Across the hall, and a little to the left, just a few feet over beige carpeting from the master bedroom doors is a room which has been continuously occupied for the past seventeen years. The sounds of bedtime Bible stories, of laughter, tears, Nerf gun wars echo down to me over the years. Late night gaming, fragging zombies, the smells of sweat (teen spirit) and Axe… The sounds and smells of a life; of a boy waking, sleeping, farting, growing have faded into memory.
Because the room, the one across the hall from mine, now lies empty. The door, marked with the imprint of a fist flung in frustration, and so often closed over the past few years, now stands open–a testament to its utter lack of occupancy. It’s normal, natural, healthy, for children to grow, and go, but it all seems so soon. “Sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the years,” as the song goes. “I don’t remember growing older…” When did he? Whither that little boy with his thick, brown mop of hair, mischievous as the day is long? Where did he go?
When did become the young man who has now gone out into the wide world on his own?
I see that empty room–passing by it in morning as I’m heading downstairs, walking past it again as head into my bedroom in the evening…
I see it, and can’t help the ache welling up in me. Twenty years have come and gone since he was born, but it feels like no time at all. But I wanted more of it. One more day being a family of four, one more meal together, one more movie night, one more night knowing we were all safe and sound together under our roof. But it was not to be. He was ready; it was time to spread his wings, and fly the nest his mother and I built stick-by-stick, branch-by-branch, over the long years.
It’s normal, natural, right for him to go, but dammit it hurts!
His empty room isn’t just a room; every time I see it, walk past it, stand in the doorway, not crossing its threshold, I the ache of an empty place in my soul. He doesn’t need me in the ways that he used to. The relationship, as it should, is changed. Began changing many long, moons ago. But it nevertheless caught me off guard, took me by surprise…
Knocked the wind right out of my sails.
My son has moved out. And I didn’t quite expect to feel all these feels. But there it is regardless. I love him. And that’s what matters. I expect that empty room-sized ache will continue for sometime, to be perhaps eventually swallowed up by other joys someday as his bachelorhood eventually becomes marriage, begets grandchildren.
Aches and joys and empty rooms… Such is the stuff of life. The good, and the bad.
May we savor every moment, every breath.
Also published on Medium.