Monday, December 24, 2012

Empty Nest

Morgan’s Monday Message

18 years ago today, at about noon, our beautiful daughter, Morgan Elizabeth Jenkins Coleman, was delivered by C-Section after 22 hours of labor.  Today she has become an adult as she takes her first steps as an 18 year old.  Today is like many of the other milestones in her life, they mark not only amazing growth for her, but also changes in the lives of her parents.

The last time Lizy and I had a vacation without minor children in tow was to a Bed and Breakfast in Hyannis Port on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  She was 6 months pregnant and I had not transitioned into life as a full time coach.  We were young at 26 and 28, although we felt old and wise for having waited 5 years since we had married to have children.  Little did we realize how the renewed youthful vigor a child could infuse every moment of our lives. 

And at her birth on Christmas Eve 1994, her arrival transitioned our lives to that of parents.  We were no longer a couple, we were a family, and the heavy mantles of Mom/Mother/Mommy and Dad/Father/Daddy settled firmly on our shoulders.  Well actually I must confess that It took me a little while to settle into my role, as I would drag Morgan in her car seat with me to practices and tournaments.  I saw this as baby-sitting and not fatherhood; and would pawn off this task to any and all who would sit around and coo at the adorable baby while I attended to the important business of teaching teenagers how to play a game.  And at the back of our minds was the thought that we will not have an empty nest until 2012-13. 

Not only am I a complete idiot, but I am also gullible to the wiles for my daughter, who in short order understood that to spend more time with me she would either have to become one of daddy’s ‘soccer girls’ or invite those same young ladies to become her babysitters.  So in short order we came to understand that Morgan’s talents lay in music and not athletics, and that her intuitive understanding of psychology still puts me to shame.

Over the next three years, Morgan went with us everywhere, crawling, cruising and walking her way deeper and deeper into our hearts.  Six months after she was born she was saying, ‘Mama, mama’ while we sat in a restaurant in Washington DC at a Physical Therapy conference; and as mommy broke down in tears because her first words were for her, daddy (always Morgan’s daddy) was slack jawed in amazement at her precocious nature (six months is early to talk and mama is often the fifth or sixth word a child learns, mama is more difficult).

14 years ago today, as a 3 year old, she stood in front of the congregation at our church of the moment and sang ‘Away in a Manger’.  Lizy was pregnant with Evan, I was about to go on shift as a Supervisor at an EMS company, Morgan was amazing and as a light snow fell outside, it marked our last Christmas as a threesome.  Boy, O boy, could she sing.

A year later Morgan was being the best big sister a baby could have as she showed Evan the ropes of present appreciation and package disassembly although not necessarily in that order.  And in the back of our minds, the empty nest deadline was moved back an additional 4 years, I at least would be 50; assuming the sticks we threw out at that time didn’t boomerang back.

Over the ensuing years, Morgan has grown into an amazing young woman, although the past five years have been a master level course in how to be the world’s best sister and daughter.  From early in Evan’s fight , Morgan grasped her critical role.  She had to treat Evan like nothing was going on, and yet be ready in an instant to defend him.  She must do well in school partly to keep Evan in his place and mostly so that she would not be an additional burden to us.

She set aside the normal activities of her childhood by not clamoring for attention and demands of time or resources so that we could focus on Evan’s health, treatment and welfare.  Two distinct thoughts on love coincide in the past five years.  First is that a child spells LOVE – T.   I.   M.   E. and second is that, “True love is shown by those that are willing to lay down their life for their brother.” 

Morgan sacrificed 5 years of her childhood that Evan might receive the best we could offer him, five years we can never give back nor can we fully show our appreciation.  And it was given freely and without fuss.  As she grew in maturity and became a new woman in our midst she did not rebel and demand freedoms or attention, instead she became both a glue and a buffer that held us all together and gave us space to vent as needed.

The time since August has been a big transition for all of us, not the least Morgan who is experiencing all the trials and tribulations of being a teenager in 4 months.  We’ve had more parent-teacher interaction/meetings/etc. in this last 120 days than the entirety of her education to date.  She has ‘discovered’ boys and there has been a distinct aroma of teenage hormone overload.  And it has been wonderful to reengage as her parent, and not as an equal part on a treatment team.  In that time, she has also done the college tours, identified her favorite, applied and been accepted to the University of North Carolina – Greensboro. 

And so we now realize that today Morgan not only reaches the age of majority, for her life has been filled with life experiences well beyond her years, but on some level this marks the beginning of our empty-nest.  On Christmas Eve, as I sang ,”Hark the Herald Angels Sing” while driving home as a new father, the concept of empty nest was the farthest thing from my mind.  And now as I prepare a four course French Cuisine Birthday Dinner for seven, it is the only thing on my mind.

It seems that only yesterday she fit in the palm of my hand and we worried about new-born breathing and pooping patterns, and too soon she will graduate from High School and continue to live a life she has been carving out for herself with all the tools she has acquired through our time together.  And there is a terrible underlying fear that she is leaving us behind as she spreads her wings and flies free from the chaos and mayhem of the nest we raised her in.

God speed our darling, God’s blessings our dearest child, and know in your heart that no matter where you are, no matter what is going on in your life, we will always have a place in our nest for you.  Happiest 18th Birthday, may there be many happy returns, and thank you for being the best daughter two parents could ever have.  We love you . . . now look out world . . . here comes an accomplished and talented young woman ready to give herself for your betterment.

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