Getting used to being an empty-nester

By Tammy Keith Originally Published March 17, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated March 15, 2013 at 11:25 a.m.
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It’s official: I’m an empty-nester.

As of 5:40 p.m. a week ago Friday, when I carried the last box upstairs to my 19-year-old’s apartment, life changed for both of us.

My older son, now 23, couldn’t wait to move into the dorm his freshman year of college, and it was mildly traumatic for me.

My husband and I used all the tricks to bring him back to visit — home-cooked meals, offers to do his laundry, something came for you in the mail.

He’s the quiet one (except for his BRT — Big Redneck Truck — with a Flowmaster system), and he didn’t touch base a lot.

My younger son has been the one who always followed us from room to room, telling a funny story, a movie plot or something that happened at school.

(”Welcome to my world,” my mother said. Apparently, I was the same way.)

Sometimes he shares a little too much. Nothing is too cringe-worthy for him.

Both my sons have been independent. My younger son never wants his college professors to know his dad also teaches there, for example. (Oops.)

My husband did help our younger son find an apartment. I lobbied for him to wait till summer.

“He’s got the itch,” my husband said.

Oh, and a girlfriend, which may have helped nudge this need for a “pad,” as my dad would say.

There were times, I’ll admit, that I counted down the days. When I looked at the hurricane of his room, for example.

Most of the time, it was great having him there.

When my husband sent him to the storage room one night to get an extra roll of paper towels, he said, “I’m gonna miss that boy.”

We always left a chore list in the morning, and it was usually done when we got home.

He was our soap fairy — what our family calls it when the soap dispensers are mysteriously filled.

He was the cat-box scooper — self-explanatory.

He was our tech support — he fixed our computer problems and tried, but failed, to teach me how to use (i.e., turn on) the TV.

He was determined to move, so I did what I did for his brother: I bought Corelle dishes, got stuff out of the attic, shared our old towels and Tupperware and bought a bunch of cleaning supplies that will never be used.

By 8 p.m., we were ripping up carpet in his bedroom.

The next morning, my husband painted the room.

When my son came by the next day to get something, he looked at his old room and said, “I haven’t even been gone 24 hours,” teasing us.

I felt mildly guilty.

For now, it’s empty, except for the smell of fresh paint and new carpet.

Our dinners are weirdly quiet. I can hear us chewing.

Scott isn’t there to get into one of his discussions about the looming fiscal cliff, the latest YouTube video or the failure of video games to effectively comment on the human condition. (He is a unique child.)

I catch myself looking for his car when I come home, and I walked in one day and started calling out to him before I realized he wasn’t there.

It’s as it should be, I know. It’s part of life. I’ll adjust.

I need to tell him, though, that something came in the mail for him. It looks important.

Oh, and did I mention that Dad is cooking steak tonight?

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or

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