Preparing for an empty nest: my heart is screaming

Preparing for an empty nest: my heart is screaming

My heart was screaming. And that is the only way to describe it.

I’d just dropped my 18-year-old son at the airport to catch his flight to LA for his future college’s accepted student’s weekend and had arrived back home. It was when I got back into bed (it was only 6:30 am, after all) that I felt it. What can only be described as my heart screaming inside my chest.

Throughout my children’s lives, Anna Quindlen’s famous quote on having children being akin to having your heart walking around outside your body, has always resonated with me. Yes!  I’d think. It is so like that!  Watching them play Legos at a friend’s house. Seeing them off to school each morning. Letting them walk alone to the corner hot dog stand for the first time. Yep. My heart living outside my body.

But it was nothing like this.

My heart was screaming. I doubled-up. I cried. This fucking hurt. My heart could never hurt this much if it were outside my body.

This is the beginning of the letting go, I know, but God, I am so not ready to.

All of my kids have each been off to camps and countless weekends away without this level of to-do. Yet the weird silverware-clinking, calm that seems to permeate the dinner table with the absence of just one of them has always haunted me. They’re all going to leave someday.

And this latest trip to the airport for my son’s solo weekend in LA—so freaking far away—was just the beginning. The harbinger of what was to come: my husband and I sitting alone in our empty nest,  gumming our asparagus and staring numbly into each other’s eyes.

Okay, I exaggerate. Our empty nester crazy big dream grand plans include hiking the Napali trail (when I’m not pregnant) or maybe branching out to a Nepali trail, or even just sitting on a beach in Curaçao. But these grand plans don’t take away from this moment, as I watch my two oldest prepare to leave the nest, essentially for good. And in stereo.

Don’t get me wrong, I am full of gratitude for the wonderful, charming and capable adults they are becoming—even if one of them (who shall not be named) can never remember his house keys. Ever. And I should also be grateful they have, as of yet, no plans to return and live in the basement for the next twenty-years.

Leaving for college, moving on, growing up—it’s the normal course of life, the process. And I knew it was coming. And I thought I was prepared.

Although, I do know, if they end up returning and living in the basement someday, that my husband and I will happily leave the nest ourselves, head off to gum our asparagus in Tibet or Buenos Aires.

And if that does end up being the case, three children back in our basement, it probably won’t be my heart that’s screaming.

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