A few weeks ago you read about my son Sam, a recent college graduate who’s headed to Tucson to be a high school teacher.
That’s a big event in his life and ours, because a few days before that was published, Sam — our youngest — moved out to be closer to the school where he’ll work.
Suddenly, we’re empty-nesters.
So there we were on Day One in our now way-too-big house that looked and sounded emptier than the day we bought it 10 years ago. Back then it was me, Carol and three teenagers. Today, we’re down to the two of us and the dog.
We’re at the intersection of eerie and weird.
Carol and I have done some talking about this in the past couple of weeks — what will life look like now? Our conclusion: Try new things, talk, talk, talk, and don’t get stuck in a rut (come home from work, plant yourself in front of the TV).
About five minutes after Sam left (and 31 years after saying “I do”), I got my man-cave. I bought a yard-sale easy chair, inherited a desk and claimed the loft as mine. Carol got a spare bedroom for sewing, crafts and the treadmill.
That was the easy part.
So what about us as a couple? It’s funny how kids can be a decades-long distraction, and when they’re gone, it’s just the two of you again.
The good news for us is that there was already a solid relationship to build on. We like each other. A lot. But when the main topics of conversation move out to start their own lives, you have to work at it a bit harder.
We all see it — couples sitting in restaurants not speaking a word. It’s heart-wrenching (though I’ve been known to do that myself). Two people who at one point in life couldn’t get enough of each other suddenly without a thing to say.
Digging into how you ended up there is your business. Meantime, here’s a short-term solution. Ladies, cut this out and take it the next time you head to a restaurant (men likely won’t do this).
What to talk about? Let’s start easy. The point is to communicate (note that grunting often denotes progress for most men). Don’t give up. Here are some basics; build on it when the time is right.
Something to talk about
•Is there anything in life you wanted to do but haven’t? (Follow-up: Why not do it now?)
•What career would you have pursued had you not been a…?
•What was your favorite vacation?
•Should we have bombed Iran? (Just kidding, don’t go there).
•Let’s plan a day trip to someplace we’ve never been! (I highly recommend “A Gypsy In Our Souls: Exploring Arizona,” by Green Valley residents Midge LeMay and Sue Poirier — get it at The Book Shop at Green Valley Village.)
•If you could have three wishes, what would they be? (Women, his first wish will be that the questions stop. Ignore him and go on to the second wish.)
•If you had a million dollars to give to people in need, where would it go?
•Who would you like to meet — anybody who’s ever lived.
•Did life turn out like you expected?
•Would you rather be unable to lie or unable to talk?
•What do you think makes me smile?
You get the point. Communicate, even if it’s uncomfortable at first. There’s a reason that person’s sitting across from you, and it’s probably love. Might be time to rekindle it.