Hanging with the Green Ghost

     Outside my bedroom for a couple weeks there’s been a shadowy ghost hanging in the doorway. My son’s kelly green graduation cap and gown have been haunting me every time I pass – as a reminder that we’re in the countdown. It hangs, waiting for my mother’s expert, loving hands to iron it, my son to don it, and to march down the aisle to commemorate the day. 
     I’ve been doing some reading about parents who are also on this journey to an empty nest. The grief is real and shows up in mothers more than fathers. Women also grieve differently. This grief can begin long before your child walks out the door – long before the green-robed ghost appears in your hallway. It has with me. 
     My thoughts about this upcoming period in our lives started about a year ago when I turned 50. My son and I were living in a lovely townhouse in an end unit that was surrounded by trees and grass. We lived close to his school, shopping, and other family members. Our home was the perfect size for the two of us. We had been enjoying our space for about 4 years, but it was becoming a struggle. I became unable to work due to chronic illness, and I needed to come up with a plan for my son’s Senior year and beyond. Grief began as changes needed to be made. 
     The solution was for me to sell my home and for us to move in with my mother, just 1.5 miles away. I knew money would be limited when I no longer received child support. I knew that I would have to move regardless. This way, my son would have a space in my mother’s house he could call home for his Senior year, and he would have a home to return to during college. It’s worked out well for the most part. I enjoy my mother’s company, and she seems to delight in making her grandson a hot breakfast every morning. We all get a little grumpy at times, but such is life. By sharing a “home base”, we will all be able to go our different ways in the next year, yet still have a grip on the strings that tie us as a family. 
     In my planning, I wondered what would be next for me? While I felt the impending loss of my son leaving the nest, I decided to set a goal of being able to do some solo traveling beginning in the Fall of 2017. My son’s life will center around college, but maybe I could take off on my own adventure! Just one tiny problem – I’m disabled because of a chronic illness. Ok, it’s a huge problem, but I’m determined. For the last year, I have been focusing on my health and the challenges I need to address in order to make this dream happen.
     I have Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Sjogren’s Syndrome, and back and hip pain. On top of that, I was a front-seat passenger in two separate rear-end car accidents within 6 weeks in 2015. This caused major setbacks in my ability to function. I’ve always loved traveling. I’ve always dreamed of living in an RV, seeing the US, and visiting friends across the country. My partners were never enamored by the idea. Could I do it myself? I’ve held steady to this dream for the past year, endlessly looking at RV options online and videos on YouTube. I think having my living space with me at all times will enable me to take breaks when I need to lie down, stretch, do my PT exercises, and to eat healthy foods. 
     Getting myself physically, emotionally, and financially ready to travel would be the main challenge. I’ve made great progress toward my goal. I am sad about not being with my son, but I want to look at my journey to an empty nest as an adventure! I hope you are making plans for the next stage in your life. I remember listening to some motivational cassette tapes years ago, and the speaker wanted you to repeat a phrase whenever you felt hesitant, anxious, or stuck. I’ll never forget his mantra to sing on such occasions: “Oh, what the hell, go do it anyway.” Try it now. Put your fingers on your temples and chant these words 3 times. Who knows what will happen? For me, I may just be clicking my heels and getting the hell out of Oz. . . for awhile at least. 

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