Friday, September 04, 2009

A House Too Quiet

I sit outside my house on a crisp late summer Northwest afternoon and listen to the quiet sound of an empty house. I am sitting under the crab apple tree the boys used to eat crab apples from (and use as slingshot ammo!).

My wife is on a retreat, our older three children have left home for good and our youngest daughter is starting her senior year of high school. My oldest granddaughter is even in school now, launching into half-day kindergarten this year. Today it is just me and my dog, Frosty, outside soaking up the afternoon rays and listening to the quiet of the house.

I decided to leave my office and spend the afternoon at home to have some extended time in prayer and Bible reading, a time for personal renewal. But I become distracted by the quiet of the house imagining just a few years ago that this place was so noisy I found it necessary to lease an office space outside the home to get work done. Now it seems just too quiet in there.

I look around to the backyard and I can see me playing catch with the boys there…and kicking the soccer ball with both of my girls. On the other side of the yard is the basketball hoop. I can remember the hours of shooting baskets with the boys there. Then there is the garage that the boys made into the Sonics Key Arena and dressed in Shawn Kemp and Detlef Schrempf jerseys when they were about 9 and 5.

I am now having second thoughts about trying to have this time here as I seem to be haunted by the ghosts of my children playing in the house, garage and yard. I can imagine that I hear their high-pitched voices and silly laughter.

So this is what “empty nesting” is going to be like? Is it just perpetual sadness over the days that will never return? Or is it just something I have to go through, to grieve, so I can joyfully embrace the next chapter of my life? I think it is the latter. At least I hope so. So I lean into the sadness and let the tears come.

I seek to listen to that still, small voice of God’s Spirit and remember why I decided to spend the afternoon in this way in the first place-not to get melancholy over my past but to tune into His presence. I believe that I hear Him say to my spirit. “My son, I gave you these children to raise for a season. They are one by one flying from your Redmond nest. As their heavenly Father I love them infinitely more than you can love them, can you entrust them into my hands? I know you are feeling their absence but I am ever present with you. Will you let me be enough? You are entering another stage in your journey. You had to trust me when your house was too noisy. Can you now trust me when it is too quiet?”

As I am hearing this voice within me I am startled on the outside by Frosty’s bark as he races through the open back door, into the house, and to the front door. My granddaughters, Ellie and Sadie, have arrived. Heidi, my oldest daughter, is helping coach Holly’s school’s soccer team. This is my youngest daughter’s last year of soccer and my oldest needs grandpa to cover for her. Sadie, the one-year-old, toddles right down the steps towards the crab apple tree, puts a crab apple right into her mouth and makes a sour face just like my kids used to do.

Smiling, I pray, “Thank you Father for this ‘new normal.’ Thank you for the privilege of being a grandfather and that my daughter’s family lives close by. Thank you that I see my daughter’s face in the faces of her daughters. Thank you that I can make a difference in my granddaughters’ lives just as my grandmother and grandfather made a difference in mine. Amen.”

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Anonymous said...

Great words, Jamie. As an extended family member, I can picture exactly where you are... relate to how you feel...and only try to encourage you that you have done a wonderful job at "bringing another log to the fire" in the long Bohnett family history. You've not only kept the flame burning, in many ways you've brought it to a whole new level of fullness. And, because of your commitment, your children will someday sit in their own backyards...recall times with their kids...and, undoubtedly, remember Dad and G'pa J as they add their own log to the fire. Well done, bro. I'm proud of you.
Brother D

Ed said...

Jamie, this was terrific. We just sent our first-born child off to college about ten days ago and, even with three still at home, there is an unmistakable void in our home. We miss him perhaps more than he misses us. I guess that's exactly how it was when I went off to college a few decades ago. God is the giver of seasons and I am ever-more thankful for every day we have with our kids as the days seem much shprter now...