There are moments in my empty nester life where I feel as if the only possible description for me is “pitiful”. Mostly I’m OK. But there are moments. There are most definitely those pitiful, painful moments.
Sometimes I know I’m pitiful when my entire mood is lifted by a text from one of my kids, with a little smiley face or a picture of a beautiful view that he wanted to share with me.
I definitely feel pitiful when I wake up at 3 AM and run through the list of who might be sleeping under my roof, only to realize that none of my children or their friends are at our house.
But yesterday I had that moment of ultimate pitifulness, when I pulled into the driveway and threw open my car door so that I could hear the joyful cries and howls of my two dogs. I grabbed my bags and rushed up the stairs to hug those shaggy necks and feel those sloppy kisses. Tucker indulged in his usual verbal greeting (“Halloooooooooooooo!”) but Sadie gave herself, heart and soul, to a beautiful soprano solo in which she expressed her absolute ecstasy at my return. Her voice rose and fell as she threw herself at my feet to show her devotion.
I talked to the two of them as they raced around the kitchen and took turns rubbing their big bony heads against my knees. “How are YOU?!”, I heard myself ask in the falsely cheerful voice of a nursing home aide. “Did you have a great day?!” I found myself chatting as I hung up my jacket and put away my school bag. I made dinner and fed them both, while sharing little stories from my day.
It was at some point in the evening, as I leaned in to kiss Tucker’s forehead, that I realized how completely I have replaced my little ones with my big hairy ones. I remembered evenings where I told stories about school to my family, but where the listeners could ask me actual questions. I remembered hugs and homecoming kisses from family members who could throw their arms around me and tell me that they loved me. I remembered making dinner with children who could help me make a salad or set the table.
And so tonight I sit here, with my big furry smelly dogs. I am so grateful to have them to sing to me when I come home. I am so happy, at this stage in my life, to have someone here who is overcome with joy at the sound of my car. Pitiful or not, I am happy to be sharing my nest, even if my “chicks” are shedding and drooling on my couch.