August 26, 2007
Life does not get simpler. It just keeps winding along, a road which sometimes looks familiar and at other times, unknown. We try to prepare ourselves for the road ahead, its inevitable twists and turns. Sometimes we guess right. But so often, what lies just around the bend is a surprise, not exactly what we expected. It could be something as banal as awaking to rain when you’d thought the day would be warm and sunny, or as devastating as a call in the middle of the night announcing death.
Lately my mind and spirit and heart have been crowded with the expected and unexpected and my emotions have seemed to lag far behind the winding road. I knew this week was coming, the week when both of my sons, ages 19 and 16, would head out on their own. The proverbial ‘empty nest’ was coming early to the Musser household. Twenty years seems so short to be a family—a nuclear family, as they call it. It is perhaps only one fourth of a lifetime. I guess I just thought it would last longer, the years where the boys were at home with us, all under one roof, safe and accounted for.
I knew better, deep down in places of the heart I rarely visit. I knew that as missionaries raising MKs, ours would never be a life where we all stayed in one place, not one city or one state or even one country. By virtue of our calling we would be wayfarers and our children, too.
It’s just that it happened earlier than I had expected. Andrew, yes, it was time for him to leave. Well, it was appropriate—the normal age that an American teen leaves home to attend college. Never mind that he left France to go to the States and that the change was huge. It was something we gulped down and prepared for.
Christopher was another matter. For years he had been asking about attending a sports program in Montpellier, and I had always pushed that thought away, believing the timing was wrong—he was too young, the program for baseball unproven and even weak, his spiritual maturity needing to grow.
And then, this past year, I knew it was the right time—the coach would be wonderful Jean-Michel, the program was improving, Chris had grown physically and spiritually and it was time. So we sent him off yesterday, with a lump in our throats and a smile on our faces. Pasted there, and yet, assured, calm in the midst of that panicky feeling of watching him leave.
I had cried many tears in the shower. I’d taken a last wonderfully long walk with him. I didn’t feel prepared and he didn’t either exactly, but off he went...
September 11, 2007
Beau barks at six pm and I think, “Chris is home!” and then I remember that he is in Montpellier. I hang out the laundry on the line—the first load I’ve done all week, and there are 8 pairs of Paul’s underwear and 7 of mine, a few of his T-shirts, some socks. And none of those wonderful teenage clothes that littered the house until a few weeks ago. I go to the store and bypass the shelves with the cookies and the cereals and the stuff of boys. I spend my money on sending packages in the mail, I call their phone numbers and get the answering machine and everywhere, at the most unexpected times, I get that ache, that nauseous ache, that emptiness, that missing…missing what? Their presence.
Even if my days are still pretty much the same—writing and emails and walks and meeting with girls and women--it was the nights that forced me out of myself and into their lives. They needed a good dinner, they needed folded clothes, they needed encouragement on homework, they needed to talk or have a back scratched or time to just be with me. And now, they are not here. And it is hard...
September 20, 2007
I don’t know how to describe the feeling, the being, of the empty nest. In some ways, it feels like we never had children, that we’ve gone back in time and I am taking out the fine china and silverware-wedding gifts-to play house with my new husband. Truly. It feels like that.
We are happily wrapped up in each other’s love.
But then reality crashes in on my heart. Yes, it’s just the two of us, yes, we are happy, comfortable, busy with our lives, but wait! Something is wrong. Something is missing. Someone is missing. Two someones. Where are the children?
I miss them so. I can’t help it, the loneliness that sneaks up on me and taps me on the shoulder. I see a mother with her child and I think, “Never again!” I read of my sister-in-law attending a soccer game and I think, “Never again!” Never again the rush of buying school books and supplies, never again the waiting for them outside of the school playground. Never again spying them laughing with their friends in the hallway of their high school as I volunteer at the library, never again trying to dress appropriately when going to school so as not to shock the boys—or embarrass them.
This line of thinking is not healthy. It is hurting me. I guess it’s just the brusqueness of the departure. They were here, both of them, all summer long and all summer long was family time to be, just be. We walked and talked, we planned and bought, we visited, we traveled, we ate long leisurely meals outside, and the house was full of noise—their music, their laughter as they played ping pong and juggled and wrestled Beau and argued with each other, brothers bound together at last by love and respect.
Everything was for them. Praying for them, urging them gently to plan, to clean, finding ways they could help at home, watching them learn carpentry from Paul, hearing them talking on the phone to friends or looking at the computer and Face book. Most rewarding of all were the spiritual discussions, the amazing growth, the zeal for Christ, the desire to memorize verses, the way they spurred each other on. It was all there, so full, so busy, so good.
And then in a few short weeks, we’ve packed them both up and sent them off and there is silence. Oh, such silence! The house is too clean, the pool empty, the ping-pong table lonely, the grass getting longer, the clothes line just a long bare, green cord. This hurts! It hurts. I miss them so much.
I envy the moms rushing home to be with the kids. I wonder how my boys are doing, and I want to hear from them. Where are my boys? How are my boys?
I am at a loss. I am just not quite sure what to do with myself. There is always plenty to do, Lord. But I have that emptiness, that lethargy, that lack of inspiration and motivation.
Paul and I take wonderful walks, we sit at a restaurant beside the Saone and eat ice cream, we climb to the top of Rochetaillee and gaze down at life. We laugh and love. But this empty nest will take some getting used to. I guess the hurting will lessen, diminish. I guess we’ll get other ideas. I know you will fill our days. It’s not that. I trust You, Lord, for the next step.
It’s just that this one is hard to take. It really is.
I miss the boys.