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Opinion >  Column

Front Porch: Finding thankfulness in empty nest adjustments

Baffled, we stared at our dining room table.

With the leaves, it seats 12. Without the leaves, it seats six. Now, there are just two of us.

“Where are we going to sit?” I asked my husband.

He shrugged.

Our places at the table changed over time as our family grew and then shrank. For several years, it’s just been Derek, me and our youngest son. In September, Sam accepted a teaching possession at Odessa College in Texas. We hadn’t thought about the practical adjustments empty-nesters must make – like where to sit at mealtimes.

“We can’t sit next to each other. That’s just weird,” I said.

With a full plate in one hand and a glass of wine in the other, Derek nodded toward the door.

“Let’s eat on the deck,”

Crisis averted, we enjoyed our meal in the September sun and discussed where our new spots at the table should be.

“I don’t care where we sit as long as we’re not eating off TV trays,” he said.

I shuddered.

“Do they even still make those?”

In the weeks that followed we slowly found our new normal. While we miss our Baby Boy, we’re finding lots to love about our empty nest – like nuts. Sam has a severe peanut/nut allergy. We haven’t had a dish of cashews or peanuts in our home in 22 years. Now, we enjoy small dishes of mixed nuts as an appetizer or late-night snack. Also, our grocery bill has diminished considerably!

We aren’t the only ones adjusting to Sam’s absence. Our cats Thor and Walter have had to adapt as well – especially Walter. He’s a creature of habit, and his habit is to tag along after me all day long. Most mornings my tabby entourage escorts me to my basement office. Then he plunks himself on our old BarcaLounger near my desk in front of Sam’s TV.

Sam took the TV and the recliner with him when he moved. With no place to plunk, Walter took to napping at my feet. This proved to be a workplace hazard for both of us. I’d forget he was there and step on his tail, or he’d dart in front of me causing me to trip.

I explained the situation during a phone call with Sam.

“Maybe I should buy him a cat bed and put it next to my desk,” I said.

My son had a better idea.

“Why spend money on a cat bed he won’t use? Just buy a clothes basket. He loves them.”

There’s a reason we call him Smarty Pants Sam.

I bought a $4 basket; put an old afghan in it and now Walter has a safe place to nap when he comes to work with me.

Though I’ve found lots to enjoy about our first few months as empty-nesters, I have to confess to feeling a bit blue as I did my Thanksgiving shopping. It’s our first holiday without our youngest son. We’ll have seven family members at the table – I doubt I’ll need to extend it with a leaf.

But when reaching for the serving platters behind my Christmas china, I rediscovered my thankful spirit.

Sam will come home for Christmas and his place at the table will be ready.

Scary movie feedback

In response to my previous column about scary movies, replies about which movies frightened readers the most varied from “Clockwork Orange” to the original “Halloween” to classics like “Psycho” and “The Omen.”

But Mike Storms offered a challenge. He couldn’t remember the name of the scariest movie he’d ever seen, though he offered this vivid description.

“The movie was sci-fi horror designed to scare the crap out of a kid. A vehicle from outer space landed in a field and bore its way into the ground. Only a kid my age saw it land. As people went by they got sucked into the ground and had a device installed in the base of the neck that put them under alien control. The aliens dug tunnels with a device that looked like a blunderbuss with a Ford taillight stuffed in the end. It would make the ground bubble and explode into a tunnel. The kids’ parents became alien slaves.”

Storms saw it at the Garland Theater and said it gave him nightmares.

I put my son Zachary on research duty and within minutes he’d discovered the film was likely “Invaders from Mars” which came out in 1953.

Sometimes it pays to have kids who love horror flicks.

Cindy Hval can be reached at dchval@juno.com. Hval is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation” (Casemate Publishers, 2015) available at Auntie’s Bookstore and bookstores nationwide.

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