AmIJonah
Published in

AmIJonah

Between Empty Rooms

The room is empty here.

The room is empty there.

The sight of your kid’s bedroom empty, save for the boxes and the suitcases that are about to be loaded in the car. The first glimpse of the college dorm room, bare except for the painted cinder block walls and metal frame bunkbed. One room marks the close of 18 years, the echo of another sounds the first notes of a song that has not yet been sung.

It only took us 30 minutes to physically travel from one room to another, but it’s really about the vacuum of space between the two. We fill up that empty space with the usual jokes about rival schools and nostalgia for days that have come and gone — I mean, we have to do that. It’s a vacuum, and thus demands that it be filled with something more than our parental nervousness. Gracious knows we can’t really face what’s going on here, so I’ll hide behind Dad humor.

I’ve already faced this space once in my life, and I can tell that experience is more foe than friend in this encounter. Both empty rooms are painful to see — but it is absorbing that space between them and all of its meaning that shakes my soul. Am I still the one that shelters her? Have I done enough? Gracious, have I done anything?

Whenever we go out as a family, either walking around or driving somewhere I always want to be in the back. I want to be able to see everyone, make sure that we are all going in the same direction, no one getting left behind. Even though I get frustrated at the speed or indecision of those I’m following — I like being where I can, in the end, know that everyone is where they are supposed to be.

In the vacuum between the empty rooms, I can’t walk behind. I can’t walk in front. Gravity doesn’t allow for that.

I guess I’ll just have to walk beside her instead.

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Hal Atkins

Hal Atkins

Living in Fuquay-Varina, married to my best friend.