Well, our last child is finally gone.
Yesterday, we schlepped her belongings several towns and about an hour’s drive away, through a surprisingly small front door, up a very long flight of stairs, and into her own apartment, one she’ll share with four other kids her age.
“It won’t take me so long to get to work,” she’d said as her excuse for moving out, “and there’ll be a lot less wear and tear on the car.”
We both know the real reason is that past a certain age it’s embarrassing to tell people you live with your parents. She’s graduated college, has a good job, and it’s time. Still, the house feels empty.
I lie in bed and listen to my husband getting ready for church. He makes quiet rustling sounds, so different from the running, slamming, and pounding I’m used to on Sunday mornings. I watch him going back and forth between the bedroom and the bathroom. He’s wearing only his boxers, something that would have been unthinkable if we still had a child in the house.
I stick one foot out from underneath the covers, then the other, and finally roll myself out of bed. Water’s running in the bathtub, so I head downstairs and put on coffee. When I hear the water shut off, I yell.
“I just poured you a coffee. Do you want cream in it?”
“Funny you should ask. I did have an interesting dream last night,” he replies.
“No—do you want cream in your coffee?”
“Why the hell would I want toffee this early in the morning?”
“No—COFFEE—I MADE COFFEE.”
“I’m right here behind you. Why’re you yelling?”
“Sorry. I didn’t hear you come downstairs,” I say. “Here’s your coffee.”
“Did you put cream in it?”
And that’s pretty much it. No one giggles or makes snide comments about how deaf we are or how we need to work on our communication skills, nothing; it’s just the two of us, together in the kitchen, with him in his underwear and me in my old housecoat, the one I thought I’d get just a few more wears out of before I throw it out.
He likes to start his day with a soak in warm water to help his arthritis, so he fixes himself toast and yogurt and picks up his coffee.
“Have you seen my pills?” he asks. “I put them on the counter over there, but I can’t remember if I took them or not.”
I look where he’s pointing.
“Well, they’re not here now,” I say.
“You didn’t move them?”
“Then I guess I must have taken them.”
He shakes his head, crosses the kitchen, and heads up the stairs, balancing his breakfast in both hands. I watch his slowly disappearing back and smile.
“I could get used to this childlessness,” I whisper. Or maybe I say it more loudly than I think, because he stops for a second, then turns and gives me a look I haven’t seen in a long, long time.
“You coming?” he asks.
I leave the dishwasher to unload itself as I follow him up the stairs.
He grins, hands me the coffee, and takes my hand.
Looks like my mother was right, I think. There are consolations in growing old. Today, church is going to have to wait.
Bernadette Chambers is a writer in Tyngsborough. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.