My Scrambled Nest

An Almost-Empty Nest Journey of "Letting Go" With Laughter and Love, By Cathy Free

When I came across this snapshot tucked in the back of one of my mom’s old scrapbooks recently, I smiled, then felt a twinge of sadness. It’s my parents’ official engagement photo from 1957, taken four months before their wedding in St. George, Utah, on the day after Valentines Day, Feb. 15, 1958.

Although my parents divorced 13 years later when I was 11, they always remained on friendly terms. They attended school functions together for me and my siblings, they made sure that we could spend holidays with both of them and they rallied to put on a beautiful late-summer wedding for me in 1987.

My mother wept when my dad died of dementia in 2008. “He was a caring husband and father,” she told me, “and he’ll always be in my heart.”

Amazingly, my father took his last breath at the same care center where my mom lives now — just around the corner from her room, in fact. He died there during a five-day respite stay while my stepmom took a much-needed break. The center had been remodeled and had a new name when my mom moved in two years ago, and I’d forgotten it was where my dad died until I walked past his old room one day and it all came flooding back.

When the memory hit me, I burst into tears, then rushed to break the news to my mom.

“Well, it was obviously meant to be,” she said. “It looks like we’ve come full circle now, haven’t we?”

It’s a strange feeling to know that when my mother dies, it will happen just a few yards away from where her college sweetheart departed this world, decades after their divorce. But in a way, it’s also comforting.

“Do you suppose he’ll show up to greet you?” I asked my mother.

Her eyes widened. “Hell, I hope not!” she said, then she grinned.

“I could actually do a lot worse than your dad,” she added. “I’m not ready to go anywhere yet, but when I am, he’s welcome.” ❤️


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