Empty Nesters, For Real This Time

Brett and I are finally empty nesters.

Our youngest, YaYu, began college two years ago, but at that point we had no nest. We had sold most of our stuff, our car, and when she took off so did we. The label “empty nesters” didn’t seem to fit.

But, once again we have a nest. We have furniture, appliances, linens, and dishes again. We have a car. We have our clothes hanging in closets instead of folded into a suitcase. We’ve been sleeping our own bed since the first of April. The few things we put into storage are back with us. We are happy to be settled again.

When YaYu headed back to college last week, her absence delivered an unexpected jolt along with a deep feeling of emptiness. She had been with us full time since the end of March, and it took us a few days to realize she wasn’t just hanging out back on the deck, or laying on our bed to read. She wasn’t going to help me fix dinner. She and I weren’t going to study Japanese together. Even though we were ready for her departure, it was quite a shock.

Brett and I were full-time parents for 40 years, with only a short six-month break between taking our son to college and Meiling joining our family. There were always kids around doing kid things, needing kid things, from babies through high school. They kept us constantly busy, made messes, argued with us, studied hard, played hard, ate us out of house and home, made us laugh, made us cry, and a couple of times even scared us to death. They always made us proud though. We loved them unconditionally and always felt loved unconditionally in return. Our goal was always to give all our children roots and wings, and prepare them to fly out of the nest on their own to live as good citizens and good people. We feel like we accomplished that goal.

So now it’s just the two of us. We don’t have a new destination or another adventure to fall back on these days and are instead socially distancing ourselves at home most of the time. Brett and I make our own calendar, arrange our own time, eat what we want, fulfill our own needs. It’s wonderful but it’s also a very different experience for us, almost unreal at times. The lack of children in our home has also been a reminder of our own mortality – we knew how old we would be when YaYu left home, and we’re now past those ages.

We are thoroughly enjoying being a couple again, but we also miss our little birds. Other than YaYu coming back at Thanksgiving, we’re not sure how long it will be until we’re able to see our other children again. We have always gathered for the holidays, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen this year. It’s not just because of the pandemic – they have jobs, and adult lives and responsibilities that don’t allow them to easily get back here these days. Life goes on though, and there is video messaging, Zoom, and other ways to stay close and in touch. But the nest is finally empty, for real this time.

11 thoughts on “Empty Nesters, For Real This Time

  1. Having an empty nest has it’s advantages & disadvantages. Your writing was very well said in every aspect. I miss my daughter so much sometimes & she has been out of the house for about 15 years.

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  2. You and Brett have so much to be proud of in your children and grandchildren. Volunteer service can be rewarding. If you were ever going to write books or paint pictures, this is the time. Develop a meditation practice. Savor this time. Plan more travels than you can ever fit into a lifetime. Nature abhors a vacuum. Your time will fill up before you know it. And this pandemic won’t last forever.

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    1. Thank you, Linda. Brett and I do have big plans, but for now we’re content to mostly stay home and enjoy just being on our own. Every day though is a reminder of the kids not being with us any more, both good and bad.

      Funny thing about the book – my senior prediction was that I would write the great American novel. Hah! I’m content writing a small blog. And planning for future travel. When the pandemic lifts, Brett and I hope to get involved here with beach clean-ups.

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  3. You’ve done a great synopsis of the empty nest. We have had an empty nest for most of our marriage, since it was a second for both of us and all our kids were grown. We’ve had brief stretches of kids living back with us, but nothing long. It really does have its ups and downs, but overall, we enjoy the empty nest. There is definitely a sense of our mortality, though.

    The one thing we aren’t used to is having no dog. We had our buddy for 13+ years and it’s really been strange to have him gone. We both keep looking for him in odd ways. Those muscle memories and patterns of movement and daily schedules are really ingrained. That said, we’re not sure we will have another dog at this age. Ironically, I was the one who didn’t want a dog and I’m the one who would seriously consider it again, I think. 🙃

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    1. Our son was born just about a year and a half after Brett and I met, so we’ve really always had kids around (and prior to his arrival we stationed apart courtesy of the navy). I thought I would melt when we dropped our son off at college, and it’s felt the same as each of the kids has left. We’re adjusting though – it helps that the apartment is small – one of the upsides of being on our own is that the apartment is feeling less crowded.

      I never wanted a dog either, and yet I think I took our beloved Tag’s death worse than anyone. Yes, the muscle memory were there – for days I kept looking for him in the kitchen where he would sit and watch me cook. Brett doesn’t want another dog; like you, I’m the one who seriously considers it.

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  4. You should be proud of yourselves for raising 4 wonderful people. I am amazed at all the love you had in your hearts to take on such a responsibility. A job very well done! Now is the time to enjoy the quiet a little bit, travel some more when it is safe and enjoy grandchildren, hopefully many more of them. I like your version of the Great American Novel. Every post has something new to look forward to whereas, a book is finished so quickly.

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    1. Thank you for your lovely comment!

      We are very proud of our children and of all they have accomplished. We have always felt like the fortunate ones, that we got the best of deal when it came to each of our children and all of them have been worth the effort.

      We are enjoying the peace and quiet a bit more as the days move on, and the ability to get out and do things locally on our own, as well as shop for just the two of us versus a third (with very particular food tastes!).

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  5. Well said! We’ve been empty nesters for several years, but being empty nesters after retirement has a whole new look and feel! Covid blew our international travel plans for this year, but hopefully next year we will be able to travel again. In the meantime, we are happy that one of our children lives close by and we get to see those grandchildren frequently. That can keep us pretty busy if we choose. LOL!

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  6. I was reading your blog when you were doing a year of travel and trying to decide where to settle when you finished. I remember that San Clemente was high on the list. Then your blog seemed to fade away, or I faded away. Anyway, I lost track. I live in Riverside County and occasionally get over to the coast. Whenever I passed through San Clemente I would wonder if you guys had settled there.

    Imagine my surprise when I found your blog again this morning and you were back in Kauai . What made you chose to return there, if I might ask?

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    1. Hi Anne – last Christmas our daughters sat us down and let us know they hoped that when it came time for us to resettle that we would go back to Kaua’i. They all felt we had been happy here, and of course they all wanted a reason to come back as well. We had to leave Japan fairly quickly this past March – Americans were being urged to return to the U.S. as travel routes shut down – so we got our ticket changed and came back to Kaua’i. We realized the minute we got here that we had made the right choice, that we had come home. And honestly? It’s currently less expensive to live here right now than it is back in San Clemente.

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