Is an empty nest REALLY an empty nest? Not when there are memories..
| Feathering the Empty Nest
By Donna Lowich
In June 1986, I returned home from an extended hospitalization: six weeks in the hospital after two spinal cord surgeries along with some complications, followed by five months in a rehab center.
Finally, I was home! No one was happier than Jeffrey, who was not quite five at the time. One morning, as I was getting ready to go downstairs and prepare for yet another day of physical therapy, I heard Jeff in his room. I guess he must have heard me, too, because he called out, "Mommy! How do you spell 'special'?"
"S-P-E-C-I-A-L.." Puzzled, I asked, "Why do you want to know?"
"Oh, no reason," he answered. I wasn't surprised; asking Jeffrey any question about what he was doing or why he was doing something almost always required him to respond with either a singing reply of, "Nothing!" or "No reason."
I was ready to go downstairs, and went out into the hallway. Jeff had already gone downstairs, so I peeked into his room. On his little chalkboard and desk, he left a message with his magnetic letters: MY MOM IS SPECIAL. The truth of the matter was (and is) that my son is the special one; he had now prepared me as only he could with the energy to face the therapy and other challenges that I faced that day, and for the many days that followed.
The door to my son's room is now open, and seems to be beckoning to me. His room has been closed most of the time since we dropped him off to college. He's graduated now, and is currently seeking a second bachelor's degree at the University of Louisville, so his room is empty again. It was equally difficult to see him leave the second time for college, as it was the first time around; it never does get any easier. An empty house is an empty house, after all.
I entered Jeff's room, and stood by the doorway. I surveyed the room. My eyes scanned the sports posters and memorabilia, and even the pages of newspaper that Jeff had torn out and hung on the walls in his earlier years. It's quiet in here now, in contrast to many occasions in the past, but it comes alive again for me at this moment. Voices from the past seem to envelop me. The memories held in this room now seem to come to life, they seem so real to me.
I remembered the day when Walter and I went in to tell him that kindergarten was cancelled: it was his very first Snow Day! But instead of joy, Jeff stood on his bed, with his little hands clenched in despair: "No! I have too much work to do! How will I get all my work done?"
I heard Walter carrying a squiggling, wiggling, giggling Jeffrey upstairs, with the nightly admonition, "To bed, Fred!"
Then there are the memories of hearing little-boy giggles as he made whispered plans with his cousins, Kenny and Jonathan, as they settled in for a sleepover weekend..
I smiled to myself as the memories flooded into my mind as I relived the happy times when my son was growing up to be the wonderful man he is today. I closed the door to his room to safeguard all those memories against the ravages of time, for as long as I have these memories, my house will never be empty, not really empty.