Years ago, I left home to go to the University of Houston. Technically, I left my job working along the Mexican border to go home, pack my belongings, and then leave home for Houston. Whatever, at some point I remember standing in front of my father, saying goodbye as I left home for the last time. This must have been very difficult for my father.
“You can’t go off to college yet,” he said.
“Why not?” I was pretty sure I that could, as I distinctly remembered having been finally being granted parole from high school. My life time sentence had been commuted after only 12 years of brain washing in a horrible penal colony.
“You don’t have a typewriter,” my father answered. Obviously, he was using the first thing that came to mind.
I didn’t understand at the time, but if my dad thought I needed a typewriter before I could go to college, I would oblige him. I don’t remember where I went, but I bought what I think was a used Remington portable typewriter. I put it in my car with the rest of my belongings and drove to Houston. At the time, I didn’t realize how upset my father was.
Today, however, I know his anguish only too well. My son, The-Other-One, is being transferred out of town. And, being totally selfish, he is taking my granddaughter, the Munchkin and her mother, the Leprechaun, with him. This leaves me standing on the driveway trying to think of reasons why he can’t leave. I wonder if he would believe me if I sent him out looking for a typewriter. I wonder where he would find a typewriter in this digital age.
My other son, What’s-His-Name, already lives several hundred miles away, and while I’m not exactly happy about this, when he left, there was still one boy in town. After all, for years I have been telling the two of them that one of them was just spare parts. If either of them pissed me off, my wife and I would keep him around just in case the remaining son ever needed an organ transplant. Now, not only are they both gone, but they went several hundred miles in opposite directions.
I really shouldn’t be surprised that this boy is running away just about the time he started being interesting. I remember his first day of school. He was terribly excited, could not wait, and was just dying to ride to school on the bus with his brother. Finally, the school term started and he ran to the waiting bus with his brother. Not once did the little bastard look back at his mother and me, left standing there in the yard with our mouths open. When the bus rounded the corner, I felt so faint that I had to sit down in the grass with my head between my knees. I wonder if that is what my father did after I drove off towards Houston.
This empty nest syndrome crap is not very funny. I keep having dreams where the boys are about 20 years younger and running across a park. No matter how fast I try, I can’t catch up with them. I wake up in a cold sweat, but the reality of them both being only several hundred miles away is not much comfort.
It doesn’t take much insight to realize that I am worried about losing my little boys. I really do know better: if my sons did not leave and go out on their own, they would probably not be worth keeping.
Neither of them has actually lived in this house for years, but suddenly the house seems ridiculously empty. Where are the toy cars with chipped paint? The little airplanes? Why in the world do we own a pool if there is no one squealing with joy while splashing around in it?
Maybe some good can come from this tragedy. Maybe this is a opportunity for my wife and I to grow closer, to start planning a life without children. I look over at the Doc, my wife, and she has taken off her glasses, wiping her eyes. She is having her own empty nest problems.
“You know, Honey,” I say. “Without your glasses, you look like the young girl I married 36 years ago.”
She smiles, looks at me and says, “Without my glasses, you look okay, too.”