We have holes in our backyard now. I’m not referring to little mole holes. They are in the front yard. I’m talking about big holes, deep holes, intimidating holes. They are holes that used to be filled with hundreds of pounds of concrete. They are all over my backyard. It’s not as bad as it sounds though. Actually they are a sign of progress. There used to be a playground where the holes were. For the past 5 years we have lived with a preschool playground where a yard should be. In the next few months there will reappear a yard where the playground used to be. It’s not much, but it’s progress. We’re praying for the day when we can look out and the holes will be only memories.
I have holes in my life at the moment. They’ve not come all at once. Actually its been a few year progression. It began when my son graduated from high school. Things began to change rapidly around here. Those of you who have gone through this already know that which I am talking about. Those who haven’t experienced this time….it’s coming. And the humbling thing about it is that there is nothing you can do to stop it. It is a relentless progression, growing up I mean. Each day your child wakes up is one less day that they will wake up in your house. And then the holes begin. The void that comes when they are no longer there any time you want them to be there begins to form earlier than you can even notice it. I think it actually begins when they get their drivers license.
Two years ago we left our son in the Midwest and flew home to an empty room. It took weeks for me to be able to walk by it. I had never experienced holes like that. This one caught me unaware, kind of like those sink holes in Florida that swallow cars and homes. They began long before they appeared too. My son has come back in various stages of living with us which I always thought was the worse fate that a parent could experience. Next year he’ll be married and it will be permanent, at least I’m praying anyway.
Two days ago I watched as my daughter flew off to the next adventure in her life. She’s now working in Disney World. Can you imagine, those people actually get paid to work in the happiest place on earth. Some days I’d pay them to work in a happy place. Another hole dropped out from under me that I never really saw coming. You’d think that I’d have been more prepared. I know people who have gone through it twice as many times as I have. They tell me the same two things. First of all, you never see them forming, the holes I mean. Second, it doesn’t hurt any less when they do come.
The holes form because when they leave the routine of your daily existence, what they’ve contributed leaves with them, and a hole is formed. An empty place at the table, a clean room, and fewer loads of laundry, are all reminders that the ground you built your life on is unstable and disappearing. The phone calls, the school activities, the friends leaving pizza in your family room, all leave when they do, and there are only holes left in their place. It’s a sobering realization of how fragile the life that you’ve built with your family really is. It’s there for 18 years and then, in just a moment, it’s a hole.
I’ve learned though, in the midst of aching emptiness, that holes fill in. I could probably write a book on the choices that you can make which will fill these holes. Unfortunately, I’ve known many couples who had nothing constructive to fill their holes in with. Their relationships didn’t survive and rebuild. But I won’t…. I do know this much…. As much as it hurts, I wouldn’t have traded this experience for any other in the world. There is beauty and appreciation and increased love in the midst of the pain. It’s a growing experience that can’t be matched in anything else. It reminds me of a line in a current popular country song, “Life ain’t always beautiful, but it’s a beautiful ride.” Just as our backyard will be filled and made whole with a new look and endless new possibilities, so too our holes are filling and our lives are resurfaced and the possibilities are endless. The memories of our family will always remain even as the new look emerges. Sometimes it seems like it’s not much to hold on to, but it’s progress.