So, finally last week, I become an empty nester. After being warned about it, reading about it and reminded about it, the day finally arrived when my daughter left for her job overseas. In this COVID time, she left on one of the the special flights criss-crossing the skies. Unlike the old normal, there is no certainty about when I can travel to join her for a holiday, or any dates when she is sure that she would be able to visit.
The empty nest was therefore a double whammy for me. Friends and well wishers are very kind once the child leaves. People will call and ask ‘how are you doing?’ without waiting for a response, they will often add ‘this is life you know. We have to all let go the kids….’
The truth of the matter is that despite knowing, accepting and being forewarned – the hurt is neither any lesser nor does it abate faster.
The day she left in the morning, I went to work in the afternoon to keep myself busy. As the time to leave office neared, I found a great reluctance within me to go to the empty house. At home, a strange eerie silence seemed to envelop the atmosphere. She did not make incessant noise when she was in the house, but her presence used to float around. It would manifest in her shout from her room upstairs, or in the bag slung on the dining chair or in the mask lying on the table! The entire home was full of her in a way I realized only when she had left.
It took me two days to venture to go to her room. The neat bed, no clothes, bare toilet and empty cupboards told me silently that her days of inhabiting them were in the past. She would now be only a visitor on holidays. A desolation surrounded as I cleared the dressing table of the left over lotions and oils, and noticed that she had taken her small stuffed toy that had adorned her bedside for years with her.
So many things we take for granted when a young person lives with us. During the lockdown, she was the one who stepped out for groceries and other needs. And she was the port of call for all technology challenges. When anything did not work or the phone was giving trouble, one simply handed over the issues to her. She would fix it or find ways to do it. Now it all has to be figured out ourselves.
There are myriad ways one misses a child, simply mind boggling and impossible to recount. More so when the child in question is the only one and a friend and companion. The feeling runs deep inside – for me it defies expression.
The phone rings in the forenoon when I am at work. She is there on the screen excitedly showing me her new apartment. She steps out into the balcony and shows me the street, ‘Mom see my street!’ Its a pristine neighborhood with trees. She takes me around the space. In the bedroom, I spot the small stuffed toy perched by the side of the bed. ‘Its nice and has lots of natural light” I observe. She is stepping out for the day. We are separated not only by distance, but also by time. By the time she gets back I would be asleep in this part of the world. ‘Message me when you are back at least the first few days,’ I say. ‘Sure’
The next morning when I get up there is a message from her ‘Home’. Suddenly the pall of gloom that had enveloped me lifted. She was home and happy in her new world. It was time for the two of us to build new bridges, new connections and I had a place called home in another part of the world!