ache as I acknowledge that yet again – a new change is coming my way. Man – can’t a girl catch a break?

As Kara moved to California and Sean moved to Florida, Jake was down at Radford finishing up school. He would naturally come back and forth, but thankfully wasn’t completely moved out of the house. College is a temporary flight. Mostly our children come back before they move on again. I’ve been lucky to have a couple more years with Jake here with me. We have a nice relationship. It’s what happens when you’re the youngest – you get the house and the parent or parents to yourself. That’s not necessarily what the college graduate is looking for. They need a roof over their heads and they need to find a job. All this is part of a process, as is saving money to move out and to move on to the next phase.

But the exciting phases for one, can be emotional for another. That other one being me – the mother. As I realize that I am now in the dreaded grief pit again as I am trying to absorb what all this will mean for me. I know that I am feeling this loss, because I know this is now closing out the phase of my life that had me as the mother. For the last thirty years, that is the role that I have played. Once Jake moves out and moves on from this house, my role changes for good. Being a mother won’t change, but the role of mother will. What I have known for the last thirty years, comes to a halt, and now gets repackaged as something different.

As kids go off to college, we as parents start to feel the pull to let go and yet the need to hang on till the very last second before they start their new academic life. But, after college, moving out means not coming back home – usually. It is likely that he won’t be back – to live that is, in a shared space and it’s something I have to deal with. This assessment is not a maudlin one, but a realistic one – with possibly a little pity party on the side. I’m only human after all.

Jake and I have had the awesome experience of getting to know each other on a different level. It’s more about being adults and friends at this stage than one of parent and child. That dynamic never stops, but relationships change course, it’s only natural. But we had a great experience living here as roomies, and I’ve been grateful for the time together along with the lessons. It’s a pretty cool day when transcending those boundaries allows you to relish in a new dimension of the parent/child relationship.

As I have with all my kids, I have given them my blessings to move on. I don’t really need to give them my permission – they’re adults after all, but surely they get my blessings, and they get those in spades. But as the last one leaves the nest, I am forced to acknowledge that I am back to being alone, and with my role now permanently changed I am also forced to acknowledge that it may be time for me to move on as well. This acknowledgement comes whether I want it to or not. Ever since Wes passed away, my situation has been constantly changing, often at warp speed, even when I was tethered to different aspects of my existence. These changes haven’t always been easy, or hardly ever. As they have consistently pushed me into a future kicking and screaming as I still yearned for a past I couldn’t have anymore. But growth happens even when you’re kicking and screaming, as we all continue to evolve. That part is the beauty and strength of life.

And moving out is not a bad thing, even as I watch Jake pack his possessions. It’s just hard to lose the kid that has been physically there and has been a visual and emotional anchor in ways that is difficult to describe. His happy smile in the morning and a strong and steady demeanor on any given day calm me. With dimples that smile back at me and give me pause to contemplate both the warmth in those dimples, as well as the mischief. I love them both and embrace them both as well – the warmth and the mischief. I’m a sucker for a little conspiring mischief. But I will miss the daily interaction of my now grown roomie and all the love and camaraderie that we have been blessed to discover about each other.

As moving on always means discarding one thing in order to embrace something, or something new, I am still always holding hands with grief in one way or another. I am never removed from it – not entirely anyway. But I don’t let it absorb me like it once did, as it not only absorbed me but it almost swallowed me whole. But as life happens and continues on as it does and as it should, it complicates my reaction because I am still always on the periphery of grief in some form or another. You just don’t walk away from grief. But you do walk on. So when you change your life and your identity – grief pops back up and that change gets translated into and as another loss. This newly translated grief isn’t tragic, but it is an obstacle to be addressed and then put somewhere, like a keepsake or something.

And I wonder once Jake moves out, just who exactly is going to fix my TV or my remote. When they cease to work, frustration ensues. I’m not a tech person. I’m just not. I just want to turn on my stuff and have it work. But when it doesn’t, who’s going to fix it for me? Who’s going to set up Netflix for me, and who is going to get Chipotle? This is dreadful. I’m going to miss my roomie.

As we had a full house at the beach for Labor Day weekend, with a couple of babies, friends and family, Jake says to me “It’s been pretty fun being roomies, Mom.” I laughed and said, “It has been indeed.” I’m going to miss that fun. To be sure, I’m going to miss it a lot. And certainly as it brings up sadness in one quadrant of my heart, I know that this moving on part for Jake is a really great thing for him. I’ve been watching this kid soar for a long time, and I am reminded of the quote about giving your children both roots and wings. I think Wes and I have given the kids both.

And as these chapters in my life continue to change, I realize that Jake’s moving on and moving out, may be pushing me to re-establish myself as something, I don’t know what just yet, but clearly different than before. I’m going to have to. Maybe I need to find my wings as well – and new roots.

So, Jake moved out and here I am as an empty nester. I’m trying to adjust to the empty house with the only movements being the two dogs Jake left behind. I’ll figure this all out. Again – I’m going to have to. I’m reverting back to how I dealt with the empty house when Kara was in California, Sean in Florida and Jake at school. It’s all coming back to me and I’m adjusting.

And then Hurricane Irma hit. It barrels into Florida with tremendous force. We call Sean and all urge him to hit the road and head north. Just get out of the hurricane’s path. He, Leanne and baby Quinn arrive at my door five days later. They are here for ten days. He schedules a couple of interviews while here, just to see what happens. Moving home has been on his radar for quite some time now. As they head back to Florida, he gets offers on both jobs. He accepts one and starts the process to move back home. After three weeks, they show up again with a truck, a car, a U-Haul, a baby and a whole lot of boxes. They are moving in until they get settled.

So here we all are, in our house on Vine Cottage with a garage that was packed with Jake’s projects that Sean honorably helped him move out to give me more room and to let me reclaim that space. But somehow it’s all been replaced with Sean’s stuff and the remainder of Jake’s four-wheeler heap project that he couldn’t fix and Sean thinks will be fun to overhaul and then sell. Only then, I come to find out, their plan is to bring back our Jeep heap from the beach so he can work on it throughout the winter to get it beach worthy for next summer. I walk around in circles scratching my head and say out loud, to no one in particular – what the hell just happened? Wasn’t I just mourning the empty nest?

I was an empty nester for exactly five days.

In my world that is forever changing, forever distracting, it is also forever challenging me to rise up and face these barriers as I learn how to roll with it and learn to walk on my own. As my last one leaves the nest, another one pulls up with a truck and a U-Haul.

My life is kind of funny.

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