EMPTY NEST

bird

I wake to a crow so loud and close going back to sleep is impossible. But it’s light out. The lake has disappeared under thick fog. I take a cup of coffee out to the point and can’t see past the shoreline. Feeling chilly I quickly head back into the house looking for warmth. Last night’s dinner and campfire with Stevie, his wife and son drifts into my mind.

I feel sick in my stomach over the set-up Stevie, Terry and Brian have for the summer. They all live in a tiny 3 room apartment above the office. Brian is home from his rather extended college career. He has stopped and started too many times to count.

When Stevie takes me for a tour of his office and temporary home for the summer, I notice that Brian bunks in what was the living room. So there is nothing other than a kitchenette, bathroom and Stevie’s bedroom. Brian is over 30 years old. Where is his life?

As we eat, Brian cooks his own vegan meal, and I hear the beer can being popped open, same as the other night. He silently sips beer after beer, rolling cigarettes which he goes outside to smoke. Occasionally he says something softly, but mostly is quiet.

Where is the spark? Where is his life, friends, or girlfriend? Are Terry and Stevie continuing to hold on? Am I supposed to interject something? Like where is this boy’s life, or more accurately, man’s life? He lives like a boy, but he’s a man. Cut the chains. Let him go.

I came to visit Steve about 13 years ago after a ten year estrangement. They live about 5 hours away but near the college where Cory attended. I stayed at their home after dropping Cory off to college. I planned to stay for two nights. But as I looked around their home at so many family photos when the kids were little I began to panic. I felt claustrophobic and needed escape.

Why are these photos here? What about the present? Time to move on. I was having trouble moving on as my youngest had left the nest. I was hurting. I couldn’t contain Stevie’s emptiness too.

I left a day early in a dangerous thunder storm, so heavy I had to pull over on the thruway until I could see far enough ahead to see other cars. Could I have helped them to let their kids go by speaking up instead of running? Because so much continued after that which eventually led to their daughter’s death.

I wasn’t pretending to encourage Cory and Shane to grow and explore at the same time reeling them back in to fill my holes by making them feel incapable, worrying over them or paying their way, all things I notice Stevie has done with his kids and seems to still be doing. He worried that their life will be as hard as his was, so gave them so much they did not learn how to provide for themselves. I cannot say anything. I cannot risk the wrath that would surely come.   

We go out to sit by the lake and I light the fire previously prepared. As we sit around the warm fire, stars become evident as darkness descends over the water. We chat into evening about nothing at all. Brian silently finishes his forth beer, and the family gets up to leave.

Terry says she will drive Brian’s car and Stevie will take the truck. I ask her why, and she says because Brian has been drinking, as if it’s the most natural thing, that you drive your son back home because he has been drinking, condoning it. As if to say, that’s OK…drink, and live in my home.

No! If you drive here to visit, don’t drink. That is called enabling. It makes my stomach sick. They lost their daughter to drugs. Now enable your son? I remain silent. Stevie has a way of intimidating me, making me feel scared, and silencing me when he wants to talk and make a point.  So I am silent.

But I am not bullied. I see what you are doing and it saddens me. You continue to make the same mistakes with this child and it saddens me. And I know it is not my place to say anything. That is what therapy is for.

Stevie is highly successful in the business arena running two businesses, one which he started all on his own, the other he purchased three years ago right after his daughter died. But his kids seemed to be here to fill his holes. And now sadly, the holes are left to be filled by his son whose clinging can’t help him grow, step out, and make a life.

It is not place to say anything. Is it?

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7 thoughts on “EMPTY NEST

  1. I wouldn’t think I would say anything. My brother and sister-in-law have her son living with them, as well a another man who worked for my brother when he had his business in New York. After his wife died, he moved in with my brother and sister-in-law, as well. When I first read your post my thought was neither myself nor my two brothers had any children of their own, so there was no enabling there . . . until I thought of her son and my brother’s previous employee. Enabling? Yep! I didn’t get married or have children because I have always been afraid of “the sins of the father,” and I knew that I would treat my children the same as I was treated. I don’t guess I’m enabling anyone.

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  2. Dear friend, let me share this: in my therapy session today I talked of how my feelings of sadness for my mother when she told me of her troubles. The phrase I used was that she “gorged on my sympathy”. I realise now it was about boundaries being blurred. The sadness I felt for what she described as her situation was actually a sadness I felt for myself but couldn’t articulate… difficult to convey but I’m trying to write a poem about it. So yes, Patricia, I understand how being there, hearing and seeing what you did, made you feel sick to the pit of your stomach because “…..” and here’s the hard bit. Trying to relate that sickness, that enabling, that situation with your own and see what comes up. And no, it’s your place to work out what’s going on for you, not to rescue family members. (By the way, I’m glad you left the scene and were safe in the heavy thunderstorm). Take care now xxx

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