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  • Jane Leder

Empty Nesters Only This Time the Nest is REALLY Empty

My husband and I have never lived truly alone with no other being in the house. I hadn't realized that until our beloved Maine Coon cat was put to "sleep" yesterday and, suddenly, the house was empty--no cat, no dog, no son, just my husband and me. While that may sound heavenly to some, it screams lonely, empty, and unhappy to me.


I remember when my son flew off to Syracuse University for his freshman year. I cried for days. I'd walk by his bedroom and cry. I'd hear a song that we had sung at the top of our lungs when he was much younger and cried. I looked at the clothes in his closet that he had left behind and cried.


Surprisingly, it took three weeks before I forgot most of my grief because I understood that I was free! I didn't have to cajole my son to do his homework or clean up his room or fill out his college applications. I didn't have to worry when he missed his weekend curfew. And I didn't have to try to save him from disappointments or failure.


I was free! And we had two Airedale Terriers and a cat named Chloe.


But this time is different. Very different. Unlike my son who would come home for Xmas break, spring break, and for the entire summer, my sweet Augie will never return. Yes, I can look at photos and maybe feel his presence, but he is gone. Fifteen plus years he was a member of our family.


Augie was attached to me at the hip. On my lap, next to me in bed, on top of me on the couch.

He was "my guy," the member of the household I could always count on for snuggles, even kisses (though those were special and saved for very special occasions.)


What now? Bring another cat, maybe two, into the house? Start all over again? Time will tell but in the meantime, I sit here with my grief that has riled my stomach and cut my heart in two. I saw Augie in the hallway yesterday. I was sure of it. It was a box.


One thing I've learned over the years is that grief subsides, but there is a hole that never closes. It scabs over, maybe the scar is so thin that it's almost invisible. But if you look hard enough, there it is like the faint edges of the blister that seared skin off the inside of your arm when you reached off a tea kettle blowing its whistle as a warning that you ignored.


One death stirs up the pot of memories of those that came before, some of which have laid dormant or so you thought. But the grief is there ready to spew up like a volcano blowing its top. It seems that the only way to wade through the grief and come out the other side is to dive into it and dance with it.


I stopped at the health food store this afternoon to pick up something to soothe the pit in my stomach. I know that whatever I spent eighteen dollars on may be a quick, temporary fix and that it will be some time before I can walk into the house and not see my Augie boy sitting on the floor between the kitchen and the dining room or spread out on the couch waiting for me to join him.




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