Two years ago I thought that I was having one of the best days of my life. My youngest kid was going to attend her final day of high school. This would be the last time I would ever have to prepare a packed lunch.

Now, that child, along with her older brother, has returned to their respective universities. Last year, when they were both gone for the first time, I thought it was going to be absolutely fantastic. No more waking kids up for school when we all just wanted to sleep past 7:30. No more “Mom, I can’t find my algebra book,” or, “I’ll be ready in five minutes” (which really meant ten). Me, with my coat thrown on over my pajamas and a baseball hat over my un-combed hair, rushing through traffic to drop them off before the bell rang. Oh, I had been waiting for this day when I got to live on my own schedule instead of the one I had been on for the last twenty-one years.

Just imagine running your dishwasher only once a week. Envision only a couple of pairs of shoes by the front door instead of ten or twelve. I did one load of laundry every weekend. When I left something on a table or countertop, it was still there the next day. No more picking up kids from their extra-curricular activities when all I wanted to do was get into my pajamas and go to bed. Or my husband calling me from his car on the way home from work telling me he’d be home in fifteen minutes and would be picking me up to go out to dinner.

However, what struck me most was the pure cleanliness of our home. I had always been a neat freak. In fact my kids once asked me during an argument on the state of their rooms, “Do you want it to look like no one lives here?!” Well, yes, that is exactly what I wanted our home to look like. I wanted it to look like a photographer from Better Homes and Gardens could walk in at any minute and start taking pictures for the popular magazine.

The “good times” lasted for about a month. Then it just got, for lack of a better word, weird. After having children living at home for over twenty-one years it was just too strange. The text messages and phone calls between us didn’t even begin to  suffice the hunger that I had for their actual presence. I knew that this day would come but couldn’t imagine it ever actually happening. They were doing what they were supposed to be doing. I just didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing.

Last night, after they were both gone, my husband and I lay side-by-side in the dark, wide-awake. Even though there wasn’t anyone else there to hear it, he whispered to me, “I didn’t like this last year and I like it even less now.”

So let me know if you want me to pack you a lunch. I make a mean PB & J.

Jodi Bernholtz

I am a wife, mom of two and a writer/blogger. Sixteen years ago I underwent a double lung transplant and I am currently working on my memoir entitled Breathe. I blog along as I re-live my experience, as well as how it has affected my present-day life and that of my family's. I also blog about other things that I just can't keep to myself.