The print column: Alone together
It was a long, quiet ride back down the Northeast Extension Friday. It’s a ride my wife and I have become quite familiar with. But we’ve never quite dealt with the realization we were struggling with on Friday.
You could cut the tension with a knife. She dabbed at her eyes. I tried not to look over at her as I bit my lip and stared out at the highway.
So we drove home in silence. We pulled into the driveway of the only house we’ve ever lived in, put the key in the door and walked into a new world.
We were officially empty nesters.
Just two days after depositing our daughter back at school, we did the same for our son. We both knew this day was coming. Somehow, in planning his high school graduation, the party and then the usual summer flings, we had tried to put it out of our minds.
Now, there’s no denying it. That doesn’t make it any easier to believe.
Where does the time go? Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was walking him to the bus stop. Back then, he was the one biting his quivering lip as he headed off to his own strange new world. Most people call it kindergarten.
I don’t know what has taken me more by surprise, the fact that my son is now heading off to college, or that my daughter is now entering her senior year.
It seems like yesterday that we first piled all her belongings into the car and headed off. This year she drove herself.
Come May, she will be graduating and then heading out to make her own way in the world. Or possibly law school.
As we made that familiar trip home Friday, my wife and I both knew all too well what this meant. Neither of us particularly wanted to talk about it.
And I know that’s exactly what was on her mind. The silence.
You see, for a guy who makes his living with words, I have been described as a man of very few of them. At least verbally. My family jokingly refers to me as “The Quiet Man,” mocking not only one of my favorite movies, but my tendency toward long periods of silence. My wife is no longer laughing.
I plead guilty. I’m not a big talker. I’m more likely to be found with my face buried in a newspaper than engaged in some sparkling repartee at the dinner table.
I’m sure that’s what was on my wife’s mind. She likely was thinking of what her life was like 21 years ago, before our daughter was born.
I had been at the Daily Times for a year when I informed her, a month before I was to meet her at the altar, that I was going to start working nights.
You might say it was not especially well received. For some reason, she never kicked my sorry behind to the curb.
The truth is my wife has been married to two people for the past 25 years. She’s been saddled with me, and this newspaper.
We had met at a newspaper in Coatesville, and she’s been sharing me ever since.
She has gotten used to her ink-stained partner. I don’t think she’s ever been wild about it. But she’s dealt with it.
Our first year of marriage was not our best. We were newlyweds. She worked days. I worked nights. And weekends. We didn’t see a lot of each other. She was miserable, alone in an apartment.
We bought a house. And the first thing I bought her was a dog. Sort of a way to make up for the one she married. It was the best purchase I ever made. I have said many times I believe that little Sheltie saved our marriage.
Then came the kids. My wife got used to me missing the back-to-school nights. Even after I became editor and stopped working nights, she knows my allegiance has always been split.
Now, as we trudged back into the house, it dawned on both of us that we’re back where we started. Just the two of us.
I figured I’d try to lighten the mood.
When we entered the house, I did not sit down in a chair and grab a newspaper. I didn’t flip on the TV. I didn’t walk out on the screened-in porch and turn on the radio.
Instead, I decided to introduce myself.
“Hi, I’m Phil,” I said. “Remember me?”
Philip E. Heron is editor of the Daily Times. Call him at 610-622-8818. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To visit his daily blog, the Heron’s Nest, go to www3.allaroundphilly.com/blogs/delcotimes/philh/blog.html.