Tis the season to buy cards for grads and dads. These both hit me this year. While I’m perennially a dad, this year I’m (also) a dad of a high school grad. No biggie, except that it is a BIGGIE because this is the last of three high school graduates. In other words, my nest will be emptying soon.
Fathering is the largest part of my identity. While I’ve only been doing it for a mere 24/55 of my life, it still takes the prize. And it’s been quite a prize. And it’s not like it’s stopping. And it’s not like my nest hasn’t been half-empty for the last six years, post-divorce. And it’s not like my kids are home much in the summer for the last very many years because of camps and travel and the like. But this is different. My children will all not be living with me as of this fall. I will be an Empty Nester.
I should be happy. Lots of people celebrate. Time for self. Time with my partner. Staying late at work. No more headaches from the teenagers. Yuk!
I just “liked” a friend’s Facebook post — “Our final Shalom Party at Temple Emanuel. End of an era …” So that was me 13 years ago. But now my kids aren’t off to the elementary school down the street. They’re off to their lives. In different states. College and graduate school. There’s so much to be thankful for. My kids can fly. It’s time for them to leave the nest and make their own. Talk about pride!
I am a proud father and I celebrate who my kids are, what they’ve done and look forward to what’s next for each of them. They are solid citizens and to think that I have had a part in that is awesome. But I’m going to miss them being under my roof. Seeing them before I go to sleep. Eating meals with them. Packing lunches (I know that most high school seniors pack their own lunch, but I loved packing Rebecca’s lunches until the bitter end). This is huge. I’m even going to have to stop buying produce at Costco.
So, I also run this place in the Jewish community and two chiefs are leaving the nest after making incredible contributions, to go on with their own lives. While it’s really, really hard to imagine Jewish Family Service without Debra and Shaindle raising boatloads of money and making everything more efficient, the reality at work is I’m “replacing” them. At home, not so much! I’m not looking for new children to call my own.
This is the way life is supposed to be. It’s just a little sad right now. Being a dad and having the last one to be the grad. Not sure if there’s a card for that?
Perry Ohren is the so-called father figure of Charlie, Caleb and Rebecca Driker-Ohren and has been the CEO of Jewish Family Service for 7/55 of his life.