Empty Nest

I recently had lunch with an old friend, the type of friend you don’t see often but always pick up right where you left regardless if it’s been months or years since you last saw each other.  We are about the same age, our husbands have the same type of career and our boys are the same ages – in fact were often mistook for twins!  Through a weird set of coincidences I had discovered they had moved recently and I jokingly texted her about skipping town without telling me and even accused them of being snowbirds!  I will admit there was a little knot in my stomach as to why she would sell the house without reaching out to me.  I didn’t want to go there….  So we made plans to have lunch, when she walked in I gasped… she was very thin but looked otherwise good.  My friend had had breast cancer over 20 years ago so my first thought was it was back….  Thankfully, it was not cancer, she said she was just working out and working a lot.  We sat down and after some initial catching up, she mentioned that SHE was living in a condo the next town over… I paused and asked “you said I not we”.  After a long breath, she said they had divorced in November the previous year.  To say I was shocked was an understatement, if it can happen to them… what about the rest of us with an empty nest?  We had a good cry and some hugs and then I listened.  I didn’t want to be nosy, but I was curious how after 28 years together could it end so suddenly?  She went on to say it was years in the making, that they were essentially room mates and had not shared a bed in 10 years… What she said next gave me the chills… it started with them not watching the same shows, which led to separate TV’s, then not eating dinner together, then not sharing a bed due to “snoring”.  I froze because my husband and I don’t watch the same shows… is that a sign?  After listening and asking a few questions, I voiced my fears, my friend was so great trying to comfort me and saying my husband and I had no reason to worry that just by being around us she knew that we had the stuff and the communication skills that would never lead us down that path… but I couldn’t shake the sadness of all those years together gone in a flash.  So they sold the house, split the furniture and the money and told the kids.   Other than their immediate families, they told no one else.  I was so sad for my friend who was dealing with this alone, but I was glad she was comfortable telling her story to me… I feel her pain for her children who even though they are grown young adults, part of them are hurting little boys and for that she feels so much guilt.  I tried to tell her they will be OK, but the truth is… it may be awhile for her boys to find their way back.  I think when we shield our children from painful situations we may find that it did more harm than good as they were not prepared for the reality of life.  We think we are protecting them – and we are – but then they have to deal with it all at once instead of a slow realization.  There is no going back for my friends, only starting over and it will get better in time for all of them.  I think back to all the good times we all had travelling all over for soccer all those years ago.  Our wedding anniversary’s are around the same time and I realize that they never really seemed happy, they were just going through the motions, but we all were back then right?  Work, homework, sports, housework, repeat….  I went home after lunch and fell into my husbands arms, he knew I was going to need that when I got home.  He assured me we are fine and jokingly tried to lift my spirits by telling me that he would never allow 10 years of celibacy in our marriage… I laughed through my tears, thankful for this man who has taken care of me and our little family through so much sickness and sadness, but thankfully, lots of good times too!  I am trying to watch more shows with him, but more importantly, we are doing more things outside of TV together.  The last thing I asked my friend was if she was happier today than she was 6 months ago and without hesitation, she said YES.  I will continue to support her on her new journey.  The moral of the story is take care of yourself and your marriage first, that is what your children will see and learn from and lots of gratitude…