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Sunday, 07 September 2014


I solved the empty nest problem. I seem to have an uncanny knack of befriending immature adults.

Maybe now that you have been professionally de-cluttered and organized, empty nested, and moved into a beautiful home a fine new companion will find her way into your life! I know....not something you can make happen, but, I've got a good feeling about this!

Maybe you have a female photographer viewer with similar feelings.

But Mike, you HAVE started to take care of your own life. Your move is the proof. I wish you just a little luck, the rest will come from you.

"...It's like you're suddenly free, but you're free of a job that you liked and wanted and that made you feel useful..."

"...and start looking at how to make something good of the last decades of my own life..."

Oh, wait! I thought you were talking about retirement!

Joking aside -- we became empty nesters about 10 years ago. That transition was easy compared to the more recent transition to retirement.


In a traditional (but probably fanciful) America children grew up, got married lived no more than an hour away and had grandchildren that we parents could dote over. Then there is reality. Too many years ago for my taste our son emailed me from his first job (6-7 hours away) and said he was torn, he had an offer of an interview for his dream job working for New World Software. His current job was boring but relatively near while New World was all the way across the country in California. Reluctantly I advised him to go for it. He didn't own a home and had no children. If he wanted to chase a dream, now was the time. The alternative was for him to stay in the boring job and wonder when he was 40 or 50 "what if I had...". He went. Years later he ended up in Austin (the opposite of Kirk and his son). You never stop missing them but on the other hand it resulted in my going places and doing things I likely never would have otherwise just like his birth did. His dream didn't work out entirely as he envisioned (dreams never do) but he's done well. Roll with it guys. Life is what happens while you are planning other things. :-)

"...A mid-life crisis of epic proportions..."

It's a crisis if you opt for the Miata. To get to epic proportions you've got to opt for the Corvette.

I remember how I felt when the last of our three kids graduated high school and (like his brothers) joined the military...

Come to think of it...I wonder if I can still do back flips and cartwheels down the front walk?



Mike, the sadness and emptiness you're feeling now are directly proportional to the emotional and psychological investment you made in being a father. Your pain as you make this transition is evidence of a tough job done the right way, and it will pass.

My own empty nest is still three years away, and I'm heading for that cliff with my foot through the floorboard - I know I'll crash and burn when that time comes, but please, don't anybody cry for me. I've had 20+ years of joy and laughter (along with the standard issue work and worry), and the deepest possible satisfaction in seeing where my kids are now, and where they're headed.

By the evidence of your blog, you're right where you should be, and headed to a very good place. The new quarters are going to make day-to-day life much more commodious, you've figured out how to make a solid living doing what you love, and you have a job you can keep doing as long as you enjoy it.

Hard work has a way of paying off (and a little bit of luck doesn't hurt either).


I hear you, Mike.

At the moment, we (me and my wife) have four "kids" (not really, but still) at home: three daughters (the elder, 15, and twins of 12) and a son (13). Our life has been, as you can imagine, not boring at all since they were born.

I have read, and heard, about the empty nest syndrome from some friends. And I try to get prepared for it in a few years, although I know from experience that you never learn things like this: it's like having your first son. No matter how many friends had their first son, or how many people in your family: your first son blows your life upside down and everything changes.

I guess we will have to deal with the empty nest the same way. And I just hope to move forward the better we can, although I'm afraid we will have "our asses kicke, hard and repeatedly". And then enjoy the spectacle of those tiny little babies who seemingly were born yesterday… but are on the verge of living their own lives.

But this is life… we can't press the "pause" button. Furthermore: fortunately, we can't press the "pause" button.

There is only rule I have learned in my 47 years:

carpe diem.

To quote Sam Beckett: 'I can't on on, I'll go on.'
To quote Fred Astaire: 'Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again.' Or was that Cole Porter?
What choice do we have? I spent yesterday looking at the work of some great photographers in the Visa Pour L'Image festival in Perpignan, three of whom are now dead.
Do your work. Love someone. That's it.
His ship is afloat and sailing, Mike. More power to you.
Best (philosophically)

The adjustment is hard, especially as a single parent. You become a very tight-knit little unit, and then half (or in my case, two thirds) of that unit just up and leaves. For me it's been in stages - one son, then the other left.

Like you, I knew it was the natural way of things, and they were (and are) doing fine. I moved house, got settled, found some routine on my own and started to work out what I wanted from the rest of my life.

But in this day and age they're kangaroo kids - son number one moved back in (with his wife!) and it's been great having them underfoot the last two years. Now they're talking about leaving again and will be several hours away this time. It'll be good for them but I'm not looking forward to re-adjusting - AGAIN.

I'm empathising with you from 'downunder'. I live at Jervis Bay and I have one son in Canada, one in Melbourne and another in Sydney (now married). I still have my wife (I'm neither bragging nor complaining), and the dog, but there is a big gap in my life. I've found that FaceTime and Skype are a big help. Just seeing those faces and chatting for 15 or 20 minutes each week or so, like we're having a coffee together, makes a huge difference. And, of course, we don't have to deal with the putrefying cereal bowls and wet towels on the floor - that's always a bonus. No, really...

Mike, this is one of those posts that make me stop half way through and think "man you are a damn fine writer".

I went through a chopped up empty nest situation years ago, there was divorce, distance separation etc. The hole that was there filled up eventually (my daughter is 37 now and I have two grand kids).It won't be easy but it will for you too.

We have had a niece and nephew living next door to us for the last 21 years, surrogate kids. Emily away now for college and Alexx is away for skills training (He survived a seven year battle with brain cancer but stopped growing developmentally at age 9) so its like a mini empty nest smack.

The real killer for us right now is knowing we are facing the loss of our old cat Bogart in a few years. That thought is actually choking me up when I think about it more than Alex and Emily being gone from our day to day lives. I guess it's because I know they'll be around for holidays etc. but there ain't going to be another Bogart. His passing is going to leave a huge hole in our day to day lives. A cat who greets us at the front door with a leap, follows us aroud like a puppy and will herd us in to bed at night so he can sleep with both sets of paws touching each of us. For the first time in my life I can't imagine another cat taking the previous cats place. Damn.

I guess there are all kinds of empty nests when you love people and pets.


A lot of change, all at once. You wouldn't be normal if it didn't have an effect.
Organized, empty nest. new spacious home /office that eliminates many reasons why you can't do this or that.
It's a LOT of change. But every one of them is a laudable goal achieved. You deserve a lot of credit--as my late and wise Mother -in -law used to say "Give yourself a Hug" or a pat on the back.
You did all this while doing a lot of good for me and many others.

The secret now is a new lofty set of aspirations in which to immerse yourself. It's writing, it's just a new chapter. The last chapter was great , this one will be even better.
Great good luck,
PS You have your own bathroom !
Count your Blessings every day.

We have been empty nesters for eight years and retired for six years. This winter will be my wife's fifth as a snowbird. When my wife is here I really prefer it when we are in the same room of our large house even if not engaged in conversation. When she is gone for the winter I quickly adjust and enjoy my own company as the true introvert I am in our rural house without nearby neighbors. When the wife comes home in the spring I just readjust to the pleasure of her company. I make best of whatever the current situation is. I've never been so happy but do wish I could see our children and grandchildren a little more often.

Speaking of Xander... You'll have to give us an update on his Summer Job!

Having read your posts over the summer, I'd say the new dog, the new house, and the disruption of the move are pretty big factors too. Similar surroundings helped when Zander went back to school last year... Time to make the T.O.P. World Headquarters your space.

Probably the toughest lesson of parenting: if you've done a good job, then they won't need you anymore. Maybe it would help to remember that the goal all along was a happy and independent child.

I first became a father (twins) at age fifty-two.

I retired at age sixty-two.

Now at sixty-five I have a son and daughter twelve years of age entering the seventh grade, and I have never been happier.

While you're at it, why don't you give me a nice paper cut and pour lemon juice on it? My youngest daughter just went off to college two weeks ago, and my wife and I are alone for the first time in 23 years.

I recall long ago when life was all about me. Now it's all about them, but they're all somewhere else. I think I'm going to go sit with the dog for a bit.


Don't underestimate the fact that, if I understand correctly, you have also just left the home where the bulk of that parenting took place. It's makes for kind of a double whammy at the present time.

Three of my four have now flown the nest. Our last one here, Matthew, will be with us for as long as we can parent him while our own health permits. He is our much loved child, now adult son, with special needs, So, I'm not sure I will ever totally feel the empty nest syndrome, but I sure agree with David's comments about retirement. I retired by circumstances not by choice from a wonderful career that now seems like ancient history. It has taken me close to two years to begin to sense that a renewed purpose is beginning to return to my life.

Hang in there Mike. It really does get better.


Oh bother.
My kids are 10 and 8 and 5 and 5* and you've got me fretting and worried already....

My children are both in their mid/upper 40's and I have six grandchildren, all living within four blocks of me. The proximity is nice, but also burdensome in that we are sometimes too involved in their lives.I was relatively young when both finished college and grad school and had to work at a very demanding and travel loaded job for another 10-12 years after that (my first grandchild was born while I was in the air trying to get back in time, from Asia).
I was able to "find my (new) self" until I retired and realized that years of responsibility were lifted and I could think/act differently without guilt. I wouldn't change anything that had passed, but I really like life as it is today.

One of our two children lives nearby and we can meet whenever his job and inclinations allows a match with our gentler (retirement) timetables. The other, sadly for us, lives with her husband and our entire stock of grandchildren near Seattle, a long way from England.

It's the best place for his work, and a good place to live and visit, but the experience of missing them has given me a new sympathy for both migrants and their distant relatives.

I really enjoy these more personal posts. I started reading TOP several years ago when I was taking a lot more pictures, but it is the quality and voice of the writing, the thoughtfulness, and the ongoing story of your life that has kept me reading. Thanks.


You might not realize this but you've done a great service to dads with this post. They'll be just a little more prepared for the day their kids move on, and maybe appreciate having them home a little more.

My wife and I sent our oldest off to college in '98 and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I moped around for weeks. Sending the second one off wasn't much easier. You see, nobody prepares you for this. There are secular and religious rituals before marriage and birth, but this hit comes out of nowhere.

The good news, as I learned, is that, no matter what it feels like now, the relationship isn't over, it's just different. You are still his father. Somebody's still going to call you "dad", which is really the sweetest title you'll have till "grandpa".

Been through this and it is a painful but necessary part of life.
No parent of a teenager believes it but while they are busy not talking to you beyond the occasional grunt they are also watching very closely as you model adult behavior for them.
Now your son is out there getting a daily reminder of how big a part of his life you actually are, not were. He is also learning how to function as an independent adult.
My experience is that as you move into this new phase of your lives your relationship with Zander is going to deepen.
That said it all the quiet in the house hurts.

I love TOP, it's my favorite photography blog, and possibly my favorite blog I follow all together (and I follow a lot). But your initial story of ending up a father at last minute notice is the post that has stuck with me the most. I loved it, so powerful, and I always enjoy reading updates about your son and being a father.

I'm about to be a father for the first time myself, and luckily I have a husband, and your story definitely served as an inspiration to me of what kind of father I would like to become.

Never had children myself, but the love and angst I read from your and Kirk Tuck's blogs is touching. I remember my mother going through this stoically as each of us departed.

You'll get through it. All parents do. And bravo for the great job you've done in bringing a fine new young man into the world.

Fill your new home with that sense of love and accomplishment.

Just sent my boy to Scotland to study medicine and on the way back to Hong Kong. Well, the most worry now is what happen if it is a yes.

'If the law supposes that,' said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, 'the law is a ass—a idiot.'

from 'Oliver Twist' by Charles Dickens.

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