Empty Nest Syndrome

October 18, 2008
By Julia Pitts, New Canaan, CT

He walks into the house, nose hit by the smell of must. Dust and cobwebs hit him second, as his eyes adjust to the smell and light (or lack thereof). It smells like a house that hasn’t been opened to the world in almost six months.

His son is dead.

The house is not large, not like that of his and his wife of almost thirty-five years. There is no white picket fence in the yard, no swingset in the back; his son had no children. His son had no wife.

He begins to turn on the lights. It looks just as it must have when his son left for war; the recliner is angled towards the television, remote perched on its padded arm. The footstool is still in place directly in front of the chair. There is an old pair of ratty blue house slippers next to the chair.

He doesn’t cry.

He makes his way through the house, turning on lights; he can pretend someone else is there, that way. This house is not full of ghosts. No children have been raised here, no loved ones lost.

The loved one was lost overseas, not in his home. The loved one was lost to a bomb, not age or disease.

There is nothing to bury of his son.

In the kitchen stands the refrigerator and range. Both have a cool steel exterior, top of the line quality. They each hum contentedly, gas invisibly burbling in the tank outside the back door, waiting for the stove to be lit for coffee, maybe, or soup.

Out the window, there is a bird feeder in the back yard. Left unfilled for so long, there are no birds feeding, but a family of sparrows have made their home inside the open top. The strands of their nest peeks out from the feeding holes. He hears the babies chirping.

He remembers his son as a young boy, remembers watching him out a window much like this, making sure he didn’t fall from the swings, or bump his head against the edge of the patio table. The boy was always rambunctious, uncontrollable; his brief stint as an accountant left him bouncing and dissatisfied.

The army had been his father’s suggestion. Might give you something to channel your energy, he had said.

His twenty-five year old son is dead, now. The flag brought by his commanding officers provides no solace, though it hangs on the front porch of the man’s own home. It is simply a reminder that he will never see his only son get married, or have children. He will have no one to educate about raising a young boy.

If the man cries in the kitchen of his dead son’s house, there is no one to remark on it.

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