Everyday Joys: My dread of approaching an empty nest

EDITOR’S NOTE: I asked Denise Dykstra of Martin if she’d like to write a column for Townbroadcast. This is her first entry, which she already had posted on Facebook:

by Denise Dykstra

We were at lunch — at lunch! In our favorite restaurant! And my dear friend, the one who knows me and my heart so deeply, asked a simple question after our waitress delivered our iced teas.

“How are you?” she asked.

“I’m OK,” I replied.

Except, I choked on the word ‘OK’ and had to swallow hard.  I looked down to quickly blink the tears out of my eyes.  I swirled the melting ice in the fresh brewed tea, took a breath, looked up at my friend and said, “I thought I was good.”

The overwhelming emotions took me by surprise and this friend dived in, asking a few questions and trying to get to the bottom of my surprised reaction.

“Are you writing?” she asked me after a bit.

I shook my head slowly.  “No.” I shrugged, “what is there to write about?  I mean, it’s just me adjusting to having half of my boys home and we are doing nothing thrilling.  I don’t have anything to say.  I have no idea what I would write about.  And who wants to read from somebody who thinks they are good but then cries in a restaurant?”

“I think you have something,” she told me in an absolute way.

For days these words have been rattling around in my head and I keep hearing a whisper of “Write it down.  Share it.”

So that’s what I am doing.

I am up in my cozy study.  It’s so hot and humid, even my plants are droopy.  The ceiling fan is spinning loudly and rattling the light fixture hard enough that I am afraid it may fall to the floor.  I am searching to have some deep insightful words to leave you with.

But I don’t.

Straight up, this year has been hard on me.  Quarantining during Covid gave me so many gifts amongst all the bad that was happening, the largest gift being all the time with all four of my boys. I would list the joys of my every day and ask on social media “What is your joy today?”

I realized today TODAY was the day that I ended that one year ago.  It’s not lost on me that on the one year anniversary of ending that chapter finds me typing away about this new chapter I am on.

I wish I could tell you what this new chapter was called. I wish I could tell you what the book was called.  But I’ve got nothing.

Tell me I am not the only one who feels that way.

Since Quarantine “ended,” my husband’s brother died, my older son got married, my second son left for the Navy, we started a school year, we had to pull our third son out of school that he had attended since preschool and enroll him elsewhere and my youngest son suddenly felt the loss of all the things this year.

That, in a year that I have been living in such fear of the “what if” and “what now?”  The year that was supposed to be the comeback year kind of hit us hard with even more adjustments… on top of all the other things happening this year.

I am not the only one who has had A YEAR.

And tell me I am not the only one who realized I may have an issue with control and realized how I had exactly NONE.

I can’t be the only one barely hanging on some days, trying my best to adjust and roll with changes and thinking I am really doing well until I suddenly start crying at a simple question.

I can’t be the only one who has felt themselves pulling away from life moving on and sequestering away where life makes a bit more sense… in my own home.

The other day I was so tired.  Thanks to beginning menopause (oh yah, that happened too this year), my emotions can be kind of all over and my sleeping is weirdo.  As in, some days sleep is about non existent and what you need to know is I really really really like sleep.

On this day, I had made my youngest son and his friend some lunch and I was lying on my bed just allowing myself to rest as I waited for the phone call to pick up my other son from work.  I somehow managed to drift off to sleep but the dream I had left me gasping and clawing awake.

I was watching my two oldest stand in a driveway and wave good-bye to me.  My oldest son has this funny little wave he does and he was waving and doing his smirky “I’m not smiling” smile and my second son was standing all tall and lanky with his one hand resting on his back and his other one waving a big broad wave to me.

“NO!” I called out, “I’m their mama!  I can’t leave yet!  No!”

But I was being hauled away as I tried to run to my big boys, who are men, and give them one more hug. Just one. more. hug.

This dream I had still makes me cry.

I am so happy for my big boys, my men, and the lives they are living.  I am so bursting proud of them.

I am so happy I get to be their mom and I still have two boys at home.  These two at home?  We have so much fun!

I seriously can find the joy in the everyday. Every day there is joy!

But I think maybe I am not as good as I think I am and maybe writing it out and sharing it with you will help me and in turn also help you.

It’s a journey I am willing to try.  Thanks for coming along.


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