So somehow, behind my back, my two rotten kids grew up and left. They left my devoted spousal unit and myself wandering around an empty house, tripping on our old sleeping cat, stumbling over our confused and elderly West Highland White and being generally harassed by our seriously psychotic shih-tzu.
The youngest (child, not pet) up and graduated high school, and then a few short months later left to live on a cruise ship and perform in the production shows. Sure, she had been dancing quite literally since before she could walk, and had been living and breathing dance lessons, competitions and performances since she was three years old, but nobody told me she was going to immediately leave home and actually make a living dancing.
At around the same time, the other one (musician not dancer) left for university to play music in what I like to call the Bachelor of Unemployment Program. Hence the empty nest syndrome, also know as Parental Dyslexia. You can’t seem to be able to read what’s going on.
On one hand you feel like kicking back and enjoying the quiet my-life-is-my-own-again feeling; on the other you find yourself moping around texting the adventurous offspring, asking if they’ll be home for Thanksgiving. At least my long-suffering wife and I did.
You see one of them wasn’t particularly happy with university, and as the saying goes, as a parent, you’re only as happy as your unhappiest child. And the other one was living on a floating hunk of hotel with 2,200 other people. There were 900 staff alone on that cruise ship, and of those 900 staff my child was the youngest member on board. Now that’s enough alone to make a father’s hair turn grey and fall out (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). And, she was based in Miami, where, as everybody knows, all the drug dealers, gangs and CSI actors skulk around. Not only that, she docked regularly in Jamaica, Key West, Mexico, the Bahamas and many other high-rolling scary Caribbean places of evil.
Then, after 15 months of tropical Caribbean evil for one child and extended discontent for the other, suddenly, in the very same week our quiet, boring pet-infused household went from empty nest to full house — BAM ! Just like that.
Both of the wayward progeny were back, inhabiting their messy rooms again, filling the house with youthful energy and dirty clothes and facilitating an alarming increase in grocery bills.
And just when my wiser other-half and myself were once again back in the groove again, enjoying the rabble-rousing all-day-and-night comings and goings of said returnee offspring and being buffeted by the whirlwind of full family life as it had been for 20 years or so, the elder youth leaves for Africa.
Well more accurately, he left for Madagascar. A week ago. To live in a tent for two months. On a volunteer conservation project. To study Lemurs. You know, those furry little animals with rings on their tails.
Yes, Madagascar — like in the movies, only significantly more dangerous on account of the fact that all those weird Madagasy creatures and crocodiles and malaria mosquitoes, and those giant hissing cockroaches people like to eat on TV shows like Fear Factor are real and not cute and clever computer generated animation animals who say cute and clever things instead of biting you.
And the other one, the dancer one, she goes and flies off to Vancouver and auditions and gets cast as a performer in the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics. Which means she will be moving to Vancouver right away to start rehearsals, which in turn means another bout of Empty Nest Syndrome for the two parents and three pets.
It’s all very complicated, and very hard on good old Mom and Dad. Not that we aren’t completely proud and overjoyed and dyslexic about the adventures of the rotten kids, it’s just that I personally am not always good with the concept of change. Especially the big kind.
But as someone once said: “Change is inevitable — except from a vending machine.”
So now, when their life-journeys involve great distances for extended periods of time, I’ve found as with most things, it’s a bit of the ole pro and con. While I only get to share their exciting lives mostly vicariously from a distance, I now get to have a nap on a regular basis. And boy do I need one these days. Just thinking about trying to keep up with what my two world travellers are doing has me continuously vicariously exhausted.
But nap or not, I always remember one thing now. I never forget to leave my cellphone on nearby. Because those rotten kids send the old man text messages at the craziest times, and I sure wouldn’t want to miss out on what I’ve been missing.
And besides, it’s always good to be reminded of what you’re most thankful about.
Harley Hay is a local filmmaker and freelance columnist. His column appears on Saturdays.