Our 28th wedding anniversary comes up toward the end of this month.
We’re coming up on half a year since our 24 year old son with autism, a presence for all but four of our married years, moved to his group home.
Someone described empty nest couples (sorry for the mixed metaphor ahead) as two people finding that “the cushion is gone.” Two people with a relationship… what? invested in? distracted by? absorbed with? filtered through? children wake up and find this empty space between them and start trying to scoot together across it. Or refill it. Or whatever else people do with empty spaces.
Deferred desires long stuffed under the cushion become visible. Missed time with friends and extended family, skipped travels, unmade personal touches to home and yard, shrugged off study and career opportunities and piles of other hoped-for endeavors are there, but harder to pick up now that the restrictions of age, time and overworked finances have fallen into that space with them.
Old grievances come into the space. The demands of the special need were exhausting but they buffered deeper discussions and discoveries that the couple should have shared. Now these flop in with all of their emotional distortions and disputed memories and toxic colorization of today.
There’s pleasant stuff, too. A gentle pace of life was buried under the cushion and can be restored. Daydreams can be shared over coffee or cocktails. Decisions can be talked out at length. There isn’t a frayed and fragile cushion sitting there demanding urgent care. Life doesn’t have to be lived as a constant emergency response.
The two shall become one flesh says God through Moses, Jesus and the Apostles. With the cushion gone, the two can dare to shimmy across the couch, risk a hug, chance some words from their hearts, and get on with it again.