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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Empty Nester/Retirement (from work) (09/10/09)

TITLE: In the Middle
By Margaret Villanueva


My friend Jessica is an empty nester. Her youngest daughter left home last year, and she is both happy and depressed in turns. She speaks of going places alone with her husband, not having to worry about school schedules, and the prospect of grandchildren to come. At times, Jessica bemoans the fact that her children donít call or write as much as sheíd like. She sometimes feels left out and lonely, but she and her husband were ready for this. They prepared by praying about it and even taking classes on letting go (itís amazing the things that our school thinks of!). They miss their children, but they know that this is part of Godís plan, and so they are resigned to learning to let go.

I have another friend named Roxanne. Roxanne and her husband will never have an empty nest. They are both in their seventies, but their 34-year-old son, Joshua, still lives with them. Josh has Downís Syndrome, and he will never be able to fully take care of himself. He is a beautiful boy with a heart full of love, but he functions on about a 2nd grade level, and so they knew early on that it would be impossible to expect Josh to ever be independent. They are great parents, though. They donít complain, at least not to me. They include him in every part of their life that is possible, and they often do things together, like going to the beach or the park. Joshís spirit is so innocent and freeóit is beautiful to see. Of course, Roxie and her husband worry. Will the plans that they have carefully made for Josh so that he can live in a group home and be well cared for after their deaths be sufficient? Will he receive the same loving care after their deaths that they have given him all these years? He has no brothers or sisters, so he will be entrusted to an institutionóa great one, carefully researched, but an institution nonetheless. Day to day, though, they try not to think about it. They are thankful for the time that they have with Josh and they live each day with him rejoicing in his innocence and purity. I am amazed at their peace in this situation. They tell me that it didnít come easily.

I believe them. I am not like them. It doesnít come easily to me, probably because Iím at a different place. My son, Jamie, is seventeen. He is autistic, high functioning, with something called Aspergerís Syndrome. He functions well on a day-to-day basis, but we arenít sure if he can function independently. Things that he should know by now: how to take a bus, how to cook simple meals, how to pick up after himselfóhavenít yet been learned. Learning to drive a car hasnít been discussed for years, but he doesnít seem to care. On the other hand, he is very intelligent, and his therapists all say that he has great potential. So I guess you could say that at age 52, I am in the middle. Iím not looking towards being an empty nester, because I donít know if I ever will have that opportunity. I donít think of a life caring for my son, frankly, because part of me is afraid that if I do that, Iíll give up and just make it happen. So while others my age begin their walk down the path toward freedom and independence, I stay behind and wonder what my future will be. Will I be alone, a widow with married and grown children? Will I be a caretaker mother to an adult child with autism? I donít know, and neither does Jamie.

There is no easy end to this piece. I wish that I could say that I have reached a place of peace and trust in my future. I havenít. I donít know what my life will be like, and I worry about the expense and work of caring for a grown son. But I do know that God is in control, even if it sometimes doesnít feel like it. So Jamie and I wait and pray, and we hope that in the years to come we will live separate lives. But even if we donít, I know that in the years to come, God will provide a way. Somehow.

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This article has been read 287 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Allen Stark09/17/09
You have done an excellent job in making us understand the meaning of your title and how different it is to be in the middle.
Eileen Knowles09/19/09
I agree. You did a good job of reminding the reader that for some people the empty nest/retirement years aren't always the "norm". I have a nephew with Asperger's and so my heart really goes out to families who must learn how to live with this challenge.
c clemons09/20/09
Wow, thank you for letting us see the how another segment of people have it. Honestly I had not thought about it before. I pray that with your prayerful diligence that your decision making burden will be lifted. Keep writing.
Lisa Johnson09/21/09
What a blessing to know that in all of the uncertainty, one thing is certain, and that is God's promise to be with us through wahtever we face.