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Chicken Soup for the Soul: Empty Nesters
$14.95
Paperback
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BOOK DETAILS

  • Paperback
  • Oct.07.2008
  • 9781935096221
  • HCI Books

JM gives an overview of the book:

This book provides support during an emotional but exciting time for parents -- sending their children off to college, new homes, or careers. With 101 stories written by parents who have been there already, this terrific book is a must-read for empty nesters or soon-to-be empty nesters. Stories about gazing at surprisingly clean bedrooms, starting new careers, rediscovering spouses, and handling the continuing, and often humorous, needs of their children will inspire, support, and amuse parents grappling with their own bittersweet new freedom. Parents, you will nod your heads, cry a little, and laugh a lot as you recognize yourselves and your almost grown-up children in these oh-so-true stories.
Read full overview »

This book provides support during an emotional but exciting time for parents -- sending their children off to college, new homes, or careers. With 101 stories written by parents who have been there already, this terrific book is a must-read for empty nesters or soon-to-be empty nesters. Stories about gazing at surprisingly clean bedrooms, starting new careers, rediscovering spouses, and handling the continuing, and often humorous, needs of their children will inspire, support, and amuse parents grappling with their own bittersweet new freedom. Parents, you will nod your heads, cry a little, and laugh a lot as you recognize yourselves and your almost grown-up children in these oh-so-true stories.

Read an excerpt »

They are gone and the house feels suddenly cavernous and silent. I knew they were leaving but now it feels as though my boys are lemmings rushing to the edge of some cliff to throw themselves off and into a void I can no longer protect them from facing.

Sounds echo in this small house and suddenly it is too big and too silent. Beneath the sounds of arguing and excitement and frustration that once filled these rooms is the sound of breathing, my breathing. The clock ticks and clicks in the living room; I can hear it from the bedroom at the back of the house. The refrigerator hums. A ghostly hand flips the light switches on and off. It is probably my imagination. I am not used to the silence.

I miss the sounds of the boys sleeping. I miss the rustle of sheets and blankets kicked to the floor, Eddie’s soft snores in the spring and fall when the air was full of pollen, and David Scott mumbling in his sleep. I could count on the soft rise and fall of breathing from all three boys in the darkest hours of the night when sleep soothed away days full of homework and girlfriends and school. It is all gone now and there is only the silence, too much silence, so much silence I cannot sleep. The sounds were a lullaby that eased me to sleep every night and without which there will be no sleep tonight.

There is still work to do, although not so much work now. There is the house to clean, meals to cook, dishes to do, groceries to buy, a yard to mow, rake, and plant, and a large stack of books waiting to be read. The books waited patiently until there were no more demands on my time and I could sit and just read.

I read the same page over and over, waiting for something. I realize I am waiting to be interrupted by rips that need to be mended, shirts and jeans to iron, homework dilemmas to be solved, or arguments to referee. There is nothing but the ticking clock and the book open on my lap I cannot get into so I invite Connie to dinner.

“I’ve always wanted to have the time and the money to travel and just write.”

Connie nods her head. “So, what’s stopping you?”

“I can’t afford it.”

“Sure you can.” My best friend has that tone in her voice, the one that reminds me of a parent talking to a very young or retarded child, explaining why it is not a good idea to stick your tongue in an outlet or play with matches. She changes the subject. “How hard is it to set up your computer?”

“It’s easy. The connections are color coded and . . .”

She interrupts. “Do you need anything special?” 

“A phone line to connect to the Internet.”

“Anything else?”

“Well, a high speed connection would be nice, but I don’t have it here, and I have the extra phone line in case someone calls while I’m working.”

“Every motel has a phone and some of them have high speed connections.”

“Yes, but . . .”

“But nothing.” She interrupts me again. “If you could afford to travel and write, you’d live in motels or hotels anyway.”

“But I can’t afford it. We went over this.” Okay, so she hadn't changed the subject. Sometimes Connie was like a dog with a bone.

“So sell the house or rent it and hit the road. Take your job with you.” Folding her arms across her chest, she waited for me to catch up.

The clocked ticked and clicked while excuses circled in my mind, but they were just excuses. “You’re right. I could.”

“What are you waiting for?”

“Winning the lottery.”

“You don’t need to win the lottery. You have a job you can take with you. You have direct deposit and you have your credit card. You pay your bills online or by phone. What are you waiting for?”

I hate it when Connie gets like this, the smug smile when she’s right, but she’s my best friend, my oldest friend, and even the devil should get her due once in a while.

Two weeks later, I fitted my computer neatly into the trunk of my car, organizing suitcases and books around the monitor and various parts. As I shut the trunk lid and went back into the house to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything, a wave of emotion took me by surprise. I expected the fear, but not the excitement. My heart pounded with the thrill of pending adventure I had not felt since the boys were young. The air was full of possibility. After closing and locking the door, I got into the car and began the first leg of an adventure that took me to visit friends in Tennessee and then back to New Orleans to research an unsolved murder and disappearance that happened over forty years ago.

That was nearly ten years ago. In that time, I have traveled to Florida in the winter, soaking up cold winds and chilling rains while running around town looking for a space heater and writing about my adventures in food while staying with a group of people living like hippies in the midst of an upscale suburban neighborhood. The house was a dark blight barely screened by overgrown hedges of boxwood twined with bougainvillea and azaleas. Shaggy palm trees shed yellow-brown leafy swords that dangled against the rough curving bark. College towns nestled in the Pennsylvania mountains, ringed with fiery reds, yellows, and golds of brilliant autumn. The murderous heat and mud rains of Dallas in the summer left me breathless. Torrential rains and spectacular frozen waterfalls of the Tennessee highlands dazzled me. The picture postcard haven of a bedroom community on the edge of the emerald necklace of parks and secret wildernesses surrounding Cleveland provided seclusion and peace. I visited and sampled the sights and sounds everywhere I traveled and finally came to rest in Colorado.

I fell in love with Colorado when my ex-husband and I were stationed at Lowry Air Force base over thirty years ago. This is where my oldest son was born and where I have always wanted to live.

Since coming back, I lived for a while in the Denver suburbs, moving up into the mountains between Vail and Steamboat Springs to live in a cabin for a few years. A couple years ago, I settled at the foot of Pikes Peak near the Garden of the Gods. My traveling days are far from over and I continue to work and write, but I do it from a converted Victorian, the mountains around Pikes Peak right outside my windows. Most mornings, it is quiet before the city and my neighbors wake. I look forward to the silence before beginning another busy day.

My boys all live on the shores of the Atlantic with their wives and their children. We keep in touch by E-mail and phone. Occasionally, I miss the arguments and constant demands that come with raising children. When I talk to my boys, my grandchildren clamor in the background, demanding attention, and I smile. I wonder if my boys will one day pick up the threads of their dreams when their children move out into the world. If not, I hope a good friend reminds them that no dream, not even old dreams packed in mothballs for “some day when the kids are grown”, are out of reach when the silence deafens them.

jm-cornwell's picture

I put most of my dreams on hold when I got married and had children. Divorce catapulted me into a different life than I had expected and my boys growing up and moving on with their lives left me unsure of what to do next. It was the silence I had craved while they were growing up that was louder than their bickering and joy that filled my life until my best friend showed me the door and reminded me that I didn't have to put my dreams on hold any more and that "Silence" is full of possibility.

About JM

Although chronologically middle-aged, I still feel like a youth except on those mornings when time, temperature and joints more used to sitting and typing than running, walking or just moving remind me I have been around a while; then I'm about 432. 

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