A man from the Salvation Army store came, took one look, and stammered something about being right back.
A few hours earlier, we’d described on the phone the amount of surplus furniture filling our extra-large double-car garage.
“I’ll be there with the van,” he’d said.
“How big is your van?” I asked.
“Oh, one of those big commercial panel vans,” he replied. “It’s really big.”
“I don’t think it’s going to be big enough,” I suggested, helpfully. “There’s a bunch of surplus furniture . . . three bedrooms full of our kids’ stuff and some of our own we don’t use anymore. Fills our entire double garage.
“The kids are out on their own now you know,” I explained, lamely.
As if he cared.
“The kids told us they didn’t want ‘that old junk,’” I added, trying to inject some levity — unsuccessfully. “So, it’s your lucky day. You might want to bring something bigger.”
“It’ll be fine,’ he said. His tone of voice seemed annoyingly patronizing. I raised my eyebrows, to myself.
‘Whatever,’ I thought, impatiently. We had company arriving from out of town that day. The schedule was already tight.
The doorbell rang. The guy from Sally Ann had a friendly look on his face. Was there a hint of smugness? Well, I tried to convince myself there was. It probably wasn’t true.
Nearest access to the attached garage was through a side door next to our front door. I’m just guessing about this, mind you, but when the house plans were approved, chances are some bureaucratic control freak believed direct entry to houses was unsafe. He’s been proven wrong tens of million of times since, of course.
Anyway, I reached in and pushed the button to open the big garage door.
The Sally Ann guy disappeared around the front corner of the garage, heading toward his van, backed into our driveway. He opened the two back doors. Then he turned around . . . and stopped.
By then, I’d caught up. As he gazed wide-eyed into the garage, his jaw dropped noticeably. He looked over at me, sheepishly.
Closing the back doors of the van, he mumbled something like: “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
The guy arrived an hour later driving a three- or four-ton truck with an enclosed box. And this time he got lucky . . . again. Our company had arrived by then and while our wives visited, my friend and I helped the guy load. It almost filled that big truck.
Looking back, we should have known.
Friends had warned us: “Your kids won’t want that stuff,” meaning those expensive beds, lamps, tables, dressers, TV’s and other stuff we’d bought with great anticipation to prepare our brood for their start of life on their own.
We were wrong . . . twice over.
First, our friends were right. The kids didn’t want ‘that old junk’. In fairness, they wanted to begin furnishing their own ‘place’ with their own brand of ‘stuff’. Can’t blame them for that, of course.
Second, we didn’t count on them being part of the boomerang age. That’s when your kids leave home and take a few things with them . . . mostly yours, including favorite clothing. They come back, weeks or months later, sometimes even a year or two later. They’ve brought with them special treasures – some looking an awful lot like back-alley or curb-side “free” pickups. It all gets stowed somehow in ‘their’ rooms with all ‘that junk’ they’d left behind earlier.
After more free room and board for months or years, those ‘little darlin’s’ venture forth once more . . . to the mutual relief of all concerned. The kids are impatient now to be out of ‘the old folks’ orbit, and rid of our old-fashioned ideas, our music and our boring friends. Mom sheds no tears this time. Look closely – that’s relief in her eyes. Dad is unable to suppress an audible sigh.
And guess what?
Your offspring have decided they’re not taking any of ‘that old junk’ with them. Nothing! Nado! Nix! Well . . . except for your almost-new big screen plaza TV in the family room, and the X-Box you bought online and had delivered last week.
But, hey, now you get to use your own car again. Life is good!
All is forgotten and forgiven, though, when they return home once again, this time to visit! Yes, to visit . . . to visit with your grandchildren in tow.
That’s when you vow, ‘The next time around, I’m gonna skip the parent thing and go straight to being a grandparent!’
In early 2004, my wife of 38 years was nearing the end of her battle with cancer. Our grief over her impending death and our lost life together seemed unbearable at times. Grief is debilitating. One thing above all helped preserve our sanity. It was humor. Family and friends who visited the palliative care unit in those last weeks often stared in bewilderment when they came upon us in her room sharing laughter over a joke, a turn of phrase or a humorous double meaning. I have learned that humor has enormous power for coping and healing. It was our saving grace. And so, it is with that spirit in mind that the modest humor of ‘Empty Nesting’ is dedicated to those beautiful little children, to the brave adults who tried to save them, murdered in their school in Newtown, CT., and to their bereaved families and friends.
Yes . . . our hearts are broken.
— James Osborne
(Images: All images are in the public domain except those courtesy of The Salvation Army)