Eli left a couple of hours ago, a sudden invitation. Sophie’s away at college. Unexpectedly the nest emptied tonight. Susan and I are on our own all weekend. No kids, a preview of the near future.
This should have happened before. Sophie’s been gone for a year. But during last school year, no overnight outings for Eli. Certainly not a weekend away. Sure, Susan and I left town a few times over the years. Susan’s parents watched our kids. But traveling alone isn’t an empty nest. It’s a vacation.
The empty nest seems weird. I feel like we should be doing something special. Date night, maybe. But the kids are teenagers. We can go out any time we want. Instead, we cooked a frozen pizza and watched an episode of Bob’s Burgers—a show about a family that we usually watch with our kids. Now, we’re apart for the evening. Right next to each other in our family room, but separate. Susan reading, me writing this. The empty nest is about being comfortable at home without the distraction of kids.
It terrifies me. I lose sleep thinking about our future. I worry about my conversation skills. Worry that Susan will be bored living with me. Talking isn’t my strong suit. I rarely know what to say. Often, driving with Susan or one of my kids, I’ll realize no one has said anything lately. I try to think of a topic to discuss, a news story or something about work, but I go blank. I think harder, I blank more. I panic and say something stupid, something that deserves no response. Or I sit quiet and stress.
Eli’s a junior. An adult in two years. Away at college or maybe a home of his own. This weekend is practice, a trial run. A chance to view my weaknesses, plan remediation. A chance to get used to silent companionship with short talking breaks. A chance to grow closer to my wife.