It was one of those weeks, one where the “empty nest” seems like an elusive dream. It was a week where one child called to ask about coming to dinner, and one called to ask about bringing friends home from college for dinner.
“Is it OK?”, they ask with surprising good manners and a pinch of deference, “Can I come by?” These calls make me laugh; “What?”, I want to shout, “Don’t you know that every day, and every night, and every dinner time all I want is to see your face in my kitchen?” I am incredulous. All I want is to hear your voice, smell your special smell, hold you close and sit you at my table. But I hold in my shout, keep my longing safe inside me. “Well….”, I say, pretending to think through all of my plans for the night, “I guess….sure!” My mind has raced ahead to plan the menu and arrange my early escape from work, but my words are meant to give you the reassurance that I am busy and fulfilled, and that your visit is welcome but not craved. I want you to come home because you want to see us, because you miss our house, because you are longing for just a little bit of mothering. I don’t want you here to meet my mothering needs.
And then you are here; I cook, I pour the wine, I laugh and it is a real celebration just to have you at home, breathing with us in our house. I love the conversation, the jokes, the barbs and the stories. A part of me embraces every second, every smile, every hug. A part of me steps back, and watches, and takes pleasure in the fact of your presence. A part of me steps outside of the present, to try to frame your face in my memory, so that I can pull THIS moment out later, when I might need it.
And as we stand and wave you off, and kiss you one last time, and talk about how much we look forward to your next visit, a little nugget deep inside of me sighs in some relief, and realizes that I am happy to have the house all clean and quiet. I am happy to have a night, a weekend, a few days to just enjoy my time with Dad, and with myself.
And I begin to wonder if at last I am starting to move into that next rich phase of life, where I can relish your adulthood and enjoy this life just because it is mine.