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Fall and the Empty Nest: Sharing our stories
Becoming an Empty Nester is Not an Ending, but a New Beginning, Right? WSG 80
Questions for empty nesters and their partners: What’s it like now that you’re alone? Good? Bad? Why? What have you experienced? I am putting together a piece on the effects of this new phase of life with input from you, the reader! Commenting is open to everyone! Please email me, email@example.com or respond to the thread I’ll send out later today…
PS…Prepare for a new look at WSG!
For starters, I’m going to use my own art for the key photo to give the WSG homepage a more unified look. And! I’m beginning a new business with the art work called Kim’s Little Women! I’m working on the site and the whole drop shipping thing (argh!) before I do too much with it. BUT, if you click the site and give me feed back, or order a print, I’ll send you one for free! The product is aimed at college aged kids, FYI. One of my kid’s says the site is the pits. So, you won’t hurt my feelings if you think it’s terrible.
It’s Fall. For some of us it’s a whole new world.
Pel and I are “empty nesters.” I know some of us don’t love that term, it is a bit sicky-sweet-sad, but, for the ease of this edition I am going to just use it. We spent the week in New Hampshire and did stuff together. We went for a hike! Played tennis in group! Played golf! Watched the US Open! It was a really nice week. The girls are all happily in their places. No emergencies. No sad calls. No anxiety for us! We actually have fun together when we aren’t being bombarded by hourly incoming schtuff. On the hike we met a man, let’s call him “Fred” because that was actually his name. Fred is the reason I am talking about the empty nest affect today.
I’m going to tell you the full story at the risk of annoying my husband. So, to set the scene: Day 4 of our time away. Beginning to relax. Still a bit twitchy, but the brain started to soar to open skies and the shoulders relaxed from our ears. Deep breath. Pel says, want to go for a hike? I say, I was just going to ask you the same thing! How about that hike he did with his brother. Not too hard with a great view. I had never done it. Cool! Drive there, buy some treats, hit the head, ready to hike. We actually brought our (my) small dog, Gidget, who is a surprisingly good hiker.
Leashed, we all set off. Ten or fifteen minutes into the hike Pel realizes this is not familiar. This may not be the hike path he and Jeff did. Pel suggests we go back and look at a map. Eh, says I. Does it matter? There’s a path. There must be a top to it, let’s just keep going. We can turn around after an hour if it comes to that. We keep going because I don’t like the idea of redoing ten minutes of the hike and he’s not interested in a squabble. So, we go on. And on.
We pass a couple who were hiking the Appalachian Trail, for real. They had made it up from Georgia. Impressive. How far is the top, we ask? They say about a third more. OK. They also note that our dog is really cute and seems a bit out of place on this hike. It gets a lot tougher large rocks and crevasses, they inform us. Not good for Gidget. Well, I say, she is a surprisingly good little hiker. I am not worried.
Fast forward to a half mile of very steep, very awkward, spiky, slippery boulders. It’s a two hand, two feet job. That’s ok. We keep schlepping up the path. Pel starts to carry Gidget. She’s twelve. She’s smart enough to know when she’s out of her element and she asked for a lift. But meanwhile, I’m worried about him falling without the use of his hands. I picture both Pel and Gidget falling and shattering on the rocks. I picture the worst, there is blood involved. Gidget starts climbing on her own again.
We’ve been hiking about an hour and twenty minutes at this point. We could turn around now, we said it was a day for a nice little hike not a full out adventure. As luck would have it we happen upon Fred, picking his way down ahead of us. He has poles and is wisely taking his time. Fred is a bit older than we are but very fit. We end up talking with him for quite a while. He has three girls, so do we! He is married (for 43 years). So are we! We tell him our story, and just to paint the full picture, it’s in the 80s, totally humid and we have gone through one of our two bottles of water. How far to the top we ask? He tells us. And, how about that other easier way down from the top that Pel had hoped was there? What’s that? asked Fred. The easier way down. From the top? There is no easier way down, says Fred. You’re thinking of the other hike. This path you’re on is the only way down. Huh. Well. That does change things a bit. Because this pretty much sucks, to be honest. He is looking at my husband when he says in so many words and in a far subtler way…”might want to quit while you’re ahead, fellah.”
But. The top isn’t too much further. About twenty more minutes on the spiky-death rocks and then another twenty of walking that’s not too hard. The view is amazing! I’ll get out the paints I brought! “I can do that!” I pipe up. No problem! We made it this far! Come on, let’s go! Fred kind of shook his head and wished us luck. I am sure he was chuckling to himself about the next hour we had in store as a married couple on a hot, hard hike with a small dog. On spiky death rocks.
Fred continues down. Pel, Gidget and I sit there looking at each other. The hike is straight up and straight down from where we sit. We are now a bit grumpy. So, no easier path down? Nope. But the top isn’t too far? Yup. And, we can go for ice cream when we get off the mountain? Yup. Let’s go down the mountain. Yup. So we go.
We catch up with Fred and have a wonderful chat all the way down the path. It was great hearing about his three daughter, all with cool jobs, all married, and each with a baby or toddler. Fred seemed really relaxed. He told us we will be too, someday. At the very end of the hike in the parking lot I ask, where is Mrs. Fred? She’s traveling out west with her sisters. There were horses and hiking involved. He was looking forward to her coming back. We said something about our kids being away, and trying to figure out how to schedule our time. With the kids in college it means we go see each of them once this fall. Traveling for seeing a kid is different then traveling for vacation. And, typically we aren’t visiting them in places we would normally travel to for vacation.
I suppose the newness of an empty nest on a couple is a bit like retiring? It changes a rhythm we’ve had for about twenty years. It’s a big deal, really. Fred brought up the toughness for his wife with the empty nest. That she could have used some help during that period of time. And, a bell went off in my head…people need to talk about this and hear other people’s points of view. So…..like I said above:
I’d like to collect a bunch of your thoughts of what it’s like to have been the sun in your family solar system for so long and becoming the moon. How is it for your relationship with your spouse/partner? The ups? the downs?
comment or email me firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to share your thoughts privately.
That’s all for now.
Remember: If you click the site ( https://kimslittlewomen.myshopify.com) and give me feed back, or order a print, I’ll send you one for free!
They are super fun!