Most of you know, since December my older son, Benjamin has been staying with me. One of those short-term, transitional “grown child back home to live with the parent” things that seem common for his generation. In between the house he owns, but wanted to rent out and the apartment he had not yet found, “I’ll just stay with you a month or two, Dad.”
I actually like living with Ben a lot. We did it as adults once before, right after he finished college, before he preceded me in moving to Philadelphia. I’m not so sure it’s as much fun for him, the young adult living with his father! But on May 1, he got is apartment and is moving out.
This delayed departure is happening at the same time as the men from the shelter moved out, as we close the shelter for the warm months. To where, we don’t always know. (See Billi’s nice article on this subject.) Some head to the year round shelter at St. Mary’s. But Charlie Robinson, from the Bethesda Project, says that he needs to thin them out in the next few weeks; St. Mary’s can’t handle so many residents. Some have made other arrangements, found rooms, are going to family. One, I know, figures that the streets are the best place for him.
Empty nesting and “my, how the neighborhood has changed! It’s suddenly feeling a lot quieter around 4th and Race. As Billi said to me at staff meeting, “I came down with the dogs for a walk, and none of our neighbors were standing by the door to the social hall to greet us.” AA still arrives pretty early, and there’s always a smoke and a conversation by those doors between about 6 and 9 a.m. But evenings are pretty still. The mint is not a very expressive or talkative neighbor! Of course, this may all change sooner than we can imagine, if the new hotel and entertainment complex gets built across the street. (Depending on whether you are optimistic or pessimistic, the shuttered Pincus factory, now approved for development, will one way or another enliven the neighborhood.)
The guys in the shelter were good neighbors. Ben and I shared a whole bunch of dinners with them over the past 6 months. Why, I even celebrated New Year’s with them this year.
Not intending any condescension towards the adults who the shelter residents or Benjamin are, I wonder if watching them move out and leave the immediate community at Old First is inevitably a microcosm of the loss that is part of parenting — letting my sons grow up and go away that they may have their own lives? Or do I just feel this way because it’s only my second year of the shelter closing? Or because I’m feeling over-protective of Benjamin!
Don’t get me wrong, in the decade I’ve found myself, more often than not, living on my own, I’ve grown sort of fond of “my own space.” But these recent goodbyes have made me think.
You know that song, “God Be With You Until We Meet Again?” As a parent, we need to learn– with lesser or greater difficulty– that we have to let our children go… to trust them to the world as they grow up and go away. Maybe, the real difficulty is trusting the world will recognize and respect the ones that are so dear to us. That act of trust– and for us ‘churchy types’ faith too– is most difficult with our children, I suspect, because of the unique care involved in parenting. But, in a sense, we have to the same thing anytime we say goodbye to anyone.
And everyone can always come back again…
Feliz Cinco de Mayo, and see you in church,
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