I guess I had it all wrong. My thinking was that I had already gone through empty nest syndrome after my youngest went off to college last year. But evidently, there was more to come.
My second daughter moved out when she went to college, but then returned to live on our property, bringing her fiancé with her. A wedding, a baby, and a divorce followed over the next six years. I loved having my family around. It was the best of both worlds. We could be together anytime we wanted while still living in separate dwellings. But now, my daughter and four-year-old grandson have moved “down the hill” to be closer to the conveniences of city life — I guess. And while it may seem like a good move on their part, it’s like torture to me.
In fact, to be honest, it feels downright wrong. Five generations of our family have lived here in the canyon, and for better or worse, this sense of family and community feels absolutely right. I know that in this day and age, our youngsters are expected to flex their wings and go out on their own. But in other cultures, this is not the norm. It could be considered abandonment. In the old days, extended families lived together, with the elders helping to care for the youngsters while the parents went out to work. That whole scenario helped promote cohesion, love, trust, and respect throughout the group — crossing generations. However, these days, if one of our grown children fails to launch, it’s determined to be a negative thing. Either the parents didn’t do their job right or there’s something wrong with the young adult.
But I’m not really speaking of this scenario. I’m referring more to the matter of choice. My idea is that raising kids in a multi-generational family is a much more viable option than attempting to exist in a vacuum — with society’s whims exerting their pressures and without there being a safety net to fall back on. This is true for any one of the group. We all know that it takes a village to successfully raise our young. The goal is to help them reach a place where they can be successful in relationships, be able to provide for their own families…. In essence, to be loving, caring, and contributing members of our society.
Speaking of family groups, we’ve been seeing a group of deer in our area. Sometimes as many as seven. Somehow, I’d like to see our families stick together more as a group — like those deer. Sharing food, cooperating with labor, and recreating together can bring more genuine meaning to these activities. There are just two of us left in the canyon these days, my husband and me. Gardening and growing goodies to share feels a bit empty without my offspring here to share it with. Yes, I know. I’m obsessing over what most people would consider “No Big Deal.” But to me, it feels like a huge loss.
When I lay in bed at night fighting insomnia, the hooting of the owls sends me a mixed message. I feel comforted and grateful to be living in this rural canyon surrounded by the wild sounds of the night. But they also bring a melancholy mood, reminding me of how lonely it can feel here at times. Nevertheless, I realize that I will adjust, eventually, and regroup my inner calm. It’s just that this period of adjustment is not very comfortable. I wasn’t prepared for it.
It’s like the surprise rain we got back in August. It poured down while the lightning struck and the thunder roared. I sat out on the front porch, yelling into the deluge, harmonizing with the rolls of thunder. It felt wonderful. But that unexpected treat of restoring moisture to the earth also created ruinous ruts in the road and front yard. We’ll have to bring out shovels the next time it comes. Having these tools ready can come in handy when the unexpected happens. Such as when half your family moves away. So, here’s to the owls, who remind us how isolated, yet how connected we all are to everything around us.