I did it! I finally completed my memoir, At Close Range.
Days later I was in South Padre, visiting friends. The first day we all went down to the beach to catch some rays. As we walked toward the shoreline we noticed black tar in the sand. I could see it floating in patches in the water. Yuck! I decided then and there I’d be spending the rest of my vacation beside the pool. The rest of the group agreed. No one wanted to deal with the tar sticking to our bathing suits and bodies, or worry about using baby oil to remove it.
And so I found myself lounging by the pool instead. Although I couldn’t see the ocean, I could smell the salty air and hear the caws of seagulls. I was alone, but Randy and our friends would be down shortly. They wanted to wait until the afternoon sun had disappeared behind the building. But not me. I wanted to feel the heat and dangle my feet in the water of the pool.
I brought my iPhone to keep me company as I sat under a big umbrella sipping on a bottle of water. (I know what you’re thinking. Where’s the vodka? It was a little early, so I was hydrating first.) I sat at the pool and read a post on WordPress about empty nesters. I felt my nest had been emptied, too. Besides having a case of the baby blues over completing my book, I was about to be an empty nester again. Let me explain.
After a year of living with us, my 23-year-old son Keaton decided to return to Boulder and finish his college degree. He’s only got 30 hours of school remaining, and I have a feeling he’s moved out for good this time. It feels like when his older brother Jon stayed behind in Boone, North Carolina. We sat at a table at Applebee’s that summer, all four of us—Jon, Lance, Keaton and me. Jon talked about how much he loved the mountains and how it was time he got on with his life. Funny, he was also 23. That was 10 years ago.
Then Lance moved out seven years ago. He was also 23. He’s been living and working at his “career job,” as he calls it, ever since. Keaton left while I was in Padre. I know I’m going to miss him, but there must be some magic in that number 23. Young men, like my Jon, Lance, and Keaton, all have a phenomenon researchers say is a maturing brain. Age 25 is the marker where frontal lobes are fully developed. My life as a mother has shown me young adults are reckless I’m not worried about Keaton, though. We’ve had the talks about drinking and driving, and the other one so close to my heart—gun safety. But seeing his room empty once again this month will feel strange. I wonder what I’m going to write about now that I’ve finished my book.
I wrote 116 pages, 22 chapters and 54,982 words. I should feel happy, amazing even, but instead I feel sad. I know my writing coach would say, “Us writers, we are never finished with our books—they’re just completed.” Completed like in housework, I’d say. You can wash all the clothes in the laundry basket, but by the next day there will always be more to do. I know at some point my pages will look dirty, and I’ll need to clean them up. But for right now I’m done, and that has me sick with the baby blues.
I’m surprised I didn’t think about the emptiness. My book has been the child I’ve carried around with me everyday, and while I wrote it, I lived it. I’ve nurtured it and watched it grow. I realize it kept me connected to the memories of Jon. Now, I worry if this the beginning or the end of his story.
I hope it’s just the beginning. I’m waiting for one of the agents who I pitched at the Agents & Editors Conference to give me a new mission. I am pleased and surprised to say five of them asked for pages to consider representing my book. Of course, commercial publication is always a long shot, but my mother believes you can manifest anything. So, let’s all put our energy together and see me getting the perfect agent! I did meet a cute, bubbly blonde who told me I needed to “wow” her with my words. Well, that is my intention. But I don’t want to just wow her, I want to wow the world.
My nest looks empty today, but Jon has left me a kaleidoscope of memories— wearing homemade Halloween costumes, superheroes who ran through the backyard, and the deafening sounds of video games and music. As Lance and Keaton age I get a glimpse of what could have been for Jon. Sometimes I smile, and sometimes I cry. He gave me something as he left, though. I’m a storyteller thanks to my son, and I hope his story will save lives.
All I know for certain is that life will be different now. There is something new and different to create. I’m making a home in the world for my story of Jon, a place somewhere out there for the words that lived only on my laptop—and in my heart—until I came to complete my book.