My stepson Brandon left for college this morning. So that leaves me the last human inhabitant in a house once filled with 3 children, 3 dogs, and 2 adults. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to enjoying the quiet. I’ve always enjoyed the quiet. Yet there’s a feeling that I’ve become the ghost that haunts the rooms and hallways of a once lively and energized home. Keith screaming “CHEEERISHHHH” from his office as if we were Ozzy and Sharon Osborne. The soft plucking of strings on Zach’s guitar as he sat in front of his computer. Explosions and rapid gun fire coming from Brandon’s room as he tried to master the universe on his XBox. Christie bouncing around the house, all keyed up after a soccer or lacrosse win. Grommit growling and snarling away on the couch as she’d pounce on Keith while he watched TV. He’d always get her wound up by grabbing her lip and pulling on it. “Come here frulein” He’d say to her, in his best phoney German commandant voice. He also could get Rudy talking by staring out the kitchen window and growling at him until he’d howl back.
Christie is in New York doing all the independent things a 24 year old woman should do. Zach has moved to the Baltimore area with his father’s family, getting a crash course in how to make it through college after being so smart, he never had to crack a book in high school. By now Keith has probably found his little fräulein and is plucking away on her lip while what remains of their physical presence sits in urns in the house. I still have Rusty and Rudy but after a fruitless battle with their flea infestation and discovering a couple of tumors on our “old man”, I have decided that Rusty has reached a point of deserving his final rest. Brandon fought the flea battle better than any XBox adventure with flea bombs and flea baths and flea spray. I was convinced that we had it beat until a couple of weeks ago when it became apparent that they were back ten fold.
Meanwhile, the bushes have grown to jungle status, the faucets are leaking in the kitchen and my bathroom. I still have a garage full of things, and half a closet storing Keith’s cloths. I know what needs to happen but whenever I stand before the task at hand, I freeze. The ghost in me manages to play with the faucets, swat at the fleas, open and close the closet, hack clumsily at the bushes, move the boxes around in the garage – but nothing more. I want to take that final leap. I want to step out of the ethereal plane and into the land of the living but I can’t. At least I can’t seem to do it in this house. I manage quite well as soon as the car is out of the driveway but here, in this place, where Keith and I had dreams of what we were going to do with our empty nest lives – I seem paralyzed.
I did call the exterminator and the vet today. I can’t afford to be a ghost for the living breathing creatures that are my keep. I can’t let Rusty hurt any more despite my selfish need to desperately hang on to parts and pieces of a life I once had. I do take solace in watching the children take flight, heading out into a future that is theirs to write any way they want it. I thrill in watching them learn and shine and grow into adults with endless possibilities ahead of them. They deserve to move on. I know I deserve to move on as well – I’m just moving slower than I thought I would, weighted down with my ghostly chains in the quiet of my house. I have to trust in the fact that the day will come when I open the closet door and not close it again until Keith’s half is empty.