What I discovered over those next few months is that my relationships with my daughters did indeed change, but the changes that followed were really quite wonderful! At first, I could only notice how lonely our house felt with Dave and I wandering around its empty rooms; the quiet accompanying us, wherever we went. I had less work to do, but now, that didn't seem so important. Slowly though, as the girls settled into their own new lives, Dave and I found ourselves getting many delightful phone calls from them, filled with all the news about the direction those lives were taking them in. I began to get many invitations to join them for lunches or dinners, and when I did, I found that I was no longer speaking to the little girls I raised, but, rather, to the grown women that were the result of all that raising. I could just listen and enjoy, rather than advise or rebuke. These women were no longer children I had to parent, but more like friends that I could just enjoy spending time with, and, quite often, they refused to let me pay for my meal, as well!!
The distance between us seemed to give them a new perspective, too, and they seemed to view Dave and I much differently, than they had in the past. They had always been appreciative of us, but now they were in a position to demonstrate that appreciation more, and they did so with great frequency. Whenever Dave and I had health issues they would adjust their schedules to drive us to appointments, or, following my back surgery, pick up Olivia from college. Their visits home, especially when they would spend the night, were filled with happiness over a home-cooked meal, which, despite my obvious lack of culinary talent, would somehow taste wonderful to them. They each loved their new lives, but they also missed their old ones, and I found myself basking in the glow of their affections. On those most delightful of all occasions, when they would all spend the night at the same time, the warmth from having the whole family together would seem to linger for days. It was better than I could have ever imagined.
I realize now that I had mistaken the dependency of my children with their love for me, and that, in actuality, those are two very different things. I underestimated the children I had raised, and I think, perhaps, I had underestimated my own value to those children. They are the results of Dave's and my own finest efforts, and I see pieces of the best of each of us, sparkling in them, like starlight on a summer night, whenever I look at the women they have become. Had I realized all this last year, rather than worrying about what would happen when I closed that door, I would have embraced the opportunity to see what was on the other-side, much sooner...I have to remember that.
So here's to a New Year, in which you each let go of your own doorknob, and allow your universe to unfold. I will leave you with those poignant words from Max Ehrmann in his essay "Desiderata," in hopes that we will all remember to keep them in mind, during those times we are facing change in our lives, during the coming year.
"And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
May you each have a Blessed and Happy New Year!