Barbra Streisand has a beautiful voice, but she got it all wrong when she sang that people who need people are the happiest people in the world.
To be fair to Ms. Streisand, it was actually lyricist Bob Merrill who got it wrong.
After reading his obituary in The New York Times, it’s easy to see why he did. Married twice, Mr. Merrill had no children. There’s no record even of his having step-children.
As a result, he never experienced empty nest syndrome.
But Rosemarie Fitzsimmons, one of my favorite bloggers, has. Last week, in fact she wrote about her own experience with the phenomenon.
I almost didn’t read the post. Its title — “Sounds of an Empty Nest” — told me all I needed to know — that Rosemarie would be writing about her children having moved out of the family home.
Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to read Rosemarie’s perspective on the topic. It was simply that I didn’t want to read anyone’s perspective on the topic.
Blog posts and essays and Facebook memes about the empty nest have the power to make my eyes mist on a good day. I was sure that, just a few days before Father’s Day (which is so difficult anyway because of the absence of my own father and my children’s father), this post would be gut-wrenchingly painful to read.
But something drew me in. Perhaps it was the first two lines:
I promised myself I wouldn’t cry.
Perhaps it was the image of the five pair of shoes clustered together on the floor.
Whatever it was, I began to read.
I followed Rosemarie’s narrative, recognizing my own past in her recollection of her son’s need for a bow tie, his not telling her of that need until almost the last minute, and her doing what moms all over the world have been doing for centuries. You know what she did. She found not just a bow tie, but a fantastic bow time.
And then, just after she shares this story, she writes four words.
Four simple words that grabbed my heart, that speak of the bittersweet nature of living in an empty nest:
He doesn’t need me.
I sat there, stunned. Reading those four words over and again.
And I thought to myself, “She gets it. Oh my gosh, she truly gets it!”
Because that is, for me at least, the crux of empty-nest nest pain.
My own children are adults now. Both have good jobs, own their own homes and pay their own bills, have lots of friends, and are productive members of society.
They don’t need me. Not really.
And they, like my when I was their age and the last one to leave home, have no idea how that makes me feel.
Oh they will . . . some day. They may even one day, when their own youngest has left home, think of me and wish that they could call me up and tell me that now they understand. But for now they, like Mr. Merrill, simply don’t have a clue.
But Rosemarie . . . oh, she definitely does. She gets it!
She knows that it’s people who feel needed and who have a sense of purpose, who are the happiest people in the world.
Rosemarie’s son may no longer need her to run out and buy him a tie. But there’s a whole world of empty-nesters out there who feel alone, who believe there’s something wrong with them.
They need to know they aren’t and there isn’t.
So, Rosemarie? Keep on writing.
We need you.
I in no way did justice to Rosemarie’s blog post, so I sincerely hope that after you share your own thoughts in a comment here you’ll read it for yourself. Trust me . . . you don’t want to miss it. Just follow this link: Sounds of an Empty Nest