Empty Nest

Jana and I spent the summer and early fall at Mount Carmel Family Camp and Retreat Center in Alexandra, MN.  I have been the Interim Director of Programming there the last two years and Jana has been working as their Director of Development.

As a result of being away from our home in Cedar Rapids until just a few days ago, we are aware that our empty-nesting phase had not really begun until now.  It was easy to feel like both our daughters were just “away at camp” this summer … or like we were were all on some sort of “extended leave of absence” from normal life.  Swenson_0031

So this past Thursday was our first full day back in Cedar Rapids… and thus, the first official day of Jana and I being empty-nesters in our actual home…. and under “normal” conditions. We did enjoy the six weeks of early fall quite a bit … going on several long walks, dating more than we have been able to do… talking and dreaming about the future … but we also realized we were not yet fully experiencing life, emotionally, without the girls around. Now that we are home, it is feeling more real.  The days of watching those two little blondies, loaded down with backpacks, heading off to school… are now a thing of the past.  Good… no….  GREAT memories, but memories nonetheless.

And so, a new chapter begins…

Thoughts at the two month mark of empty-nesting? Though it is less crazy-fun and more quiet, I do like getting to know my wife again. I feel like we are EACH getting an old friend back. Not that that person ever left, but the reality is… one’s attention is divided the from the moment the first baby is born, and this is as it should be. But, truth be told, I DO like getting my friend back. (I THINK Jana does too.) 

So, here’s to the new phase… and whatever life will bring. This much I know… though we drive each other crazy at times… the truth is… I love my wife.

I do miss those Blondies somethin’ fierce.. but this is okay. I’ve got a good roommate to keep me company.

So, here we go, Jana Swenson. Let’s do this thing…

Dropping Your Daughter Off at College…

I have now learned, this being the second of two “drop-off-daughter-to-college” moments, that said activity leads to an entirely predictable chain of events, the details of which can only be outlined as follows:

First, a brief and poorly executed (read “failed”) attempt at fatherly bravado soon folloCait and Kjersten by Tower Moving In Daywed, (approximately 8.4 seconds after beginning the drive away) by an absolutely fascinating and unmatched verbal explosion coming forth from somewhere deep within me… a spontaneous typhoon of emotion, unlike anything else I have ever experienced. A cacophony of sobs, snorts, sniffles… prompted by feelings that have somehow managed to force their way from the knot in my stomach past the basketball-sized lump in my throat to surface through tears, sighs and groans.

At least they are getting out. They need to.

This, in turn, is followed by a rather salty streak of cursing … rather blue and impressive, if I say so myself … words that seldom escape my lips, yet there they are.. in full force in this moment. Yet, somehow, I think God is cool with this. He understands. He’s been there & done that with the whole… “giving away your kid” thing. He gets it. And this, too, needs to get out.

And then, not timed– but when the time is right… all of this concludes, eventually, with a strange flood of overwhelming pride and peace and even excitement.. as a heart-soothing gratitude begins to settle the moment… buoyed by vivid memories and becoming strong through Spirit-led prayers of joy and thanksgiving that God chose me, of all people, to be “Dad” to these two incredible young women. And a thanksgiving, too, that God STILL lets me co–parent with a woman of such class, grace, wisdom and relational brilliance whose inner and outer beauty is so clearly passed on to her girls.

Kind of hard on a father, these initial moments of parting.

And kind of completely wonderful.

The intensity of emotion in these moments,for all parents, reveals the beauty and the pain, too, of the journey that has been taken the past 18 + years. It — again, the emotion — is a needed and deserved catharsis to the most challenging but most rewarding time of our lives.

And then… as one emerges from the initial emotional storm, you realize there is a gift to be opened, and you remember that it is time to do some flying yourself!

So… I lean to my wife, and I speak these words, feeling slightly younger than I did a few hours ago… “Here we go, Jana. Come fly with me again. Like we did 20+ years ago. Let’s fly again, my love.”

And so the NEW flight begins…J & J BACK IN THE DAY