From full house to empty nest, to full house again


Empty nest syndrome, I never knew when it would hit. That extreme feeling of loneliness when my kids began leaving home to start a life on their own. Everybody had graduated from college, the weddings were over and suddenly we went from “Full House” to “Just the two of us”. Sure my wife and I had each other but gone were the slamming doors, the laughter, and the family dinners. I know it was our job to raise our children to be self-sufficient members of society but dammit, why did we have to do such a good job of it?

I would sniffle a bit and wipe away a tear knowing what a good job we had done. The house we called home always seemed so small when we were raising a family. I think we could park airplanes in our living room now, it is so empty.

When I walk by their empty bedrooms, I see beds that are no longer being used. There are no piles of clothes on the floor, there are no shoes under the beds, and there are no toys that haven’t been picked up. Gone is the raucous laughter that used to fill our house to the rooftop, gone is the pile of boots by the back door that indicated everyone was home, gone is the backyard full of toys and bikes were carelessly strewn about.

I knew the bedrooms would be empty, the house would be quieter, their places at the table unoccupied, but other little daily patterns of life can simply take you by surprise. We didn’t have to rush them out the door anymore so they wouldn’t be late for school. We didn’t have to help them with their homework. Years of my family eating, sleeping and playing under one roof had been brutally altered and I had no idea how to handle it.

Years after my children left, the grandchildren started arriving. They used to stop over after school until their parents got home from work. They would occasionally come over to Nana’s and Papa’s house for a super sleepover. The living room would look like an emergency shelter with four or more kids sleeping on the floor, in sleeping bags. You had to carry a flashlight if you needed to go thru the living room at night so you didn’t step on anyone.

But times have changed and Donna and I have gotten used to being alone. About once a month, our twin seven-year-old grandsons will have a sleepover though. Other than that our children and grandchildren will stop over for an hour or so just to visit and that’s about it.

This Christmas however we have received the best present ever. My oldest daughter recently sold her home and had to move out of the place she has lived in for twenty years. She has bought a new home but hasn’t closed on it yet. Because of this, she is temporarily between homes. Soooo she is domiciled at our house.

It gets better than that though. Her daughter that is in a pre-professional ballet company in Denver, Colorado will be coming home for a visit. She is a born dancer and it is semisweet to see her pursuing her dream. It is nice she has found what she wants to do in life but I just wish it wouldn’t take her so far away from us. She will also be living at our house. My daughter also has a second daughter that is attending college out of town. She has an apartment near her school but seeing as her sister is back in town, she will be living and sleeping with us also.

It is a good thing that about a year ago we added a first-floor bedroom suite complete with a walk-in closet and a bathroom. We are now officially out of bedrooms. I can’t imagine five adults living together with only one bathroom. We would have to post a bathroom schedule on the door. I can only imagine our old, old water heater straining to keep up with the demand and the sink full of shampoos, conditioners, and lotions.

That doesn’t mean we can’t put up more of my family though. We do have 4 recliners in our living room, a walk up attic where the super sleepovers were held in the summer and plenty of floor space.

I know it will be only a few short weeks before this arrangement ends. The granddaughters will be going back to school and my daughter will be moving into her new home. Once again it will be just the two of us, the way we started our lives together. But, for now, it is great to have a house full of laughter once again. I am just going to sit back and enjoy it.

Norb is a devoted family man from Lockport. He blogs at



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