THE LONG ROAD BACK TO AN EMPTY HOUSE
Last Saturday I made the longest journey of my life – an 11 hour drive from Charlottesville, Virginia to my home in Memphis.
The journey began with hugs and tears, and ended that way too. The hugs and tears in Charlottesville were with my daughter, as my wife Claudia and I said goodbye to her as she starts her first year at the University of Virginia. And when we got back to Memphis, Claudia and I shared hugs and tears as we walked into an empty house and a new era of our lives.
It is a journey all blessed parents get to take. Claudia and I are so blessed that it was the third time we have made such a trip.
Our first such journey occurred ten years ago when Claudia and I drove nine hours from Springfield, Ohio back to Memphis, after enrolling our eldest child, Will, in Wittenberg University. (As "Witt’s" graduates like to joke, "Wittenberg is a small Christian college for small Christians." )
And then in 2007, Claudia and I made a second such journey – this time by plane – from Boston to Memphis after our second child, Ken, moved into his residence hall at Boston University.
Both those trips were bittersweet … either joyful sorrow or sorrowful joy, take your pick.
But this third trip was different. When Claudia and I got back from Ohio in 2004 and from Boston in 2007, the nest wasn’t empty. There was a little girl up in her room enjoying her books, and her music, and her teddy bears and her American Girl Doll collection.
But last weekend, the last little bird flew out of the nest.
The late Mississippi philosopher, Jerry Clower was fond of telling his audiences, "You think your chirren are gone? I got news for ya! They comin’ back! And they bringin’ more with ‘em!"
That might happen. In fact, I hope it does. I would love a house full of grandchildren someday.
But for the moment, it is mighty quiet in the old homestead.
Claudia is a glass-half-full kind of gal. While she’s cried so much over the last few days that she’s virtually dehydrated, she is happy for our daughter and our sons and is planning wonderful trips for the two of us.
Claudia is fond of saying, "If you don’t travel first class, your children will." And believe me, she is working very hard these days to spend our kids’ inheritance. She figures we’ve given them straight teeth and a college education, and now they need to make it on their own.
But I’m having a tougher time coping. I miss my princess.
But in a few weeks, the Princess and I will be reunited in Charlottesville for parents’ weekend at the University of Virginia.
While I’m a Vol, I have many friends who are graduates of the University of Virginia (Would one of them please tell me what "wahoowah" means?) And without exception, every one of them tells me that their four years at the University of Virginia were among the happiest of their lives.
And so the odds are overwhelming that when I see the Princess in a few weeks, she’ll be very happy, and that will make me very happy, too.
In the meantime, I’m going to make sure that my wife doesn’t try to finance our first class travel by having a yard sale featuring some of the Princess’s books and dolls and teddy bears.
I want to keep them, as well as the American Girl Doll collection, in the hopes and dreams that someday they will be enjoyed by another Princess – my granddaughter.