Empty Nest – Pt. 314
Coping with a new, far-away phase
By Marianne Aleardi

One very early morning this summer, I drove my oldest daughter Klein to Newark Airport where she boarded a plane to LA. Not for vacation, to move there. Joe & I live here. She will live there.           

She’s been talking about the move since before Covid, so while Joe and I knew about the plan, there was no actual timeline for it, so I think we just happily ignored it. While we wanted her to live life to the fullest, we maybe hoped that as time passed, she would figure out how to do that on the East Coast. But then she set a date and bought a 1-way airline ticket. One by one, the days passed, and soon she was on her way.

My parents, brother, sister and I have all lived within 15 minutes of each other for my entire adult life. I guess as Joe and I raised our children, it never occurred to us that anyone would move away, which is funny because we encouraged them to take advantage of everything the world has to offer. 

This changing shape of our empty nest has not been the easiest thing to cope with. I remember writing in this column about the devastation I felt as each daughter left for college – in 2012, 2014 and 2016. Months after, I described the new life Joe and I had that was primarily focused on us, and how that was rather nice. Then I wrote about a new phase, where one daughter would come home for a bit (or all of them, like at Christmas) and then leave, and I would relive that original pain. Now here we are again, and I’m discovering that when someone moves across the country, the pain is there. 

This time, though, there is this conflict between us wanting Klein to live out her dreams and us wanting Klein to live near us – it doesn’t even have to be in South Jersey, but maybe somewhere within a few hours drive?

Deep in the back of my mind I keep asking myself why my daughter would have to move across the country – away from her family – to be happy. I know that’s a loaded question. I know I shouldn’t look at it that way – that one part of that sentence doesn’t have anything to do with the other. I know this because so many friends have said that to me when I confided in them how I feel. That includes Joe, who has told me many times not to think of it that way. He reminds me that Klein can cherish her family and also live in California. I do know that is true. 

I was just having a hard time stopping the one thought and focusing on the other. But then we took a family trip to New York City. It was part of what I called Klein’s farewell tour.

Our plans included a nighttime show called “Broadway Sings,” which is where current or former Broadway singers sing the hits of 1 artist, rearranged in some special way. The show we saw was “Broadway Sings Taylor Swift” which, considering I have 3 daughters in their 20’s, was perfect. 

We also have a connection to the show – its creator is best friends with my niece. Joe and I first met him when he graduated college, about 20 years ago. He’s appeared on Broadway, got married in Greece, and has this venture that is a stunning success. 

At the show, I sat behind him, looking over his shoulder at all he had created. I was feeling so happy for him and so proud of him, and then it hit me: What if his mother had wanted him to stay with her and not move to NYC. Look at what he would have missed – what the art world would have lost. No mother would want to do that to her child. 

So things changed. I guess I should say, thoughts changed.    

What I know now more than anything is that I want Klein to live an adventure, whatever she thinks that is. I am truly happy when we talk on the phone and hear how she’s creating her new life. And my heart is full when I hear in her voice a tinge of excitement. 

I still wish she was closer. But I wish even more that she makes her life everything she wants it to be. She can visit our nest any time and then fly, as she should, everywhere she wants to go. We’ll root for her when she does. We’ll watch her, cheer for her, love her. We’ll enjoy every minute when she comes home, and then drive her to the airport when it’s time to leave. Again.

Read more “Wide Awake” by Marianne Aleardi

October 2023
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