Empty Nest

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"Empty Nest" by Susan Anderson (CatholicMom.com)

Photo via Pixabay (2015), CC0 Public Domain

Empty Nest

Yeah, I know. Original title. (Sarcasm.) During the month of July, I knew what I’d write about for CatholicMom.com. I was so excited to put together my August article. If you follow what I write, then you know I wrote about the tear-jerking effects of a favorite song. The whole trigger for the inspiration was our youngest child was starting college. We drove her out to school, twelve hours away from home.

This month it’s different. Up until this second, I didn’t know what I’d write about. The reason for that is simple. I’m in a mild mourning season. Well, I said it is simple, not easy. I titled the article, “Empty Nest,” but even this isn’t totally pure or true. The reason for this is that our oldest child is 28 years old and he still lives with us, because he is autistic. We are his legal guardians. He doesn’t drive. He is on the mild to moderate end of the spectrum, and this means he is quite capable on many levels. He’s an elite runner. He cooks, cleans, does laundry, works in our family business, mows grass, works as a dishwasher at a local restaurant, and takes care of all our pets, those being an Australian Shepherd, named Shep, a bearded dragon named Mandra, a parakeet named Spartan, and a black and white bunny named Mumford.

But the most important thing our son does is pray. He follows enthusiastically during Mass, reciting the Nicene Creed with gusto. He prays before every meal. He anoints himself with holy water every morning, when he thuds upstairs on the way to the coffee pot.

So many people have commented about our youngest child going off to college. “So, you’re empty-nesters now?” I always feel I must explain, “Sort of. We have Paul, our oldest son.” It is a unique situation. I know we’re not the only ones. There is a whole wave of us who had our babies in the ’90s and one of them ended up with a developmental delay. Some more severe than others. But, if I were to compare myself to most of my peers now, we are still a rare case. We will always consider our son when making plans, whether that is our living situation or taking vacations. We still have to drive him to where he needs to go. Unless the Lord decides to come back soon and totally heal our son, we will grow old with each other, Rob, my husband and I, along with our son. This will be so until our other adult children take the helm and support Paul when we are too feeble to do so.

In other words, when it comes to categorizing our stage in life right now, I would answer, “It’s complicated.”

Right now, I am alone at home at 7:30 in the evening, because my husband had to go lock up the warehouse after UPS made a pick-up, and Paul is working at the restaurant. The clock’s tick-tocks are palpable, and the crackling wick on a candle illuminating a glass statue of Our Lady on this feast day, “The Queenship of Mary,” is about as loud as the snap, crackle, and pop of the old cereal, Rice Krispies ®. Spartan, the parakeet, is also shelling bird seeds with his beak. The quiet is deafening.

It’s not hard to remember when I used to make dinner around 4 PM and the chaos of kids running in and out of the house, arguing, interrupting, and causing all kinds of mess, was the usual routine of the day. I had a friend who used to call it “the bewitching hour.” I can’t believe that I actually long for those days. Well … maybe half the noise. As long as one or two of them could just clean up the kitchen.

You know the saying, “There’s a first time for everything?” Well, yesterday, I experienced something for the first time in this new season of my life. I went to the grocery store and deliberately shopped for just the two of us. Just little ol’ Rob and me. Paul shops and cooks for himself. This is an area where he can be independent.

Oh boy. It was weird. I tried to think back, before kids, when I’d do the shopping. I couldn’t remember. I barely knew how to cook, beyond lemon-pepper chicken and spaghetti sauce from a jar.

There was a long season when I had all the kids with me in the grocery store. One was in the baby seat, dangling her fat little legs. One was holding on the side, with his feet up on the lower rail, taking a ride. Another was asking for all the no-no’s in the candy aisle and stealthily throwing sugary snacks in the cart, whilst I compared prices on canned goods. I may have even carried another in a discreet sling through the produce department as she breastfed to her stomach’s content. I’d always lament, “Why do I do this to myself?” I could have used a babysitter, or waited til Rob came home. I’ll never forget the time I filled the largest buggy they had, and pushing up to the checkout, this old country guy made the comment, “I think you need a bigger truck.” I smiled with pride.

Yesterday, my cart looked like this:

"Empty Nest" by Susan Anderson (CatholicMom.com)

Copyright 2018 Susan Anderson. All rights reserved.

Today, my fiftyish self spends more money on produce for the antioxidants and the promise of anti-aging benefits of real food. I’ve bought two bottles of wine. One for Rob, who doesn’t mind sulfates, and one for me, who does. Today, I buy turmeric. Back then, I’d never heard of it. When your joints start creaking, you start paying attention. Everything’s organic, because. Except for the oatmeal break-and-bake cookies for Rob…because. I’m into beets lately, for the color. Maybe it’ll keep the gray hairs away? Toilet paper. This batch should last us til the kids come home at Thanksgiving. (OK, I’m exaggerating.) I think I spent a total of $168.00. Now that is a first!

My husband is back home. He’s cleaning the kitchen for me. He just made the comment, “I miss Beth sitting at the piano and singing, about now.”

“I miss all the kids. I miss Mark, Scott, Katie, and Danika. But…what are ya gonna do?”

I agree with, “Yeah.”

There is a silver lining though.

Beth’s been gone three whole days. She sent me a text this morning that read,

Good morning. I’ve been up since 4:20 am. It’s 6:20 here. Prayed a rosary and ready to tackle this 8 am on my first official day of classes. Say a prayer for me, my professors, and my classmates! Also, first chorale rehearsal today. ♪☺

And then, Swam 4000 yards yesterday at a local Y.

And that made me happy.

Because that’s what we do from the first squalling cry into the world. We prepare them to leave and fly out on their own.

Though I miss them to pieces, I don’t want them living in our basement.

I just wish I didn’t miss them so much.


Copyright 2018 Susan Anderson

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About Author

Susan Anderson is a wife and mother of six. Becoming Catholic at age 33, she is an avid fan of Mary and keeps her sanity through rosary prayer. She helps Rob, her husband, at Cactus Game Design, provider of Bible based games and toys. Her book, Paul’s Prayers, is about her oldest autistic son, which will be published March 6, 2018. To pre-order: http://goodbooks.com/titles/13642-9781680993479-pauls-prayers Her website: www.SusanAndersonwrites.com

11 Comments

  1. Susan, Wow! What a great summary of what I’m feeling, today. I, too, am 50’ish, have 6 kids, and most of them have left the nest. The one thing that you didn’t mention is that feeling of being “done”. I have no goals to reach, no heavy responsibilities. It’s a first for me; I’m sure right where God wants me but I’m not altogether sure what I’m supposed to do next.
    You are an inspiration, more than you know, in your ministry of raising your autistic son! God Bless.

    • SEPTEMBER 8, 2018 9:05 AM
      That’s so nice Elyse. Praying an Our Father and a Hail Mary for you on this First Saturday of September. Don’t panic. Our Lady will lead you. I just know it!

  2. Let me know about the beets thing, okay? I too am an empty nester, but I’m embracing it as a time to do things I couldn’t before. It’s an adjustment, but fun too. Maybe we need an empty nester section on Catholic Mom for all of us?

      • Even though your nest is empty, your words fill a place in the heart for all who are journeying the road titled, “empty nest.” Thanks Barb for the link.
        I often thank the Lord that I had seven children to raise. What I thought was crazy busy formed me in character and ministry. Your words brought a smile to my face. Moms of large families have a certain bond and a humor all of their own. Loved the article.
        We are on our way to Grandparent Day in Kentucky joining 500 other Nana ‘s and Papa’s to celebrate our children’s children. Life again is crazy busy. Enjoy this season, let God design a full nest for you to rest in, most importantly carve out “Me Time!” It is God ‘s gift to a mother of a large family. Pace Yourself Please! Soon and very soon it will be crazy busy again, overflowing with grandchildren. We have 13 and counting.
        This rest in your nest, you see,is like the nine month in the womb for your babies.Enjoy the rest.

        • Ellen, thank you!

          “This rest in your nest, you see,is like the nine month in the womb for your babies.Enjoy the rest.”
          I’ve not thought of it this way! Beautiful!

          I do know that there are times of quiet and rest for the next season.

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