I wake up in the dark, and discover Rob not lying next to me. I'm so used to hearing and feeling his presence, that it takes me a few seconds to realize the bed is empty, except for little old 'moi'. In a word, unsettling. In a second word... hollow.
Half my crowd is in Atlanta for a tradeshow and then on their way to the beach. Beth is at music camp. Scott is working away at a mission camp. Paul and I are left to work the warehouse, tend the garden, and keep the kennel.
We are travelling through a transitional tunnel. Paul will be venturing off to college in a month at the age of 21. This is a huge answer to prayer and we know that it's necessary for growth. Exhilarating for Paul. Painful for me. Lately, I flash back and forth between images of him as a baby and now with his deep voice,'Rob like steps', and spiritual maturity, I'm forced to deal with mid-life.
I can't compare this to a typical empty nest syndrome, because Paul is autistic. All I know is that his limitations lend our relationship as mother and son to go beyond the usual see, hear and touch connection. There's a lot of reading between the lines.
While Rob and the kids have been away Paul has done two things to impress me. I have to be careful not to use too many words to instruct him. I asked him to water the new plant next to the garage. He walked over to it and pulled it up out of the ground. I got upset and asked, "Why did you do that?" We stuck the root ball back in the dirt and he apologized, "I'm sorry. I don't know why I did that."
Earlier, before we left for work at the warehouse, I could have hugged him. He fried eggs for himself for breakfast and carried the hot skillet over to the sink before sitting down to eat. He explained while turning on the cold water, "I have to rinse the pan in cold water because I feel sorry for it, like someone is burning."
Beth came home from camp. We took a walk with the puppies over to a neighbor's house who'd invited us to watch her primroses bloom at sundown. It was like time lapsed photography. The stems shake and yellow buds fan open within seconds! Beth would point, "There's another one." This moment was a gentle reminder of the blessing of having a large family. When a few leave the nest there are still baby birds left for company for Rob and me.
Paul redeemed the hydrangea situation. He's been watering and watching. He asked today, "How does it look?" I noticed the leaves are perking up a bit and the flowers are springier.
Rob will return home with the babes in a few days. For heaven sakes, when Paul moves out, and Scott is on his way, I'll still have five dear souls living here. One for each sense.