It was the time we had been waiting for since our first child had been born thirty-six years ago. It was exciting to know that our eight kids now had each discovered their paths in life and that we were now empty nesters. Yet, there was a sort of sadness knowing that it was now just my husband and me. Sure, each our children would still come to visit, and they would bring along their own children, but it wasn’t the same.
Standing in the doorway, watching our 23-year-old “baby,” Hillari drive away, sadness and happiness washed over me at the same time. As the youngest, Hillari had stuck around the longest, living with us as she finished both her Bachelors and Masters degrees. Now, though, she was headed to New York City to teach Art History at NYU. It was crazy to think that Hillari was old enough to be a professor.
“The house already feels empty,” my husband, George, whispered as Hillari turned the corner.
I could only nod as I walked into the house. What was I going to do without Hillari in the house? I thought of all the suggestions my friends had given me, suggestions many of them had used when they had become empty nesters. One friend had suggested taking up crocheting or knitting, but I’d tried that before. I always just ended up with my yarn in knots. Baking cookies wasn’t such a good idea either. George and I would just end up eating them, and both of our families have a history of diabetics. One friend had even suggested going back to work part-time. None of those plans would really work for me.
“We could always go on one of those cruises for old retired people,” George teased as he came into the house, clearly reading my thoughts.
George and I had always joked about those kinds of activities. The very thought of doing that made me feel even older. I had always wondered why people would want to hang out with what I considered a bunch of other “old” people. It felt depressing. It was like admitting that you are too old to keep up with the younger generation.
“Or we could volunteer more at the church,” I suggested.
Of the plans for not missing your kids so much, that was the most appealing. At least it included human companionship rather than sitting at home trying to pretend I didn’t miss my children. Plus, it wasn’t one of those activities where I would be the youngest person participating. The group of dedicated church volunteers was basically an even mix of women who had recently become empty nesters, newly married women with either no children or just one child, and the women who were fresh out of college and unmarried. That I could handle. I wouldn’t feel like I was in a group where we were all on the verge of death, just volunteering until our time came.
Before I had time to think more about church volunteering, the home phone rang. Caroline, my oldest daughter’s name and number shown on the caller ID. I smiled, knowing Hillari had probably called to tell Caroline that my husband I might need some cheering up.
“Hey Caroline,” I said into the phone.
“I have a huge favor to ask of you,” Caroline said, getting right to the point. “I’m going to be starting classes during the day so that I can finally finish my degree. Since Mark works during the day, he can’t take care of the kids. It will only be like three hours a day, and it’s probably completely inconvenient, but I was wondering if you and Dad could take care of the kids while I’m at school. I’ll even drive them to your house.”
I found myself smiling. It sounded like we had found the solution to the empty nester’s boredom retirement crisis. Was there any better way to spend my retirement days than caring for my adorable three-year-old grandsons, Sean and Braxton? Already I felt excited about the time I was going to get to spend with them.
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