My favourite wife and I often commented, through all the years, at the profound difference the absence of one child made to our home. It might be a sleepover, or someone away on a school trip; and just one missing from our table of eight made the house eerily quiet, and put us all in a somber mood.
With the departure of our Little One (who turns 22 this very week) our home feels too quiet. Tomb like. A sequestered, echoing cloister in which my Favourite Wife and I wander noiselessly, passing in the shadows. My readers might be tiring of this self-indulgent topic, but come with me, one more time.
A chapter of life has very clearly ended, and beyond that loss lies something new, something large. Raising a child with Down syndrome takes quiet a bit of time and energy; and suddenly much of that time is ours again. But more than time, there is space. Measurable space in a vacated bedroom, an empty place at table, a missing swing set, an absence of washing on the bathroom floor. There is space in the air too: the house sounds different. Just a four weeks ago whichever living space Favourite Wife and I were not using was claimed as a dance and rehearsal studio for energetic singing and boisterous conversation with any number of imaginary guests. (I entered this studio without permission one night recently, and was furiously apprehended by our perspiring, noisy dance student: “You know not to disturb me when I am rehearsing!”). With quietness comes an awareness of space in several dimensions. Space to work, thoughts to ponder, music to play, things to create, friendships to revisit.
Most importantly there is inner space. Heart-space, soul-room; something precious and hard to name. How do we inhabit such space when the invitation arrives? There is a realm of hopeful, contented peace which is so close to us that it requires only our nod of ascent, or a deep breath, to enter it. But will we? Do we? In our world of haste and material concerns empty spaces are quickly filled. I reckon I could plug up the newly opened gaps in my life very satisfactorily in just a few weeks; but I am holding out.
At about 10pm each night, when our bed time rituals began, I miss her terribly. Even though this time of night was sometimes terrible! There is such pain in this loneliness, but at the very same moment I am called inward … or is it outward, or upward? Despite myself I want the emptiness.
This is the deepening, joyful space that beckons.