Empty Nest in Reverse


I love my family with a passion. I know that sounds creepy but I’m not sure how else to convey it. They drive me nuts and make me happy and cause me anxiety and give me hope and all the things families do. I always wanted a big family but I love my little family (of origin and my current fam) fiercely. My parents have done everything with my brother and I in mind. I’m confident there’s not a decision in their lives that has been made without considering us. I often feel like I’m the perpetual disappointment, which is hard, as they have given me everything they possibly could in life. To use a volleyball analogy, they set me up perfectly and I’ve repeatedly spiked the ball right into the net. But I’m trying.

I caused a decent amount of trouble in high school and college but nothing too major, and my good grades have always been my saving grace. They never missed a game, a parents weekend, or anything that involved either my brother or me. In a world in which there are so many uncertainties, they have been such a constant. Even in the times when we’ve been at odds – of which there have been plenty – I always know they love me.

In a long line of critical life errors (CLEs), I borrowed the maximum to go to grad school out of state to get a degree that I’ve never used. Groan. I’m a perpetually bad decision-maker but, again, I am trying. The thing is my dad had always maintained that he would pay for my undergrad but, if I decided to get an advanced degree, I’d be on my own. Of course, he discovered a loan statement many, many years ago and realized that I’d only been paying the minimum and was racking up interest like nobody’s business. Of course, he moved money around and found a way to pay it off. Bailed out again. Hrmph.

The hard part about repeated CLEs is my parents have become a bit – ahem – over-involved in my life decisions. I get it, but it’s caused a bit of enmeshment. See? I do use my degree … sometimes! I get why they do it but it’s not healthy, which is why I’ve often thought (and admittedly at times, wished) that they should move away from me so I could try to handle things on my own. Fast forward to this coming week, and they are doing that very thing, and I’m absolutely terrified. Gulp.

Let me back up a bit to when they became grandparents. We had many of the same issues, as my mom would start everything with, “Well, back in MY day that’s not the way we did that…” It drove me to near insanity and, between my own defensiveness and intense sleep deprivation, we argued. A LOT. The thing one needs to consider when getting angry is what that person’s motivation is, and when I sat down to think about it, I know this came from a place of love, and for that I couldn’t be angry long. I know she cares so much about those kids, and that’s why she’d weigh in. And she’s Bossy McBossyPants. So there is that. Of course, in certain (okay, a lot) situations, she was right. Ugh, don’t you just hate that? In all seriousness, though, watching them transition into grandparents has been a breathtakingly beautiful thing. And, while we’ve definitely still been over-involved at times and have had to let them enjoy their role as spoiling grandparents more than decision-makers, it’s been an awesome thing to watch. My boys love them with every ounce of their being. And my parents love them with a ferocity that is astounding, so much so that I get a little jealous if I’m being honest. Grandparents are so cool, don’t you agree?

The brutal truth of the matter is that they haven’t been happy for a while here in California, and my mom has been particularly unhappy. Between a myriad of health issues on both of their sides that have been excruciating to watch and the lack of friends they have out here, it’s broken my heart. To know my mom is to know that she is the most social of all creatures on this earth and yet they’ve made so few friends out here compared to their active lives back in Chicago and Buffalo.

When my husband I split, the only place I could even catch my breath was on the couch in their house. I reverted back to college and would watch shows with them and do my laundry. I’d sleep there. It was my happy place and, of course, I know that it has to do with them – not the house, in particular. I’ve had my “baby days” when my mom would set me up on the heating pad to help my ailing back and she’d bring me my dinner. I don’t care how old you are. There’s nothing like being taken care of by your mom. I know I’m so lucky to still have them in my lives at all, as so many of my friends have lost parents to cancer or other illnesses.

So here I sit in the reverse empty nest situation. I’m in the middle of a divorce and have lost a ton of friends this past year, so the future is uncertain at best and depressing as hell at worst. But there is a huge part of me that’s so happy, as when you care about someone as much as I do about them, you want them to have the best life they can have. And for them, that’s not being here. I’ve always known in the back of my mind I’d have to eventually let them go. If you love someone that much, that’s the least you can do. I just hope I can bring my dirty laundry to Florida.


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