When you think of an elephant what’s the first impression or thoughts that come to mind? My sense is something that is big, heavy, slow, rugged and wrinkled. These characteristics remind of me middle to old age, would you agree? You know that place around our mid-fifties or so. Yes, I’m approaching the spot. I just couldn’t resist talking about this unpopular subject as we transition onto another year. Actually, old age shows up quite earlier than you and I would like to acknowledge. I remember turning forty years old, and soon after my daughter looked at me with tears welling up in her eyes. I asked, “What’s wrong?” She responded, “It’s sad to see you aging, dad.” That was the first time someone made reference to my aging.
So what’s the big deal about aging anyway? There must be a time in life when reality sets in and we come to grips that life is ebbing away faster than we like to acknowledge. In other words, the life we got left is a lot shorter than the life we’ve already lived, and concede, “Wow, life has brushed by so fast. The rest must go faster.” So instead of living, we pause for a moment to consider death’s approach. Let’s just make sure we don’t stay there for too long.
So how does one handle the aging blues? Some people spend lots of money making themselves look younger but they still can’t change their aging problem. “Facts are stubborn things” one once quipped. So I’ve come to a simple conclusion – walk around the elephant. We can’t avoid aging, the sag and wrinkles, but we can still enjoy life in every precious moment of each day.
If you are a parent going through the “empty nest” syndrome I may have some relief tips to offer you, maybe not! I am not good at hiding what I am going through. For instance, my first daughter was married in the fall 2007, and after her departure I felt such a void around the house. I felt someone very dear to me all the sudden disappear; life for me was changing. Within time I was able to cope and move on. For the record I’m thrilled to know she is in good hands with my son-in-law. Then, as I adjusted from this first departure, another young man fell in love with my second daughter, and vice-a-versa. On June 12th 2010, this young man came into town and we went out to breakfast. After some congenial exchanges he asked me permission for my daughter’s hand in marriage. I was elated, honored, and after some brief questioning (or torture) I said, “Yes!” However, that same day she was scheduled to depart to Phoenix for a summer job. I couldn’t help but be an emotional water faucet all day long, taking a few trips to my home office upstairs, closing the door to weep. I felt empty inside knowing I had given her up “twice” in the same day.
In social conversations with my friends I couldn’t help but struggle with bouts of emotions going from joy to sadness, and everything in between. I couldn’t control myself. During these conversations her name or the excitement of her engagement would come up and the tears would begin streaming down my cheeks. Two months later the day came when she was engaged, indeed a day of rejoicing. Happy emotions were evident all day long but I couldn’t avoid the grief I felt inside knowing she was entering into another phase of release. She came to visit the weekend after her engagement but the time flew by and she was gone again, only to find an empty room, and a void in my heart.
A few days later I took my other daughter out to lunch, and the tears began to flow once again. She asked what was wrong with me. I responded by saying, “It’s not easy releasing my kids”, referring to her departure as well.
What are some tips to help parents make the adjustment from a house filled with the life of your loved ones to the empty nest?
First, let me say it is not easy to release your kids. Emotions are part of life, when you love others you can’t help but to express them openly. The empty nest syndrome is part of life’s transitions. The reason of my emotional roller coaster ride is that I thoroughly enjoyed my kids at every stage of their lives, but life is different now. I know I will overcome and move on but until then let me be a dad.