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The warden now gives me 14 months.
That is to say, at roughly this time next year our fifth–and last–child will be readying herself for graduation from high school. Which means that–having been in harness since 1987, accumulating 127 father-years to my 54 years of age–the Chief and I will finally have achieved a modicum of freedom.
The question is: What to do with it?
This has been the calculus since the birth of our youngest, in 1999. At least, it has been on my part. Between the two of us, the Chief is more likely to be afflicted with empty nest syndrome. Not me. I’m more fiesta nest.
But not so fast. The calculus has changed. Maybe I should say it has evolved.
Back in Cabo San Lucas–in 1999, when our youngest was born–I was fairly certain what the next 18 years would contain. We would move to Lemon Cove and, in succession, enjoy the high school graduations, college admissions and graduations, and eventually the marriages of the Kid’s four older siblings. After all, the Chief and I had our oldest when she was 11 days into being 25 years old and I was three weeks into being 24. In fact, I was fairly certain we’d be grandparents by the time the kid graduated high school.
That, so far, has not come to pass–although there remain the 14 months.
And among the four siblings ahead of her there have been three high school graduations, three college admissions, one college readmission, one college graduation and a wedding. Two are employed, and two still live with us.
Welcome to modern America–where your very expensive college degree may mean next to nothing in the job market and, through no fault of your own, you might find yourself living once again with your parents.
Like I said, the calculus has changed.
I don’t know what it’s like for other parents to have one or more children return to the nest. I only know that, in our case–still actively raising a child–it is somewhat stressful to have two grown men sloping about the house. Their schedules are anyone’s guess. They come and they go–yes, in our cars–and I can scarcely keep up with them. And they still do the kinds of things you’d expect from an adolescent: run unabashedly clean through milk, gasoline, groceries, laundry soap–you name it.
It is, literally, exhausting.
It’s also OK. There’s no hurry. And in some ways, it’s almost a return to the extended family living of several generations ago. Modern America, indeed!
A few weeks ago some defective soul criticized one of our writers online for returning to live with his parents. Two things are wrong with this. First, there is no shame attached to such an arrangement; and, second, this oaf presumed that personal criticism offers plausible argument.
But that’s fairly typical of the treatment one expects to receive online these days–if it isn’t personal criticism divorced from context, it’s desperate, shrill run-on from some know-it-all who must have the last word. This, too, is exhausting.
So much so that–even though I don’t believe in it–I have blocked such toxic people from the Valley Voice website. Peace of mind at the push of a button. I wish I could similarly erase the Los Angeles attorney who is still menacing us.
But I can’t.
I can’t remotely control much of anything these days, apart from our television. I can’t control who goes to college, who graduates or gets married, and I can’t control who lives with us and who lives independently.
I’m alright with this.
If I sometimes grumble about modern times–the Chief says I’m a champion complainer–still, deep in my heart I am grateful that two adult kids live with us. And not just for running the occasional errand.
Even though I’m sure they’d like to take wing, their living here means we can still, in the here and now, help them. Welcome to modern America.