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Life moves on in an empty nest

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Posted: Tuesday, April 15, 2003 10:00 pm

Life. It's all about moving forward, growing older, moving on, stepping back, and looking forward. We celebrate some milestones and mourn others.

We embrace the future, and long for the past. We marvel at life, and sometimes curse its existence. We can breathe a sigh of contentment or sigh in resignation. We laugh at fate and cry at the hand we're dealt. We live life, but ultimately pass away from this existence. We resist change, but change all the same.

For life is nothing without change.

Theresa Larson

My life is no different. I've endured the changes, the bumps, and the bend in the road. My life has flourished and it has floundered. I've experienced great beauty and suffered at the hands of human ugliness. I've learned that change is both good and bad, and that resistance to change is futile.

I have gone from being a little girl who loved her parents, to being a young woman in love with a man. I became a young mother who loved with all her heart and soul, to an adult woman that discovered how much love can hurt. I evolved into a mature woman that discovered, once again, how wonderful love can be. And I have watched life unfold before me, unwilling and unable to stop its progress. I have endured the changes.

But nothing compares to the changes I have had to withstand as a parent.

Of all that I have seen, of all that I have done, nothing in my life has compared to the depth of emotion that comes with being a mom. I have loved my children and nurtured them and protected them with a fierceness that I never knew could exist.

Parenting is a tough job, and it is not for the fainthearted. It takes resolve and perseverance and tenacity in the face of obstacles. The depth of love and emotion felt for my children leaves me vulnerable. And with vulnerability comes the opportunity for great joy and moments of indescribable sadness. I have never done anything I have enjoyed as much as being a mom.

As a mother, I have prepared my children for living. But nothing has prepared me for their leaving. Logically, I knew it would come. One by one, it has happened and each time a piece of my heart has left with them. The day when my house would be completely empty of children's voices seemed so far away.

And now, it's here.

I watched, over the last couple of weeks, as my daughter Melissa carefully packed her childhood possessions into boxes. I listened to her excitement as she told me her methodical plan for her move to Roseville. I witnessed the flush of anticipation as she talked about her new job. I reassured her when she worried about her furniture fitting in the bedroom of the house she will share with her best friend.

My heart simultaneously swelled with pride at her approaching womanhood and withered in pain as I watched the undeniable finality of the change that I am about to endure.

Some don't understand my sadness.

"You're going to love having your house all to yourself."

Right now, at this moment, I don't love it at all.

Fortunately, I have been blessed with many friends that have taken a moment to check on me, to gauge my mood as the day that my baby was to be gone from my house approached. And despite her excitement, Melissa tried to be sensitive to my sense of loss.

"Mom, can you help me set up my new room? I don't think I can do it by myself."

I know that her request was both an attempt to soften the blow of her leaving and a quest for reassurance over any apprehension she may have felt over her move into adulthood.

Nearly 28 years to the day when my first child was born, my last, my baby girl, squeezed me harder than normal before I drove away from her new home. How is it that an event as monumental as this had come to such a quiet end? I can still remember my babies - how they looked, the sound of their voices, how they smelled. Shouldn't something that feels so sad have a sound louder than this deafening quiet?

The process of parental evolution is miserable. And one day soon, I'll be OK. I long for day that my heart no longer hurts when I pass an empty bedroom. Maybe I will learn to love having my house all to myself.

That change will be welcome.

Theresa Larson is the Lodi News-Sentinel's administration manager. She is married and the mother of five children. Her column appears the first and third Wednesday of the month. She can be contacted at 125 N. Church St., (209) 369-2761 or via e-mail.

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