Empty Nesters? Not True.

I’m lying in bed waiting to fall asleep.  But there’s one problem.

It’s too quiet. 

My light sleeper ears aren’t picking up laughter, water running or doors shutting.  Yet my hearing radar is still working overtime.  Remember that old Simon and Garfunkel song, “The Sound of Silence”?

Well, it’s playing now every night in the Crosby home.

In a two-month whirlwind span, our children moved out.  We went from a household of four to a household of two (not including the dog).  Son number one moved out of state for a job; son number two moved up the state to attend college.

What happened to our happy family?  Remember that lyric from Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life”:

“You’re riding high in April, shot down in May.”  That’s how I feel though April lasted 23 years, 23 years of parenthood.

The last time my wife and I had the house all to ourselves we weren’t even living in this house.  We’d have to travel back to our first abode when, except for the final few months, we were just a couple of newlyweds.

For the first three years of our marriage, we were only two until we got a dog who was our surrogate son.  Thirteen months later, our first baby was born.

When we were budding parents, we read all the books about child rearing, heard all the advice from friends and family, “It’s going to go fast and then your kids will be gone.”

Now I know how true that is.  In the middle of the day-to-day parenting business, shuttling kids to school, taking them to baseball and music practice, going on summer vacations to national parks—you fool yourself that this is the rest of your life.  But no. 

At some point, the birdies need to leave the nest.  Our first son stayed with us for over 23 years; our second almost 19 years.

People tell us that after a while of living alone as a couple, we will enjoy spending time with just one another.  Oh, I know we will.  It’s just more exhilarating to share your life with your children.

What runs through my mind is the saying “the gift of life.”  I am now feeling how deep down true that idea is.  My wife and I are so blessed that we were able to bring into the world two people so that they can have a life of their own.  Passing that gift down is the greatest inheritance a parent can leave a child.  Empty nesters?  Naw, more like full family tree.

Right before going to bed on our second night of empty nest-hood, my wife shared a text from her mom who contacted our college son to see how dorm life was treating him.  It turns out that he (playing a sax) and his roommate (playing a keyboard) had an impromptu jazz session which attracted a crowd.

That message was my melatonin.  I don’t remember trying to fall asleep for I knew that my son was doing just fine.

You’ve Got to Have Hart-man

Lately I have obsessively been watching CBS journalist Steve Hartman’s “On the Road” videos.  Originally airing on the Friday edition of the “CBS Evening News,” Hartman’s segments emphasize the notion that good is inherent in nearly every person, that inside each one of us is the capacity to show grace towards one another.

After a daily diet of negative news ranging from Covid variants to nightmarish scenarios about the earth’s demise, “On the Road” is the antidote to despair.  Seeing how kind and decent people can be to one another provides oxygen to the soul.

He and his producer find the most touching stories across America, of people who have lost loved ones or the will to live, only to discover hope often through the kindness of strangers. 

Rarely can one watch his videos without tearing up and feeling good about fellow Americans.

Every weekday when my wife and I have lunch together, I can’t wait to share with her a new favorite Steve Hartman “On the Road” video. 

There are stories of student athletes who come up with ways to include kids who never have a chance to shine in a game such as a special needs boy given the ball to end a basketball game from the opposing team.

The restaurant owner who hires recovering addicts because everyone deserves a second chance.

There is a man whose right hand was damaged by an abusive father so he learned to play the piano with his left, leading to his first ever concert in his 70’s.

There are the police officers who help pay for an elderly man’s rose bouquet for his wife, one of the few moments the man’s memory breaks through his Alzheimer’s haze.

A stranger who comes across a soldier’s army uniform in a dumpster propelling her on a two-year hunt to return it to the surviving family, providing a tender memento for the son left behind.

There is the story of a 15-year-old wrestler who strives to win a state championship before his father loses his life to cancer.

A terminally ill mother who asks her nurse to adopt her son, leaving behind gifts for the birthdays she will miss.

For me, it makes me feel more human, reminding me of the type of person that I am at the same time guiding me towards the person I could become.

“On the Road” serves as a weekly sermon encouraging all of us to find the moments where we can reveal our deepest humanity to the most unlikely stranger.

What threads through all of these stories is the tenderness of its reporter.  Steve Hartman is a gentle listener, genuinely moved with each and every story.  He could not have been given a more apt last name.