It’s really here. Empty nest time. I knew it was coming. In some vague recess of my endangered mind. But it was always buffered amongst a healthy dose of denial and maternal fortification, surfacing only in the most superficial and surreal ways. No more. Now, it’s full frontal assault time. We dropped off my middle child, Chase, at university today. His second year. You think I’d be used to it. But no. Perhaps because we still had the ‘baby’ (not) at home, it seemed like a distant peril – like watching an African Savannah lion kill on T.V – you know it’s out there, but it can’t affect you. Today that lion was circling my flimsy tent.
And Chase is not the type to ease my discomfort – he’s not genetically disposed that way – gets that blithe unawareness of others’ angst from his dad. I spent inordinate amounts of time and money to make sure he has everything he might need for the lead-up to this week’s drop-off. But when I tried to jump in to help organize his room, he quickly and definitively put me in my place, telling me not to touch his stuff, not to make his bed, did I think he was 5 years old again, quit trying to control him … the list goes on. Crushed, I retreated to the relative safety of the truck, not sure why I came, what role I could play. And this was only the first of three drop-offs. Not sure I can handle a triple dose of this level of rejection.
One week from today, the kids will all be safely ensconced in their new adventures and Don and I will be left to face each other across an empty table. We’ll have to rediscover each other. After over 20 years of near-absolute focus on the kids, we’ll have to find some semblance of our old lives again, some semblance of ourselves. Although I suspect that’s impossible. We can’t possibly be the same people we were 20 years ago. So I guess we’ll have to get to know our ‘new’ partners and come to terms with our new selves. Not sure what that even is any more. Somewhere along the mothering path, I lost my sense of self, became so focused on my role as mother, that I let other aspects of myself slip away, slowly at first, unnoticeable in the gradual leeching of pieces of me.
Maybe this will be an opportunity. I can reinvent myself, be whoever I want to be. Do whatever I want to do. Pursue old dreams. But then, no doubt, I’ll feel that I’m letting that mother slip away. I don’t know if I’m ready for that. Suspect I may hang on, grab it and wrestle it as it tries to escape. Or maybe I’ll end up calling one of the kids and telling them they need to come home before I kill their father J . Only time will tell. One down and two to go. Let’s see if I survive.