For the past four years I have been living a semi-empty nester life. As my daughter, Sam, was away at college, it was just my husband and I at home for most of the year. With her senior year ending this spring, I knew that she would find a job, get her own place, and we’d be full-time empty nesters.
The good news is that even with the craziness of 2020, my daughter did get a job. She also got an apartment. Thus, we now are empty nesters, and while there’s a twinge of sadness for that part of my parenting life to end, it was expected.
What wasn’t expected was my sadness at becoming pet-less at the same time. Ever since my son went to college six years ago, I have been the keeper and caretaker of his New Caledonian gecko, Gonzo. He had a spot in my office. Then when we moved to Arkansas, he made the roadtrip (successfully sneaking him into hotels every night). Post-travel he’s had a spot in our living room.
Although he doesn’t really interact with people, I talked to him during the day. (No, I am not crazy.) Every morning, I would turn on his light and look to see where he was inside the tank. Some nights we would take him out and let him sit on one of our shoulders, which he seemed to like. When I went to bed, I turned his tank light off and said good night. He was this other presence in our home.
The plan always had been for Sam to take him once she got her own place. Because of my son’s job, it wasn’t an option to have Gonzo. As my husband and I will be spending time in different locations, trying to determine where our next home will be, it would be best for the gecko to have a permanent spot.
Thus, when my daughter left Arkansas in late July, heading to her new place in Phoenix, Gonzo was placed in the passenger seat to begin the journey as well. Re-entering our condo it felt odd. In the following days I had to stop myself from saying hi to Gonzo when I got up or checking on him during the day.
As I reflected, I haven’t been pet-less for more than a month or so. Ever. My parents always had dogs and cats when I was little. I got my first kitten when I was five, and since then I’ve had an assortment of cats, dogs, chickens, lizards, hamsters, and guinea pigs in my life. Now, I have a husband and two plants.
It’s now been six weeks since Gonzo headed to his new home. Like many things, my sadness has faded. Although I am looking forward to the future in which my husband and I choose a new location (or two). Once we are more settled, I am pretty sure there will be a dog there also. Then, once again I’ll be able to nurture a creature!