Empty Nests and Pandemics




Time has become one long, continuous day that just never ends. I’m not complaining about being at home all the time. My family will continue to isolate to keep ourselves safe and the essential workers who can’t stay home safe.


But it is still weird. All the normal markers are gone. I don’t set an alarm clock anymore. I don’t have a morning commute anymore. I don’t start my day by yelling at other drivers. I sort of miss those guys. I’m not sure when it is time to eat anymore. I’m definitely sure that I shouldn’t be eating cereal every day for lunch, but that hasn’t stopped me.


The passing of hours and even days has become somewhat meaningless for me. Other than two days a week, when I roll out of bed, I don’t have to immediately sign on to my work computer. Although, even on weekends, I usually sign on for a little bit. I mean, it’s right there. Might as well.


But I digress.


What does empty nest have to do with a pandemic? Well, for me, it’s personal.


My husband and I have 4 children. He has two daughters from a previous marriage and I have a son from a previous marriage. We have one child together. Our son, Joey, is over a decade younger than all of his siblings. When Joey entered our lives, we were all entranced. He has been adored and doted on by his parents and siblings for 22 years.


He moved out today.


So, I’m not a mom who frets over the baby birds leaving the nest. We’ve done that 3 other times and every exit was different and every exit was necessary. I treasure the relationships that we have developed with our adult children. Plus, two of the three of them have produced their own offspring. Grandkids are the shit. All that being true, I am not adverse to rediscovering who I was before kids came into my life. I sort of remember her. I think she’d like to come out and play.


I knew Joey would move out sooner or later. I mean, isn’t that the point of parents? To make ourselves obsolete?


I just didn’t know it was going to happen during the apocalypse.


No matter what, I was going to be a little sad. I can handle a little sad. I’ve walked on this earth for over five decades. My husband and I have lived through loss of parents and the loss of a grandchild. I know sad.


I was not prepared for also being terrified.


He’s my baby. My last kid at home. My husband, Randy, has had at least one child living with him for over 36 years, I have had at least one child living with me for nearly 33 years. Having no kids is an adjustment, but neither one of us felt like it was an unwanted adjustment. After being together for 25 years, we still really dig each other. How awesome would it be to share our space with just each other?


It’s just that it would have been the teeniest bit easier if we didn’t become child free during a pandemic. It feels like the entire planet has fallen down the rabbit hole. It would be nice to hold on to my child a bit longer.


My son moved in with friends that he makes music with. He is safe. They are all isolating. He is responsible and he’ll be fine. He doesn’t go into public without a mask. He wears gloves. He disinfects everything. He will be safe. Right?


But what if? Really? What if? WHAT IF?


I remind myself that our son is intelligent and kind. He is reasonable and compassionate. He is informed and caring. He’s also a slob, but that is his new roommate’s problem now, isn’t it?


It makes no difference either way. Joey is an adult and he can make his own decisions. Randy and I accept that. We’re just finding much of life difficult to navigate right now. We’re still trying to figure out how days work and now my husband and I are finding ourselves with just each other.


What keeps coming to mind is Thunderdome. Two men enter, one man leaves. Or in this case, one woman leaves. Because, let’s face it. My husband doesn’t stand a chance.


I thought briefly about changing my name to “Aunty Entity” but then I remembered that shit didn’t turn out too well for her in the Mad Max movie. Besides, I don’t think either one of us has the energy for a Thunderdome scenario.


Joey requested, yesterday evening, that the three of us sit down and spend our last night together watching a movie. I told him it had to be something funny. I needed to laugh.


Joey suggested Schindler’s List.


We ended up watching Up In Smoke.


I haven’t watched Cheech and Chong for many years. It was fun to walk down memory lane. It was fun to watch Joey laugh.


This morning, he loaded up his belongings and prepared to leave. He gave me a hug and I thought “Okay, I got this. I’m fine.”


Then I felt his shoulders shaking. He was crying.


Then I was broken.


He’s afraid for us. He’s worried about us going up and down stairs. Which frankly, I find hilarious. We’re not that fucking old. He’s worried about us getting sick. He’s worried about our cats. He’s just worried. I realized that as worried I am for him, he is for us. Because he isn’t a child anymore. He’s a grown up.


Life is already hard.


Life during a pandemic is hard and surreal.


How many parents are going through something similar right now? I know I’m not alone. And if you are experiencing the same, then please know, that you are not alone either.


I plan to celebrate by crying in the shower this evening, I will, however, be leaving the bathroom door open while I shower.


Because I can.




Michelle Poston Combs writes humorous and serious observations on life, menopause, anxiety, and marriage on her site, Rubber Shoes In Hell.

She lives in Ohio with her husband and youngest son. She stands at the precipice of empty nest syndrome which she finds both terrifying and exhilarating.

Michelle programs computers to pay the bills. She counters this soul sucking endeavor by contributing to Jen Mann’s anthology I Still Just Want To Pee Alone, Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Better Homes and Garden, Grand, Vibrant Nation, Erma Bombeck's Writers Workshop, New Jersey Family Magazine, and Listen To Your Mother.


© 2020 by Perry