A child enters your home and makes so much noise you can hardly stand it–then departs, leaving the house so quiet you think you’ll go mad. – Dr. J.A. Holmes

Call it “empty nest,” or as one girlfriend wrote recently, “going out of the parenting business,” most parents look to the day their child moves out with a mix of excitement and dread.

Make no mistake about it, Mark and I all but counted the days we thought/hoped/prayed we’d have our three children launched and we’d have the house back to ourselves.

Mark was killed in a traffic accident two-and-half years ago — so much for that plan.

For a long time after his death, I kept my focus on prepping that launch pad for Sam. Mark and I had learned that it’s often traumatic for adults with disabilities to get to age 40 or 50, having lived with their parents all that time, only to confront their deaths. Not only must those adults with disabilities cope with the loss, they also must learn new life skills in middle age. It’s tough stuff, or so we’d always been told.

About six months ago, though, I began to reflect on exactly what we were still shooting for. Sam moves into an apartment by himself, and I live in this house by myself, and we’re both alone for the next 20 years.

All so that he wouldn’t be hit with a double-whammy when it’s my time to go.

I asked the smartest person I knew whether I was being selfish in re-thinking this, or was my question a fair one — what do Sam and I really get by trading out 20 years of companionship?

Not much, she agreed, as long as I’m mindful that he still needs those skills.

It’s a funny place to be. Sam is taking college classes and working part-time. He manages his own finances. He drives. He helps out a lot around the house and farm. I do wish he cooked more, but we’ll get there. Although far less than what his brother has as a freshman at TCU, Sam has his own social life. (I will blog about this topic soon.)

I’ve been trying to ease us towards a “roommate” way of getting along, at my wise friend’s encouragement. We have a good life where we are right now.

As far as Sam’s launch pad, it’s still there if, for example, he got his dream job (computers at the National Weather Service) and got serious about that apartment he thinks about from time to time (mostly that he’ll have cable TV and high-speed internet, unlike now).

I haven’t lost track of the support he’d need to get out the door, if that’s his heart’s desire. It’s not much different, really, than what his brother and sister would need, just a little more of it.

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