Three-Week Progress Report from Our Newly Empty Nest

moving van, moving day

Three weeks ago on a milestone Monday, this was the scene in our driveway. Our morning was spent using our combined physical forces and my amazing Tetris powers to cram all my son’s possessions into a U-Haul truck for his big move up to college. (We also tossed in a few pieces of bonus ugly furniture for his meager quality-of-living peace of mind that we won’t miss anyway.)

Instead of the standard dorm experience that I’m told millions of Americans thrive on each year, his domicile of choice for the next four years or until catastrophe strikes will be a modest, off-campus apartment. This sort of drastic lifestyle change would require more than a few suitcases and tote bags.

It was a little sad seeing my son’s nineteen years of life added up in one vaguely cubic pile. Among the contents are his longtime mattress, boxspring and frame; a Value City dresser; a few bookshelves; a rickety, discarded entertainment center with pieces missing; several boxes’ worth of food and supplies that my wife had been amassing for him like a nuclear-shelter dweller; a short prefab desk that’s been little more than a clutter-catcher for ages; the living room chair he had claimed long ago, Archie Bunker style; a few collections; several devices; numerous housewarming gifts given by his mom’s family as graduation gifts; and I don’t even remember what else.

He’s taking his new living quarters quite seriously. None of us are treating this like a disposable getaway. For all intents and purposes except things that required cosigning, it’s officially Home for him now, 24/7/365. Visits and holidays will be negotiated on a case-by-case basis, but his plan is to treat his relocation as his life’s status quo for the foreseeable future. We didn’t evict him, nor did he vacate out of spite. We’ll see how it plays out over the course of Year One and take it as it comes.

I feel more maudlin every time I look at this photo. I also can’t stop wincing because I remember our days of intense muscle agony that followed Moving Day. If you think the pile is daunting just to look at, imagine three (3) people having to lug every last ounce of this up to a third-floor apartment without benefit of elevators or thoughtful volunteers. And none of us were trained athletes before the experience. As a sage but superfluous starship crew member once said: PAIN. ENORMOUS PAIN.

That Monday was long, draining, and not without its share of tears.

Since then we’ve been slowly feeling out a new household rhythm, now that it’s just the two of us and our meddling dog. Without him around to represent for the young-adult-male demographic in our conversations, some debates are ending less lopsidedly and more amicably than they used to. That doesn’t seem right. He also tagged along with me to the movies more often than my wife does, so that’s one less after-movie discussion contributor I’ve had around. On the plus side, it’s one less finicky eater to muddle our mealtime plans. At last the two of us are free to cook all the meals he wouldn’t touch and visit all the restaurants he hates.

As for the room he left behind:

empty bedroom, empty nest

Three weeks later, we have yet to fill this gaping hole in our lives.

It’s been dusted and vacuumed since then, especially the portions you can spot in the photo where large objects formerly blocked any cleaning efforts. A few tentative piles of stuff ‘n’ things have formed, but we’ve brought in no fixtures yet. My wife and I each have sketchy ideas about what to do with it, but nothing that’s taken a workable mental shape. I think it’s one part denial and one part absolutely hating any project that starts with a blank canvas.

All we know for certain is that we really need to find a new purpose for it quickly before certain relatives — the ones whose career goals or imminent retirement plans appear half-baked and collapsible — begin eying it greedily as a potential refuge from the world and all its bills.

3 responses

  1. We’ve had 5 years now as empty nesters and love it. All 3 kids are out of college and doing well. ENORMOUS PAIN reminded me of when we moved our oldest from a dorm to her first apartment. She bought a couch and my son and I offered to move it for her. It wouldn’t fit in the elevator of her new building so we had to push it up 8 flights of stairs. OUCH!

    Like

  2. Pingback: Empty Nest, Week 6: a Mission of Mercy and Meat | Midlife Crisis Crossover

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