The house is empty; the chicks have flown the coop

September is the last hurrah. Well, at least it marks another significant milestone in life. My kids are off the payroll (well-mostly).

Last week, my last child moved away to start his great adventure in life. He moved up to the D.C. area to take a job. He joins his two other siblings in working for the government. I suppose I should take solace in the fact that at least the family is getting something back for all the tax money the IRS has collected over the years (although I think that I am still operating at a significant deficit In that regard).

I have been test-driving the separations for a number of years as the kids all moved off to college. Yet, there was always the comfort of knowing they would be back for extended periods during their breaks. It was so easy to get used to them being around: lunch or dinner, a movie, golf, or hanging out and watching the game. If not today, we’ll do it tomorrow.And then there is not a tomorrow, at least not for that.

At that time, there was a comfort in the belief that the parting would be temporary. It provided something to look forward to. However, their move away to start their careers has a permanency that creates a gaping hole in your heart that expands the small cracks that opened when they left for college the first time. Watching a child drive away is one of the most melancholy occasions I have experienced.

On the flip side, in some ways it is almost a relief. There is a certain joy in becoming an “Empty Nester.” More time for myself and Barb. We recently bought an RV. I have always wanted to take an extended trip out West. There is much of this country I have not seen and I look forward to the opportunity to experience those places.

In a small piece of irony, our major outing to date was to go to a Labor Day tailgate at Virginia Tech. My sons were there for the weekend and my daughter stopped by on her way from here to there. It was really the “hurrah” of which I spoke in the beginning.

Such events have become my family reunion. All in all, about thirty kids (if you can call young adults in their mid-20s, kids) came in. We had been making this trek for seven years with our good friends, the Pry’s. They and my son’s friends are truly our extended family. The joy we experienced as the kids let us into “their world” is immense. If for only a brief time, we are not outsiders.

And, then they are gone. This time, there is not the expectation they will be home for every holiday. There is always the belief, that somewhere in the mix is a place for you, but it will no longer be on your terms. There are other commitments, other people they must accommodate as their lives become more mature and relationships develop.

You have always known this day will come. You have been preparing them all their lives to leave the nest. It is critical that they do so. It is rationally part of the cycle of things, but the growing empty feeling inside answers to no reason.

You have tried to instill the right values and knowledge. Perhaps you were too hard on them. Perhaps your problems left them with scars. There are always regrets, but in the end they seem to have turned out OK.

Your job is done, it is their time to test out their wings. They seem to take to the wind like they are born for it, which we sometimes forget they were. I am immensely proud of each of them.

They are scared, but they are also bursting with anticipation. That is such a heady time in one’s life. The world if full of possibility and opportunity just for the grasping. Perhaps some of my emotion comes from a longing to experience that feeling once again.

This is not my journey alone. Every parent has had this experience in one form or another. We each deal with the change in different ways. My heart goes out to all of them because I now know the feelings: Joy; Loss; Pride; and Fear – the entire gamut of emotions.

Most of all, to our children I wish “God Speed.” You are in for one helluva ride.

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