Where Are My Children?…..by Sheila Newcomb
One day I woke to an empty house. I searched through all the rooms. The beds were still made, no one had slept in them last night. There were no clothes hanging out of dresser-drawers and no clothes piled up on the floors. I looked in all the closets, only empty shelves and empty hangers. On the walls in all their rooms there were no posters, pictures or banners, just a few thumbtacks and little nail holes here and there and outlines of where the pictures and posters had once hung. There were no dolls, no toy cars, trucks or airplanes. There were no storybooks, schoolbooks, or anything else to trip over or to stub my toe on.
I listened to the stillness. I heard nothing. No one was laughing, no one was talking, no one was screaming for mercy and no one was crying. I heard no water running in the bathroom. No one was taking a bath, no one was brushing their teeth and no one was using the hairdryer. I went downstairs to the living room. I looked around in amazement at how tidy it was. There were no empty coke cans, no empty potato chip bags, no broken up pieces of Pizza crust. There were no VCR tapes or video games strewn about. There were no couch cushions on the floor and no dirty socks or shoes lying in the middle of the floor and no clothes draped all over the furniture.
I listened to the kitchen door. Surely my children were in there. I heard no cabinet doors opening and shutting. There was no sound of cereal being poured into a bowl. No one was opening the refrigerator door or slamming it shut. There was not even the sound of toast popping up in the toaster I peeked through the kitchen door. It was sparkling clean, just the way I had left it when I went to bed last night. There were no dirty dishes in the sink, no empty bread-wrappers, no half-filled boxes of cereal to put away and no bowls with left-over milk and cereal in them.
A Mother’s Loss…A Child’s Gain by Kerbi Bond
It turns out that we were wrong about that part. In fact, their presence here has helped make this house feel like home, in a way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. They’ve helped us strip wallpaper (ugh, a job I hope never to have to do again as long as I live!), put in a vegetable garden, install shelves in the basement, even stack hay in the barn.
On a practical level, we appreciated their help. But the true value has been in the pleasure of working side by side with them, talking about everything and nothing, admiring their skills and their confidence, appreciating the good and accomplished young men they’ve become. It’s a unique experience, living with your children again, getting to know them after they’ve moved away and have come back all grown up. It’s something we never anticipated but feel lucky to have had.
It’s also gratifying that all three have been comfortable and happy here. They’ve taken to this peaceful country setting in a way they never would have before, when their lives revolved around friends, school and sports. And since they’ve each lived here for a time, they don’t feel like they’re just visiting Mom and Dad’s house—they feel like they’re coming home.
The downside? Besides having to share a bathroom with boys again? For me it’s that the process of letting them go has been prolonged. Each time one of them stays for a few weeks or months, our lives take on a new rhythm. We learn to share the bathroom and the washing machine. We help take care of each others’ pets. We remember that a large pizza will barely go around, let alone provide a few days of leftovers as it used to do. We watch family movies and laugh about the old days. I never get tired of looking into those grown-up faces and seeing my sweet little boys there.
But then the day comes when their plans take them away again. For me this just never gets easier. While helping them pack I’m already anticipating the loss. Then for weeks afterward I bump into it at every turn—their car no longer in the driveway, their cat or dog not there to greet me when I get home from work, their favorite foods now sitting uneaten in the cupboard.
And it’s not as if they are just moving across town—currently they live in three different states, none of them ours. I think it’s this “all or nothing” aspect that makes it so hard for me. Either they actually live in my house or they are far away—there’s no in between.
So here we are, my husband and I, once again comforting each other. We know that having our sons here for a while has been worth the grief of seeing them go again. We also know that there are much worse things than having a family that misses each other when they’re apart.
It’s time to adjust to the suddenly quiet house again and to start making our own plans. It’s time to revisit the wise–if somewhat untested–advice I dished out myself in “Pedal Power” two years ago: “After all, life doesn’t run backward. There is only forward. There is only the never-ending challenge of keeping your balance. I know I’ll be fine if I just keep pedaling.” I think it’s a lesson I’ll need to learn over and over again, at least for a little while longer.
Carol A. Grund is a recovering empty-nester who writes for children and adults. Her story called “Pedal Power” appeared in 2008’s Chicken Soup for the Soul: Empty Nesters, and her first middle-grade novel will be published in April 2010.
Not What I Had Planned…….by Ginny Curbelo
I graduated high school in 1964, went to work and immediately fell in love. That tingling sensation, heart throbbing, butterflies in the stomach, knees shaking kind of love that only happens once in a lifetime. We dated, got married and proceeded to mold a life together. A life that would mean a move from NJ to FL and would bring 4 children into this world.
I loved being a wife/mother and staying home to keep those fires burning. Being a mom is the best job I ever had! I imagined growing old with my husband, raising our children together, enjoying grandchildren and spending lots of quality time together in our golden years. Don’t let anyone tell you those ‘golden’ years come with age; they are the years when your children are young and you are embraced by their lives and your own!
Well, obviously, that did not happen and after 22 years of marriage we got divorced. One child in college, one in high school and 2 in elementary school. Suddenly I had to find a job! Not an easy task when you have been a ‘mom’ for all those years but I did. I have worked ever since. Customer Service is my forte. I am currently working in a medical office with 5 doctors and I really do enjoy it; I have to since I will be working until I die, literally! I am not the wisest when it comes to saving and planning ahead, so there is no retirement fund and SS just won’t cover it!
As I prepare for my daughter’s wedding this fall I look back only with fond memories of what my children and I have shared. I sometimes wish that I could find enough money to pay off my debt and live comfortably but I am by far the richest woman I know.
My wealth lies in my children and in their children. We have a very warm, loving relationship; we are very close and believe me, they take care of me. God has truly blessed many times over.
I miss my daughter now that she has moved but I know that she is ready and I ask only that God bless her and her fiance with good health, happiness, love for each other and the understanding to know that life is a roller coaster, it has its ups and downs but if love prevails you can get through anything. My plan now is to eventually move a bit further south to NE Tennessee. I will not give up my mountains or seasons!! The move would bring me closer to all my family and the lifestyle that I have witnessed in TN is absolutely wonderful.
The other day I heard that the majority of women in this country prefer big screen plasma TV’s over diamonds; well, I am a bit odd I guess, but you can keep your plasma TV’s and diamonds; I sometimes dream of having a log cabin in the woods and to be able to share my hopes and dreams with someone special. Now that may never happen but no one can ever divorce me from my dreams.
I am basically content with my life but I sure would like to enjoy the company of others. Most of the females I work with are either very young or have significant others and so it is hard to socialize at all. I will be fulfilling one dream soon which is to go horseback riding. I used to love to do that and I can’t wait to experience it again, even though I know that I will pay for it with aches and pains, but it is a good feeling to know that you can make some of your dreams a reality.
I am not exempt from depression, I just do not allow it in my life and the few times it has come into my life it has been devastating. Depression saps the strength right out of you, it takes away every desire you have to be strong, to live and to love. So, when I feel it coming on I only allow it for a very short while and then I look around at the wonderful gifts that God has provided and I stare depression in the face and knock her down!
I am not a ‘deeply’ religious person in that I don’t attend church services (too many hypocrites) but I do converse with God and I marvel at the beauty that He has provided in this world. I see Him in every forest, mountain, stream, ocean, the sky and all his little creatures that try so desperately to survive with us humans! I suppose you have guessed that I love nature, camping, hiking and just listening to nature without the sound of traffic or people.
I am saddened at how destructive we are with our natural surroundings. When I was a little girl I always wanted to grow up to be a ‘mommy’ and that dream did come true. I will not reflect on the sadness or pain in my life because the good, the happiness and the love that I have experienced far outweighs them. Life is beautiful, wonderful and should be lived every second of every day. My adopted motto was taken from a country song: “Live Like You Were Dying”, and believe me I try to!