The house is still and quiet. The space where the trampoline sat is bare. There is one less car on the white shell driveway. Paul hears every word I say without interruption for the first time in 23 years. The dogs are calm and waiting for someone that won’t come. The house is constantly clean, and in the bedroom, the beds are made and empty. We can make all the noise we want, yet there are long moments of silence. The track team runs by the house, and I say hello, yet there is no response; I am a stranger now. My brush always sits on my bathroom sink in the morning, and I wish it were harder to find. The clean bath towels remain folded in the cabinet, and the laundry basket is bare. The kitchen sink never fills with dirty dishes, and there is hardly a load of laundry to fold for over a week. Chocolate-covered almonds, chips, and cookies get passed up at the grocery store because there’s no one to eat them.
We sit at the dinner table, hold hands and say grace, then eat the meals I prepare and talk about our day; then we wonder what’s happening in our girl’s day on the other side of the earth. No one objects to what I have prepared to eat, and nothing is wasted. I go to work, take my classes, do school work and work some more, uninterrupted. We spend spare time walking the dogs and give them love and extra snuggles. My morning and bedtime kisses have been reduced from 2 to 1. We can do whatever we want. Sleep naked as we did as newlyweds, eat or not eat, watch movies that would have been unsettling to others in the house. We seem to move slower, and the atmosphere is sometimes eerily calm. There are no empty water glasses to collect and place in the dishwasher and nothing on the floors of the girl’s rooms. All of the shoes are placed neatly in the closet where they belong. Paul and I are leaning into each other more than we ever have. We almost operate as one now. We plan to have fun, be social, travel, and find adventure. We are adjusting to the stillness. It will take time, and we will discover new joys to fill each minute that passes. A new chapter in our lives is opening, and we can write our story any way we choose. A new chapter in our girls’ lives is opening, and we will eagerly wait to hear how they spin their tale. We will hang on every word, photo, and text they share with us until we are together again.