Is there any such thing as “Empty Coop Syndrome?”
The chickens are gone. Deliberately. I gave them away to a nice couple, who have much more land than I do. The lady of the pair teaches others how to have backyard chickens, so she knows much more about them than I ever bothered to learn. She may even help me find someone willing to buy the coop and take it away.
I can’t eat three dozen eggs a week. Six chickens for two people, one of whom doesn’t really eat eggs, were way too much.
Plus, although frozen chicken poop is much easier to clean up than fresh, I wasn’t looking forward to another winter of dark, 15-below mornings, and worrying about if I had kept both the chickens and their water from freezing.
So, buh-bye, chickens.
And I miss them.
How could that be? I found them amusing, but also pretty disgusting, and I was getting lazy with them. They are better off where they are. And the nice lady who took them let me know that they have already adjusted very well.
I guess it is just a habit I developed over the last year, looking out the window to check on them – replenishing water and food, tossing them the occasional treat, letting them out for a romp in the yard.
But I also know that I got them in the first place sort of as a way to hang on to Mike – we had talked about it, but he got sick before we got around to it. And even if we had done it when he was well, I know I would have been the one dealing with the water, the food, the bedding and the poop.
Thinking about that got me thinking about how I’m spending my time: spinning my wheels. Getting and leaving the same kind of job I had when he was sick. Doing the same kinds of things. Occasionally trying to make the same kinds of food he made, for our daughter.
August 24 will be two years since Mike died, and it is time to stop doing backward-looking things in memory of him, for him, and start looking forward, figuring out how to live complete lives, for the of the rest of our lives, without him, for us. With joy, love and laughs – for where we all are, now. Mike in the next world, and as our daughter keeps anxiously repeating, the two of us, still here in this one.
Certainly not doing things that only remind me of things he would have left me to do on my own, anyway.
He might not even have eaten the eggs. He never was that into the fresh vegetables I grow in the back yard, either.
The chickens were a distraction, a form of “displacement activity,” from the things I’m trying to focus on right now – love and laughs, and my adult child, who really needs my time.
Because as soon as I quit my job, she decided to quit her day program. The “Mommyitis” I wrote about in “Fatherless Days” has intensified – she needs me to sit by her, stay by her, be by her, all day.
Her other caregiver, a wonderful woman who is a genius at getting her to get out, do stuff, play, shop and interact with the outside world, went on a well-deserved vacation. Should be back now, but we’ll give her some time to recover.
But that made my daughter very nervous. Was this another abandonment?
And then the horse she rode most often at her therapeutic riding center died.
How much of this is she supposed to endure? Life is full of loss, but c’mon, this is kind of piling on.
So, that sing, speak, write thing? We’re going to have to figure out how to do that very early in the morning, or in the evening when other helpers are available to keep her company.
In the meantime, we, together, she and I, must learn to sit with Mike’s absence in this house. Something she didn’t really get the time to do, two years ago. I thought maintaining her routine would comfort her. She had so much to go through – leaving her transition program, learning to use public transportation, starting her day program, getting a job. But she never really got the time to just feel the grief, the sadness, the starkness of his departure, and his absence, from this life. From ours.
She deserves that time, and I need to give that to her.
It’s working, I think. She has started to think about what an independent life might be, outside this house. She has started to think about ways we can update her spaces in this house, until she’s ready for that next huge step (although she seems to want to replicate a space from the abandoned day program – a quiet, computer-lounge kind of space – but that is a more adult kind of thing than a play space, and I want to support her in that.) She’s become open to rearranging furniture, or getting some new carpet, and she wants a new desk, if we can afford it.
Because she can’t live independently outside this house until she learns how to live without her Dad in this one, I don’t think. Not without the happy memories, the Journey songs, the butterflies and the hummingbirds – but without the expectation that he will ever be here again, that anything we do can bring him back or that things could ever be the same, that we could recapture him here, somehow – conjure him up like some immortal interactive hologram to keep her company. Not going to happen.
So we sit quietly together, in the dark after sunset, with no chickens to feed (but with a sad-eyed, fat, arthritic, aging cat that Mike had a sort of love-hate relationship with), the two of us (well, the three of us, because the cat seems to miss him, too) finally, truly absorbing his absence.
And maybe just starting to get a glimmer that, even carrying that absence with us, life can go on. And that it will be OK.
I’ll keep you posted.
Until then I remain, your humble, devoted, struggling but trying,