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Empty-nester fondly recalls chaos

Rick JacobsI wonder who it was that first coined the phrase, “empty nest”?

I refer to, of course, the time when your last child moves out of your home and into his, or her, new home. For those of you who have experienced this, you know exactly what I mean.

I’m very close. Scotty is a senior and has already turned 18. For the most part, my nest is empty. He’s seldom home between school, work and social life.

Many things change after this momentous event. My garage used to be cluttered with bicycles, scooters, baseball and football equipment, in-line skates and all other items related to children. We barely had room for our soccer-mom van.

These days I have ample room for my car and all of my yard equipment. I can actually get to my work bench and tools and piddle. The other day I was able to rotate my tires and enjoy plenty of elbow room.

Food lasts way, way longer when there are fewer teenaged mouths to feed. A large bag of chips containing 20 smaller bags of assorted varieties used to last, I don’t know, maybe a day. Now, long after grocery shopping day, it often sits on the shelf unopened.

A gallon of milk’s life expectancy used to be measured in mere hours and sometimes would barely last a single meal. The jug’s expiration date in those days was meaningless so long as it wasn’t that afternoon. Now, a gallon will often last a week or more.

When all four of my children lived at home, laundry was almost an everyday necessity. Folding clothes was a nightmare once my boys wore the same size clothes as me. Socks and shorts and who they belonged to was a toss-up.

I can’t tell you how many Sunday mornings I would be at my computer, and a complete stranger would wander out, eyes barely open, looking for the kitchen or bathroom. He would later be introduced by one of my children as the friend who spent the night.

Nobody ever told me anything.

My wife and I, over the past 25 years or so, have spent much of our time stressing over grades, homework, signed papers, lunch money, permission slips, conduct, field trips, school concerts and plays and everything else that is school related. That doesn’t count the countless hours spent driving to and from sports practices, games and tournaments. For many years, virtually every weekend was spent watching one of our sons play baseball, juggling work against the guilt of not being there and missing a potential game-winning hit or homerun.

We’ve run alongside bicycles and cheered when our children, finally, kept their balance for a few seconds before crashing into a tree, car or fire hydrant. We’ve bandaged knees, watched casts being put on arms and dried tears.

Usually theirs. Sometimes ours.

We’ve watched all but one walk onstage and receive their diplomas. Our last one will be this May. My wife and I will breathe one long, final sigh of relief. A journey that began more than 31 years ago will, theoretically, end.

All of our children will no longer be children. They will all be adults. The rest is up to them.
They will then begin the journey, and job, left vacant by their mom and me. Two of them already have and one will soon start. Then, one day, perhaps they will write a column similar to this one.

My nest is all but empty. Toys and bicycles have been replaced with memories. Laughter, shrieks and arguments have been muted with quiet reflections. Stress and worry, long carried around on my shoulders, have been kicked away by the legs of my grandchildren.

Come May, my wife and I will find ourselves the way we started. Just me and her, madly in love and wondering what the future holds.

Living in an empty nest, perhaps, but more than offset with overflowing hearts.


Written by Rick Jacobs, a process server for Shelby County, a longtime resident of Bartlett, and a regular columnist for The Bartlett Express. Contact him at rick45@aol.com.

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