And then there were none

Let me begin with a big round of applause to a certain 17-year-old, the possibilities for whom have only just begun.
Proud of you? Nothing this talented writer can come up could convey how my rewarded heart pounds for you.
However, I doubt you will empathize with anything I’m writing about in the next few paragraphs and most likely (if I know anything), you won’t even read this column until 15 years from now, when stuff your mother did back then seems cool to you now.
That’s okay. It’s a mom-thing.
• • •
“Hey Beth! Write a story about me! Something really exciting!” shouted Dan the H20 man—and the world’s most excellent conversationalist—as he zoomed past hanging his head out the driver’s window and gesturing to me.
His work van swerved slightly in his excitement and nearly ran over the writer’s foot as she stepped out onto the street from the sidewalk.
When I talk to (or mostly listen to) the H20 man, I’m always sure to come away with a new perspective on things, be it outer space or the cost of gas. Come to think of it, gas prices are headed to outer space, but anyway. . . .
The H20 man always is in good spirits and it tends to rub off on you.
As far as I know, he and the Mrs. have an empty nest. Maybe I should talk to them about what to do next. Maybe they have some alternatives to the path I’m beating around the house as I pace the cage.
• • •
Me. MmmmMe. That’s mmme. Uh huh, me.
I am among the lyrics in a Bruce Cockburn song and the one for whom the website flownthenest.com was written.
My final shift—Daughter #3—headed to the big city two weeks ago for university. Alas, my house is very quiet. Remarkably clean, but very quiet.
Maybe, like something from a Van Morrison song, I’ll find some “Enlightenment” in this empty nest.
“This must be what paradise is like. It is so quiet in here, so peaceful in here.”
I have proven myself so many times as a mom since 1985. Parenthood is all I have known, all I still know about. It’s who I’ve been, and where almost all of my emotional and intellectual skills have resided for 23 years.
That’s right, 23 years.
I’m like an old debit card. A mother whose magnetic strip has worn thin. Time for a replacement card that includes free space, time, and all that. Now I have to live with myself. Can I do it?
In fact, I never have really done that—really had the opportunity in my lifetime to do that.
Even before I was done college, I had met the first guy I would marry, so I never really had time to get to know myself. By the time I was separated and divorced, I had three very young children to raise.
Motherhood took notes and Beth was 82nd on the dictation list.
I never got past 81.
Then I met Peter. Thank God for Peter. Yet, I was still a mother with young kids and now a wife again. Roles rolled on.
Last Friday, the dogs heard the school bus coming down the country road and they stopped and waited for Daughter #3 to get off. The bus passed the driveway. They still sat and waited.
I expect they’ll do that for weeks.
I miss my kid. A lot.
It’s a new dawn, the high road, the road less travelled, blah, blah, blah. I can run around buck naked if I want to, not worry about picking a certain someone up from work at 10:30 p.m. six out of seven nights a week, cook a meal or not, and be done with arguments about whose turn it is to do dishes.
No more head-banging rap music to roll my eyes at, no “how was your day at school?” repertoires at the supper table. My house is very quiet.
My husband, who unexpectedly was put on hydro tunnel duty on the Pacific Rim, is gone until Christmas.
I miss my husband. A lot.
Now I really, really do have to live with myself. And Heaven help his side of the bed!
The days do, indeed, drip slowly on the page Mr. Cockburn. And I pace the cage.
I quit drinking alcohol in January. It changed my life, my health, my weight, my destiny. But I sure could use a drink right now. Company for one.
I will not go there.
Life without kids at home will take some getting used to. I’m trying that on for size every day. Looking forward, not backwards at all the possibilities that lay ahead for me, too.
Forward instead of backwards—that’s the view I should have taken when I returned to Fort Frances from the big city after hauling Daughter #3 and all of her stuff to university. Instead, I got lost.
The Lone Ranger had warned me before I left the big city heading east to watch for the sign or I’d end up in Dryden.
So what happened? In my faked anticipation of life without kids (driving like the rear view mirror was torn off with an “I ain’t never looking back” attitude), I thought I’d overshot the junction.
I kept driving until I found a long stretch of abandoned highway (just outside of Dryden I was sure), did a U-eey, and took the first left on a road I was sure would lead me back home.
I drove on into a town I had no recollection of on the way into Winnipeg and suddenly feeling even more alone than I already was, with emotions of a dejected mother brimming at my eyelids, I started to cry.
It was the city of Kenora and I still didn’t know how to get home.
The guy pumping gas at the station must have thought I was a dork when I stopped to ask directions to Fort Frances, especially when I blathered on about living there nearly all my life and how I couldn’t find my way home.
He just started to laugh and pointed “that way, keeping going around until you get to the highway, hang a right, and then watch for the sign [or you’ll end up in Dryden] and then hang another right.”
This alone time will take some getting used to.
Days drip slowly on the page. What is my story? It’s going to be fun to find out.
As Jonathan Galassi said, “Eyes ahead companions, life is now.”

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