I knew that this day was coming, this storm…so to speak. I’ve known about it since January when our youngest daughter, Macy, sat down next to me on the couch as I watched a game on TV and ate supper. “How have you been?” was her question. My stomach sank. I reached for the remote and shut off the TV. I placed my plate, half-finished, on the end table. I looked at her and replied “what’s wrong?” You see, our daughters don’t just ask those kinds of questions. At least not yet. She was moving to Germany in the summer to become an Au Pair for a German couple, taking care of their kids, for a year. After the year she’d start attending a university in Berlin and resume her studies while getting a job. Germany has free college. She’s fairly good at speaking German. My guess is that she’s going to get a lot better. I asked her if this was an “idea” or a “done deal”. Her reply “95% done deal”. My stomach sank further while my heart rose into my throat.
Our middle daughter, Karalee, was due to graduate in May. She got a job in Japan. Literally, within three weeks during the coming summer we’d lose two daughters to two countries. 4,545 miles and 6,371 miles away respectively. The storm…was gaining strength. I could see it in the distance. It wasn’t going away. It had been building since the day of their birth I suppose. Since their first step. Since their first defiant toddler tantrum. Since swimming lessons, learning to ride a bike, driving a car and so on and so forth. Its been a steady and relentless learning curve to try and conquer new things. Scary things, except this time around I’m the one who’s scared…scared for them and maybe, just maybe…scared for me.
We’ve been temporary empty-nesters for two years with both daughters living half an hour away while attending college. If they needed us we could be there in a short time (they never did..). What’s my role now? How am I to be defined? Too young to be old. Too old to be young. Not wanting to be hip. Not wanting to be stodgy. The salt is overtaking the pepper atop my head. Do I try to be that old guy who wears denim shorts, black knee-high dress socks and sandals with a fanny pack when I go out? Maybe try wearing a tie-dye shirt and grow a pony tail? No one told me how to do this. I’m serious when I write this. What’s my role now? My wife can only withstand so much of me before she shoots me the stink-eye. I’m not always a delight to be around. (true story)
They’ve moved into good countries, not third world places. I can’t imagine how parents with kids in the military feel when their kids are put in harms way in a bad part of the world.
That storm kept coming. It brought tension, the silent type. I told them that they could come back home if things didn’t work out. That life sometimes hands you failure that you can learn from, but life continues to go onward. I told them that I was proud of them, loved them and to be safe. To trust their inner voice. That trust is earned, not given freely to strangers or folks that you just met. I don’t know if any of it sank in. I was young once too, bullet-proof and foolhardy.
The day of the storm arrived. Our last child would be flying from our home. The storm wasn’t made of lightning, thunder nor rain but of questions, uncertainty, an emptiness in our lives, a hole in our heart. An awkward vacuum left in the place of parenting up close and personal. Each of our daughters, all three, have plans. They made them themselves. They’re theirs to live and fulfill, regardless of our feelings as parents…and for that I’m thankful. They’re good people. I’m proud of them.
At the airport. Silence speaks volumes. Exuberance verses apprehension. Exciting future verses the tedium of daily routine. Throats tight. Goodbyes whispered. Eyes misty. Silent walk to the parking lot as nearby jets rev their engines. Quiet car ride to an empty house. Prayers sent. This storm, is it over or just beginning? Trips to be planned. Reunions in the future. I wish that I had paid a little more attention to parenting while it was happening and savored those moments. It went by fast.