I expected the discomfort of empty nest syndrome when my kids left for college.
I didn’t expect to feel it so many more times.
A few days ago I dropped my youngest, Casey, at the airport in New Orleans and watched him lug a suitcase and backpack through the glass doors in route to another teaching stint in Japan. He’d been at home for a few weeks after returning from Europe.
The same night, I hugged my daughter, Sarah, as she returned to Chicago.
A few weeks before that, I watched my older son, Dobin, drive away with his wife and my two granddaughters as they returned to southern Florida.
Partings never get easier.
I suspected for years that all three would find their job opportunities elsewhere. I’m pleased by the happiness they get from their careers and by the confidence they have to travel where fate takes them.
Still, I wish they hadn’t found lives so far flung from me and each other.
For a time, they all lived in Gainesville, Fla., where I could see them all at once and knew they were close enough together to take care of one another.
There wasn’t any Gator blood in the family, but the University of Florida was able to offer them better financial incentives than any university in Louisiana — a fact I found disappointing.
I don’t know if anyone has put together statistics to back this up, but I feel certain that young adults who go out-of-state to college are less likely to return to Louisiana to live.
Still, when my kids were at UF, my home was only empty part of the time. Summers and holidays usually found at least two of them at home.
Eventually they moved to other places.
The distances to visit them grew greater.
Their returns home became fewer and the periods shorter.
Still single, my younger son travels the farthest and returns the most. The house of his childhood is still home, and he comes back to it between stints teaching in foreign countries.
For a few weeks or a couple of months, he reclaims his bedroom while studying another language and working on the great American volume of short stories.
For a while, the nest feels partially filled. Then he stuffs his backpack one more time.
I’m glad to live in a time of email, Facebook and Skype.
I’m even gladder to share a bond with my children that is neither broken nor bent by time and distance.
When I know one or more of them will be coming home, I look forward to it for days. Arrival hugs are sweet. Waking up and knowing my progeny sleep beneath my roof erases my early morning grumpiness.
Once again they have fledged, and it will be a while before any of them return.
Sipping morning coffee, I wonder what the grandbabies are doing. Maybe it’s time to plan a trip.
Advocate Florida Parishes bureau chief Bob Anderson welcomes comments by email to email@example.com.
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