My Empty Nest Gets an Infusion of JOY

Have you ever had the moment where you think, gosh now I know what my parents experienced with me? This just happened!

My oldest son came to town, yes, it’s still home, but he is in that in-between phase where he has a full-time job elsewhere and comes home irregularly. In fact, he has not been in the house with me for over four months.

When he bounded out of the airport, to be honest, I hardly recognized him, because I was looking for my son and out walked a man! There was a man with a smile for his mom from ear to ear and a hug that knocked me off my feet.  This kid radiates joy; he talked nonstop about the plane trip, the people he met, absolutely everything that we hadn’t caught up on in person for months.

He shared with me about the older gentlemen he sat next to on the first flight, a man who was a pilot and who “cussed more than grandpa”. Listening to him talk about this gentleman, I could see an enormous sense of respect for someone who was “old” and wiser. Doug remembers people and makes connections. He is the person who keeps in touch with all his buddies and keeps them connected. He is THAT friend, because he loves it; it fills him; He is JOY!

Then there was the guy at the airport that was rude and not updating passengers about the delayed flight. Because Doug could read the passengers and sense the restlessness among them, he challenged him in a respectful way. His comment to me, “Mom, it is simple, think of other people and just give an update?” He SEES others around him.

He was like a little kid at Christmas walking into the house; going through each room, looking at any changes I had made. It is home, but it is not home…he paused at one point and said, “I miss the smells of home; there is something about this house!” In between all the exploring, there were hugs and smiles and relief and JOY.

In that moment, as I listened to him talk, with animation and intensity, and exude large amounts of energy, and take over the room, I had this thought, “This is what my family, particularly my parents, must feel like when I come “home” or see them.” There’s the safety of sharing everything, no matter our age. There’s the joy of home and what that signifies at the most foundational level. It’s energizing and contagious.

As he helped me with yard work, including trimming bushes, in preparation for the winter, we heard a siren and he said that he still gets excited when he hears that and he hears it every day for his job. His smile signifies joy (which is way different than happiness) and contentment in work and play and life. And then there was the motorcycle ride he took me on around the neighborhood; seriously, how cool is it that my 21 year old career firefighter wants to bless me with such experiences! True JOY!

Each stage of parenting is uncharted territory and this is no exception. Getting glimpses of what my parents have experienced with me over the years is a blessing. Sitting from a place of observing my son striving to be better, already taking notes about goals he has for his future while still not missing the NOW in his life, blesses me. He lives in it, loves in it and radiates JOY!

So my empty nest, to which I have been gradually adjusting the past two months, had a rush of energy and laughter and hugs and adventure and tender moments, but most of all JOY. That will be the residue left when he flies out on Sunday. In the moments when the silence overwhelms me, I will not allow sadness to remain very long, because Doug is a great example of living NOW, content in the situation and focused on bringing JOY to other people.