Ten years ago when we built our home our middle daughter moved into this room.
Back then, she was 14 years old and the room was decorated in happy colors of blue and yellow, tandems of tulips stenciled around the room. Stuffed animals galore greeted you with furry, goofy grins; soccer and volleyball apparel was strewn here and there. Her bookshelf was filled with her ever-growing pig collection and books, lots of books.
Today it is almost empty. Her bookshelf still stands, a lonely sentinel in one corner, watching over an other-wise empty room. Its shelves are still laden with her quirky pig collection and books, lots of books. Those remnants of childhood weren’t forgotten, just not really needed in her new grown-up life.
Yesterday was such a non-stop full-of-fun day with my Sisters Day Out that I didn’t have time to reflect on the fact that middle daughter’s room is practically vacant and my house is quite silent once again. This morning that realization slammed into my heart with a shooting arrow-like ache. It felt like when you smack that funny bone in your elbow on something solid and unmovable. It jolts you with a weird hard-to-describe pain. You jump around and hold your elbow, but there’s not a darn thing you can do about it but wait it out until it goes away.
That’s kind of what I experienced this morning. My husband and I are opposites in some respects. Awakening after a night’s slumber is one of those differences. He is an early bird. He wakes up at the crack of dawn, and when his feet hit the floor he is a raring to go rooster, chipper as a songbird, happy as a lark, perky as a parakeet.
I wake up. Period. And I usually want to stay in my comfy, cozy bed, not raring to go anywhere, definitely not chipper, grumpy until I’ve been up awhile. I’m just not an early morning person. It’s not that I don’t like mornings, I do. It’s not that I can’t be an early riser, I can. Just don’t talk to me for a while in the morning and expect me to be pleasantly responsive. I will be… later.
I tell you all of this to explain that my early bird who catches the worm woke me up from dreamland this morning to tell me he forgot to mention he would be home late from work today. Since I was off work today, that meant one thing — being alone for almost the entire day. Most days, that’s not an issue. There’s a lot (cleaning, laundry, and the like) to be done at home or I have free time to catch up on reading, crossword puzzles, or some project.
But today was different. It became evident that the silence in our house was deafening after hubby left for his office at o’dark thirty and I couldn’t get back to sleep. My aloneness in the house seemed overwhelming. So on my way downstairs to proceed with my day, I made the mistake of looking into my middle daughter’s room. I believe I actually gasped out loud. Like water rushing over an intense waterfall, feelings washed over me.
I realize now that those feelings didn’t rise to the surface just because my adult children have moved out of our home. After all, that room has been emptied out once before. Our kids’ bedrooms have been like musical chairs; they’ve switched rooms around from time to time.
When oldest daughter graduated from college and moved out on her own, our son, who was still in high school, moved from his smaller room to her larger one. Then when middle daughter was in college and therefore only home for summers and older daughter was moving back home for a time, middle daughter took the small bedroom and older daughter inhabited this currently empty room. If that was difficult to follow, no wonder, it was difficult to accomplish too!
So this is not the first time I’ve seen this room empty. But today, when I peered into that bare room, I experienced a major flashback to a day this past January. After my father’s death, we put his home up for sale, and it didn’t take long for someone to purchase it.
The day before the closing, I went alone to my parents’ house, where I spent most of my growing up years. I walked silently through each and every room in that totally vacant house. I touched every wall; relived so many memories; recalled the voices of my departed loved ones; and I wept. Loud, blubbering sobs of grief — for my mother, for my father, for my grandparents who also lived in that house, for days gone by, for losing my childhood home — literally escaped from deep within me. All I can say is it’s a good thing I was alone; it was that frightening.
So yesterday, gazing into my daughter’s empty room brought that feeling back with an unnerving twinge. I’m relieved to say it was not the same heart-wrenching, bone-wracking sobs I experienced last winter. It still hurt, just not as badly as it could have and I just needed to wait a bit and let the pain go away, like that funny bone zinger.
I’ve decided I want to look at that empty room with new eyes. I don’t want to see the emptiness; I want to imagine the new possibilities. I want to embrace the joyful memories and laughter we shared, but also remember that there will be new memories to make.
I’m at a fork in the road. There are new transitions to absorb and adjust to in my life and attempting to tame this empty nest thing and the loss of my father is just one of them. And I will survive.
The reason — my Savior Jesus Christ. God never promised me an earthly life without pain. He never promised me that this life would not be difficult or disappointing or that I would never experience despair, loneliness, you name it. But He does promise never to forsake me. He promises He will be with me every step in my journey. On Christ the solid Rock I stand. And that is more than enough to fill up my empty tank!
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” ~ Hebrews 10:23