31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest: Disappointment


This post is part of my 31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest series. I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. To read my first post, with links to all the days, go here. 

“You be thinking about anything you want to do,” I told him, when we spoke on the phone about his return.

“I just want to do the home thing,” he said. “Just be there … Eat good food. You know? Food that’s not made for a thousand people.”

We had plans. Expectations. And just having him here has been enough, but I wanted him to rest, relax, be refreshed.

Yesterday morning, his first morning home, I heard him up before my alarm went off. Some things never change, and even a mama’s sleeping senses are tuned to the stirrings of her young. I knew something was wrong. But he went back to bed and Jeffrey went to school and Jeff and I went off to work.

Mid-morning he texted me that he had been sick all morning long. The vomiting, exhausted, puny kind of sick. And I felt my heart sink. What about the special dinner we had planned? What about lunch with the grands?

“It’s better to be sick here than at school,” he said, when I expressed regret that our weekend might not go as planned.

So, this morning, after sleep, I am re-imagining things.

In sleep we are once again brought back to a state of sweetness,” says Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés. “In sleep we are remade. We are reassembled from the inside out, fresh and new as innocents.”

The morning brings the new perspective and I am able to see how, in the almost-empty nest, I can impose my romantic ideas onto relationships. And while it is good to plan and prepare and try to make special, sometimes a transition needs space to just be.

What a gift just to sit with him. To walk down the street with him and his brother and Bonnie and see his pale face shine in the sunlight. I want to binge on taking him in, memorize all his freckles, and the way he moves through this space. But wisdom says, give room. Even this sudden illness is teaching me. I let disappointment rearrange my spirit. Let it remind what makes home home: not the things we do, not what we eat or how tidy the kitchen is, but the people. We are his safe place, the ever-open arms, the morning he awakens fully to, accepted and loved.

This is the best place to be sick. This warm nest. I pray it is always a good place to return to.

The winner of Deidra Riggs’s book Every Little Thing is Darlene! Yay, my friend! I’ll be in touch with you. 

Almost Empty


  1. says

    Laura, I’m not sure you can see it, being on the “inside.” But your son’s feelings are a beautiful testimony to the love and security you’ve built for him, for your family. Such a blessing, and such an inspiration to others. I pray he is well now, and that the rest of your short time together will be a bit more like you had planned. Blessings.

  2. says

    EXACTLY. No big plans, just home. And the best place to be sick, that is for certain sure. I remember at the end of our son’s first year of college, he got a terrible case of mononucleosis and had to fly home early, taking a couple of incompletes. He looked so sad getting off that plane! But we were so glad he could be sick AT HOME. And, of course, he got well. Slowly and carefully. And he made some big decisions in the light of that end of the first year experience. He opted to take a year off of school — he had sufficient APs to do that — and went to live and work at a Christian camp on Catalina Island. While there, he met the woman he married five years later. And he ended up going to Westmont instead of returning to Berkeley. Because – of course! – she was going there. And he worked harder there than he ever had at the UC. Who knew? I’m glad your boy just wanted home and mom’s good food. I am sorry he’s sick – but glad he’s not sick at school!


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