I know, I know, I have to right to this feeling, but here it is.
Well, here we are. On the cusp of summer. A time of relief, a time of freedom, a time of joy for every teacher on earth and almost every kid.
But I’m not feeling wahoo.
I know. I have absolutely no right to this feeling that is pulling me down like an anchor into the deep. I have been the luckiest grandmother I have ever met. I say that in all seriousness and all honesty. I have pinched myself a million times over the past seven years.
When I was pushed out of teaching, I stepped right into the most wonderful role in the world. I became the primary daycare provider for my grandchildren.
I am so lucky!
So why am I fighting off tears this week?
Well, I guess because all good things come to an end. And because my last go-round with the empty nest resulted in a whole lot of sadness, grief, reinventing and a fair amount of disbelief.
Tomorrow will be the last time I will be Johnny’s caregiver. He has delighted in twice-a-week preschool and is off to conquer the world of kindergarten next fall. He is more than ready. In spite of his nerves, he is eager to head off to school every day with his Mom, who teaches at his school, and his sister who will be entering the second grade.
My heart is so heavy. How did this happen so fast?
I know, I know, I know. I am being ridiculous.
I have friends who would love grandchildren but don’t have them yet. I have friends with grandchildren across the country or across the globe. I know too many people who are estranged from their children and don’t know those beautiful grandkids. And I have friends who have suffered real grief, true grief, as they have lost their children.
So I promise, I am not whining. I know, I know, I believe that my luck and my blessings are far more than I deserve or have earned.
Tomorrow will be the last time that Johnny will come in for breakfast and ask for “all the cereal, all together, with milk!” We won’t have our daily game of hide n’ seek or Pirates. I will no longer sit beside him with a bowl of pretzels as he explains which guys are villains and which are good guys in his shows.
I think that this time it is harder for me. Ellie moved on to public school at the beginning of this year, but because of Covid, I got to see her progress through kindergarten online. I got a bonus year.
But as she went into first grade last September, I realized just how different our relationship would be. Sure, she still loves me and tells me that often. She asks to sleep over. But she isn’t that little needy girl anymore. She has her life, her friends, her preferences.
And that’s GOOD! As it should be.
I don’t care that it’s good. Not deep, deep down in my heart. Down there, I want to go back to the days when she needed me because she couldn’t open a box, or because her nose was running or because she felt sad.
She went off to school and I miss her.
Next year, I will miss Johnny.
It is what it is, and it is as it should be, and I am so lucky and I feel like a fool.
But I am sad today. I do not have the many talents of so many of my retired friends who paint, and garden, travel, and refinish furniture. I have one great skill; I take care of kids.
I hope that next fall I will have Max here with me. Our funny, smart, goofy 2 year old Max. I so hope that he will be my charge for next year.
But there’s a medical issue that might make that difficult. I don’t know yet, and won’t know until mid-summer when I find out if I will need invasive surgery or non-invasive to deal with a benign tumor on my acoustic nerve. I feel like it’s all out of my hands, and that is a feeling that old Nonni here does NOT enjoy.
Today I am sad.
I hope that my ridiculously good luck will hold for a bit longer and Max and I will spend next year playing, cooking, reading books and making decorations for various holidays.
But I am grieving, as silly as that sounds, because Johnny is flying from my nest.
I have tried to write this post at least 20 times, but my embarrassment has stopped me.
I am so lucky.
I know it.
But, wow, it is so hard to empty the nest again.