Empty Nester

Today is part two of a three part series featuring the other members of my writing group.

Frank is the oldest member of our group. He has often had to sit around and hear the rest of us talking about our young children. He enriches our group through his wealth of life experiences and dry wit.

Frank is a certified financial planner in Roseland, NJ. His interests include Jewish studies, sports, and investing.

My wife and I are living at home alone for the first time in almost thirty years. OK, our little shitzu keeps us company, but I’m referring to real live human beings, namely children. The kids have come and gone over the past ten years, only to return home for an affordable and comfortable place to stay, but this time I think it’s the real thing. Last week, my 26 year –old daughter, Shula, moved to Israel to start a new life after going through a difficult divorce and moving back home for a year. My 24 year-old son, Manny, got married last month, and he moved into an apartment with his wife. And my 28 year-old musician son has been mostly out for the past ten years, but he came back for almost a year until he moved out again a few months ago. I guess you could now call us “empty nesters,” but the banality of the term leaves me cold. I’m searching for a better definition that, ah, really hits home.

The first thing that struck me this past Presidents’ Day weekend was how quiet the house was. The Ipod and Ipad music, the phone calls, the electric guitar, silent. The joking, the screaming, the long showers, the creaking of the steps according to each kid’s unique rhythm, silent. The wind howled outside and the cold pierced the thin 100 year-old walls of our five bedroom colonial house. The pipes wooshed as the hot water heater automatically refilled. My wife snored as she took an afternoon nap, the dog by her side, lonely and defeated. I wandered from room to room as the dim afternoon light faded. Pictures hung on the wall like sentinels frozen in time.

Meanwhile, my wife wakes up from her nap. “Wanna go to a movie?” she asks.


Looks like we’re going to spend more time together. I’m a little concerned.  After all, despite the fact that we haven’t exactly been babysitting for many years, even an adult child lends some diversion. I’m comfortable with moderate doses of intimacy. Of course I won’t tell my wife that the long weekend is weighing heavily on my mind. But we’ve already tossed back and forth a few “empty nester” jokes. So we agree to go see “Lincoln.” I notice that the theatre seems to be filled with fellow ENs. Hey, this might not be too bad. We are transported to the Civil War era for a couple of hours and agree that Spielberg hasn’t lost his touch.

We drive home without talking much. My wife wants to stop at some type of home furnishing store in the mall, but when she sees me squirm, she relents. I guess her hopes of a husband released from the shackles of active parenthood and willing to go shopping have been dashed. Some things never change.

We enter the house, half expecting to find somebody home, but only the dog is waiting. I run upstairs to catch some sports. Oh, I forgot, the NBA All-Star Game! My younger son and I have been watching together ever since he was six. The pre-game show features former stars like Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal discussing the greatest dunkers of all time. A clip comes on with Chris Webber interviewing Bill Russell, one of the greats from my childhood. My wife enters the room.

“You have a game?” she asks.

“Yeah, the All-Star Game.”

“Oh, maybe Manny will come to watch with you.”

My phone bings. A text message.

“What’s that sound?” my wife asks.

A text.

“Who is it?”

“Awesome interview on TNT”, the text says. “C-webb interviewing Russell. Russell is really an interesting person. Awesome interview.”

“Who else”? I reply.

Something tells me that this will turn out OK.


22 thoughts on “Empty Nester

  1. oh, now that was awesome! I always wonder how my parents felt once the house was empty. Sadly, they didn’t get to enjoy it too long, as my younger brother has moved back in with them – at this point, they may never experience the empty nest syndrome! (Which, really, it would be a good thing, the longer they aren’t empty nesters, that means my brother is still alive!). I do remember during one of the few times all 3 of us were out of the house that we were at dinner (mom, dad, me, Mr. T, and my bro) and mom said “it would be nice to do (insert activity here)” and dad responded “no rules”. There was a huge grin on her face – they were learning how to live with “no rules”. No kids that had to be driven around, no bed times to enforce, no specific time constraints. They were learning how to be empty nesters and enjoy their new freedom! It was neat to watch the interaction!
    Anyway… Awesome story!

    • I enjoyed the story as well. My parents did not enjoy that very long either as my father passed away not long after all of us were gone. I hope they had some enjoyment from us out of the house.
      Yes, I do hope that your parents are not empty nesters till your brother is able to regain his health.

  2. This is such a nice perspective to read! With 3 small children I sometimes ache to hear silence but after reading this and mentally putting myself in that situation I know I would miss it too (at least some of the sounds). I love that your wife thought she had a chance to get you into the furniture store after the movie! You give us women an inch and we try to take a mile!!!

  3. While at times I long for the days you describe, I know once they come I’ll feel rocked and unsteady. So, I think I’ll try to enjoy what is in front of me and trust the rest will work out as well as yours has. Lovely post!

    • I am very much on the same page with you. However, can’t we have an empty nest for a day here and there – wouldn’t that be awsome!

  4. You are making me feel very guilty that my daughter took your son away by becoming his wife……
    But you are so loved – and it is heartwarming to see how your son looks forward to talking to you, to having you visit, especially watching games together!
    You are so not alone!

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