The tears flowed. I mopped them from my face, choking on sobs and wondering why I felt such grief. Our grown children had suddenly decided that it was time for them to leave our home for a place of their own.
Actually, I was thrilled for them, even more so after I saw the beautifully maintained two-bedroom house with a deck and fenced yard. Only four miles from our place, it’s close enough for me to continue babysitting my granddaughter while our son and daughter-in-law finish school.
It’s not that I was railing against what was about to happen. I could see the benefits. I could see the disadvantages, too, but it was time, my son explained gently, after expressing his deep appreciation that we had harbored them for the past 28 months.
So I was happy for them, and yet I couldn’t stop sobbing. Yes, the grandbaby, now 19 months, won’t be wandering into our bedroom each morning to wake us up. There could be some sadness around that. And her parents might holler at her when they are feeling frustrated, something her grandparents don’t do because we have the patience that comes with having watched thousands of suns rise and set.
But, to be honest, we hollered at our kids, and in the end our children’s deep love for their daughter will prevail.
Then why the heavy heart, I wondered. I suspected it had a little to do with being at a crossroads in my life, one where mothering moves from the front burner to the back. What is it I want to do with this new chapter in my life? I’m not sure, and that’s a little intimidating, because I don’t want to waste these precious days. I’m old enough to know how precious each one is.
A spiritual guru recently counseled that it’s time to focus on me. I’ve been mothering others all my life, she said, and now it’s time to mother me. What does that mean? How does that work? I don’t know yet, and maybe this explains a cup or two of the tears.
I was driving to the store this morning, musing on all of this, when the tears resumed. I thought about how my nest is emptying out again, and, bingo, I finally understood what was going on. A current situation – my kids’ leaving – was triggering past grief.
My mother, Angela, came to live with us five years ago. I was so excited to be near her after living half a continent away for three decades, and I looked forward to sharing our home with her. But it was a short visit. She came in early September and died a few days before Thanksgiving.
My husband and I went on a cruise for two weeks during the October she was living with me. She was supposed to go on the cruise, too, but had a wound in her foot that was healing and decided to stay behind. Coincidentally, Jeremy and I just returned from a two-week cruise.
The cruise, the kids’ leaving – these events triggered the pain of losing my mom. Once I realized what was going on, I was flooded with relief – and another quart of tears. But the tears were okay now because I understood them and because they brought a familiar feeling: a mother’s love. Not me loving my offspring this time, but, rather, me feeling that my mother still loves me. And on the anniversary of her passing, it warms me up to know she’s still here. It even makes me cry.