My late husband passed away in 2002, just three years after begging me to have another child at 40. He worked as an investment banker with an older clientele. His favorite thing to ask these “older” investors was, “if you could change anything in your life, what would it be?” He reported most answered with, “I wish we had had more children.” This was his plea on the threshold of his fortieth birthday…more children. Wasn’t he supposed to want a red sports car or another of the midlife crisis clichés? Certainly not a baby. The request came straight from his heart during an incredibly romantic evening out and I acquiesced. I was pregnant shortly after my own fortieth birthday, six months later.
Our third son was born just ten days after my husband received a terminal cancer diagnosis. He died when our three boys were 13, 12 and 3. I was so totally in love with this man and so terribly angry at him for leaving me with what seemed to be an insurmountable task; raising three boys alone. He often referred to that baby as his replacement, but that baby wasn’t going to partner with me in the coming years. My third son bears his name as it seemed the only way to hang onto his idea.
When you are given this type of diagnosis, it allows for preplanning and preparation. We slogged through our finances, properties and investments. Between doctor appointments and cancer centers, I made all kinds of promises to him that I hoped I could keep. Sell this, don’t sell that, keep this, not that. Most importantly, protect and nurture those precious boys. He was my biggest cheerleader in that regard. I prayed nightly for God to just let me get them through high school. Back then, it seemed like it would be forever before they would be adults.
Just after my youngest son’s high school graduation last June, I convinced myself that I was ill. I hadn’t asked for enough in that daily prayer, the time had come too quickly. The kind of quick that seasoned parents will tell you about in retrospect. I wasn’t feeling well and made an appointment for a very comprehensive exam at the Mayo Clinic. At 59, there was no doubt that I had several minor maladies that were age and menopause related, but I wasn’t sick and certainly wasn’t dying. My diagnosis was pretty simple. I was having an emotional response related to my last son finishing high school. The finish line. Had I reached it too? That covenant I had forged with my late husband had come to pass. I had severely underestimated the unconscious thoughts that were nestled deep in my soul, having made all those promises so many years ago. They bubbled up to the surface and came pouring out of me over the course of the summer.
This past weekend, I dropped my son at a college 1,800 miles away. My anticipation mirrored what I had experienced with my older boys, but this time it felt like something even more raw. I’m scared of my new empty nest reality. I am excited too. What will it bring? Who will I become? I’m hoping that tearful goodbye will be the beginning of a new chapter that is meant just for me. I am hoping that all the hard work I have done in my husband’s name will turn into future rewards for me. After all, I’m still young. Stay tuned.