Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘empty nest’

The Sands of Time

The world, life, has always seemed to me to be as an hourglass, the tiny individual grains of sand appearing at the mouth of the funnel from nowhere. The top is empty, after all, else we’d know to the grain how long our lives.

So there, just above the narrow tunnel between “to be” and “been” appears a moment, on its way to becoming a memory, in that fleeting time of “now”. From there it falls through to join other moments come and gone. These we can see, of course, as they fill the bottom of the hourglass. Shake the glass and they come into view.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that my hourglass was nearly empty? So few grains of time that the bottom was barely dusted? Isn’t that my Mom and Dad right there in that huge Chevy wagon? Man, it’s PACKED with beach stuff. There I am in the “way-back” sitting on top of the chairs and towels. 4 kids in the car; we can’t sit together, of course, because someone might touch someone else! They were so big, my folks, they filled up the horizon. So small now…so fragile…shadows that flit in and out of view.

There’s a goldfinch feeder just outside our window. This morning 6 finches crowded around, a vision of bright yellow, a first for us in our new house. Goldfinches always make me think of my firstborn, Danny. Wasn’t it just last week when we stood, his shoulder to ┬ámy chest, atop that observatory, gazing at the display of aerial artistry as hawks and finches dazzled across the field? The bright, curly yellow hair is long shorn, now replaced by a bright red beard. My head is now at his shoulder, but the appearance of a Goldfinch at my breakfast nook still brings back that ever so soft, quiet exclamation: “I really love birds, Dad.”

My caboose, Randy, sang at his Baccalaureate, ready to graduate from High School. Beth and had just become Netty Empsters. How can that be? When did that grain of sand appear? Can we really be here already? Shake the glass just a little and there he is in his Spider Man jammies, the first day of football, “hey Dad, I’m taller than you!” They keep appearing at the mouth of the funnel, another and another and another grain as the sands of my time flow. Can it really be? Are we really here ALREADY? When I report for work at my “second job” at CrossFit Bingo I’ll begin by greeting my boss. Kid named Randy.

I know it was only last week. Had to be right? We stood there in the threshold, hand in hand. One more step and we’d be all the way there, all the way inside school and surely we’d make it to class on time. Longest step ever taken, but away we went, Megan and I. How could it be, then, that I was Facetiming her graduation ceremony from grad school, the proud recipient of a Masters Degree in Psychology? Yet there it is, a grain of sand scoots down the tassel and joins the rest of the milestones in the bottom of my glass.

The hourglass sits afore me, the sand flows. I see Randy as he looks toward me, looks as I fill his horizon. My gaze drifts toward my Mom and Dad; they are barely a rise in Randy’s sand. Grains appear for me, one after the other. I see behind, before, in the bottom of my hourglass. I stare at the funnel, stare as if I look hard enough the top of the hourglass will fill, I’ll see “to be”.

It’s not possible, of course, you know that. It’s so trite, so trivial, but no less true that the sands pour through more swiftly than we can follow. The less we attend to them the faster they pour. The less attention we pay the harder it is to see them as they settle in the bottom of the glass; we miss them as they pass and then can’t find them as they settle among the other grains of our time. To find them in the bottom of the hourglass we must see them as they pass through the funnel from top to bottom, look right at them lest they be nothing more than shadows.

Where did they all go, those grains, those sands of my time? How many did I miss, shadows on my horizon?


The Empty Nest

SkyVision is jammed with kids heading off to school who are getting in their eye exams before the end of the summer. It’s fun for all of us when we see a kid leaving for college and remember when they got their first pair of glasses or got fit for contacts for the first time. The chat with their parents is a bit more poignant for the two of us who are empty nesters. We both go through a little bit of that empty feeling along with those parents.

My brother is sending his youngest to school in a week or so. Randy has been blessed with two very athletic sons, and he has really enjoyed watching them play their sports. His nest is going to feel really empty without having the guys there. My brother-in-law just left our house after dropping off his youngest for the beginning of her freshman year, thereby emptying his nest. Pete was more than a bit melancholy when he got back to our house, a somewhat foreign state of mind for him. I can relate to both of these Dads. Here’s what I wrote for “Sunday musings” when my youngest, also Randy, headed off to college.


“There’s a hole in my soul right now. I know it will get smaller, fill in, but it just opened up so it’s really quite obvious at the moment. My youngest, Lil’bingo, is off to college. Mrs. Bingo and I dropped him and “Lovely Daughter” at the ‘Hurst’ yesterday leaving a packed and ready to fly “The Heir” as the only progeny on premises.

I’m not sad, mind you, nor am I frightened like I was when “Lovely Daughter” left for her freshman year. Nope, not relieved either, the emotion felt by both of his parents when “The Heir” went off to Denver. It’s not an emptiness or a feeling of a door closing, the things that Mrs. Bingo has expressed as she has said several times: “All I ever wanted to be is a Mom; I know it’s not so, but it feels like that’s just done now.” For me it’s just a hole.

Do you have a special person in your life? Remember how you just couldn’t imagine that you could love them even a little bit more only to discover that each day brought just that, a little bit more? What happens when children enter your world? Does your heart expand, your love for your spouse the same, maybe even expanding still while you add more love for the kids? Or is there really a finite amount of love to give, a bucket with little compartments and a ladle to mix it up, move it around?

It’s not that you, I, love them any less because they aren’t here at the table, there’s just less of an opportunity to DO the loving. You know, exercise the love domain in the language of CrossFit. That’s the hole, I think. What happens now? Does the love of Mrs. Bingo start to expand again, grow at the rate it once did in the days BK, before kids? Fill the hole? Does the hole just slowly close?

No teachable moment here my Brothers and Sisters. Nothing but one among you here at the Crossfit table, talking out loud among friends in a place I feel at home. Parenting at the speed of life, pedal to the floor, lucky to have a co-pilot who has always filled the holes.”


Me again, offering a little tip of the hat and a soothing pat on the back to my brother Randy and brother-in-law Pete, and for that matter to everyone sending off any child to college or elsewhere. It’s been 3 years now for me and I’m pretty OK. The holes are still there, I just don’t see them all the time any more. I do miss them, all three, I really do. But I’m kinda liking having just my special girl around again like it was BK.

Trust me, it’s gonna be OK.


Committing to a Memory

The White family is moving. Beth has declared that the “Netty Empsters” shall live in a one-level abode. Furthermore, she has decreed that said abode shall occupy ~50% of the land and air now taken up by the dwelling “White house” in which I’ve lived for 21 years. Let the purge begin!

The challenge is in part rather prosaic: what do I/we/you need? There’s really no doubt that there is plenty of extra around here. Plenty of stuff and clutter. Where, though, does one draw the line between necessary, desirable, and…I dunno…neither? Once the line is drawn where does one dispose of “neither”?

I’ve got two very real problems with this process, one understandable and one irrational and silly. The silly one: what if I pitch something, only to discover later that I wanted it? Or worse, NEEDED it? That really is just silly; anything I truly need will be obtainable in a pinch, and anything I think I want will likely be forgotten by my next meal. Yet however silly and however irrational, I still worry over that as I sift through stuff.

The understandable one is a little more poetic and has to do with the totems of my past, those little knickknacks that tease out an equally little smile each time I stumble across them. Even if “stumbling across them” only occurs during a purge. Pictures, yearbooks, trivial little souvenirs of trips and places mostly forgotten.

Only, not really.

It’s that tiny connection to an event or a place or a person, or all three, that I most fear losing. Is this irrational, too? Or worse, is this also silly? I don’t dwell in the past, mine or anyone’s really. I don’t really spend very much time there at all. Yet each of us has a little collection of memories–some real and some (like last week’s musings) just little lies that we choose to believe–that are bathed in a soft sunlight of something that could be called “happy”.

Perhaps it’s generational. Will my kids (and both of you other kids out there their age reading this) ever experience what my darling Beth and I did in our garage yesterday as time stood still, frozen again and again by a picture, a seashell, some trinket? I sure don’t know, but that doesn’t really help me as I sift through the delights and the detritus of a house filled with 21 years of Clan White, and the stored 32 years of memories that came before. The memories and their “triggers” rest in my hands at this moment, not among the electrons dancing across the internet to someday rest in a place that may never need purging.

The rational, actionable answer probably lies there: utilize the tech of the present to preserve the memories of the past. It’s different, though. It really is. Much like the difference between turning the pages of a real newspaper, one made of real paper, and swiping through the same sentences on the device of the moment. The words are the same and the information is transferred equally effectively, only not.

Physically clipping an article or a picture and then carefully husbanding that memory over time, physically, is both qualitatively and quantitatively different from clicking “save” to either Instapaper or Evernote. It takes so little effort to do that latter that there’s no commitment to the memory! I look at a photo on FB, often one of 100+ in an album, and it’s…different.

I think that’s it, really. Commitment. Each time I sift through “stuff”, be it photos or books or trinkets, I make a tiny little on-going commitment to a particular memory when that little trigger goes back in the box, and the box goes back in my house. I make a tiny little commitment to the people who were a part of that memory (usually without ever telling them), a commitment that I will continue to remember them, to remember when being with them made me happy.

Will it be the same for our SM-centric, cloud-connected younger generations? Will it be the same for me and for Mrs. bingo as we go forward, hopefully not done creating tiny memories that will one day elicit those same tiny smiles? Will something be there to prompt them or us to open those virtual boxes that store the trinkets, that store the memories?

I only know that today I am visited by memories, by the people who populate my past, as they compete for a place in my present, the survivors of this latest purge. The ones that still make me smile.