Empty Nest

I’ve been married for 24 years and 8 months. We got married on February 15 in the middle of our senior year in college. I had an organic chemistry test on Friday, got married on Saturday, and studied all day Sunday for the analytical chemistry test I needed to take on Monday.

Our first son was born that June and I started school at the Nebraska Medical Center in August in the Physician Assistant Program. Two years later, my husband started his Masters Program at UNL in Geography.

Four years later our second child was born. Two years after that we had our third.

In a few weeks, we will become grandparents for the first time. (I cannot WAIT!)

The hamster wheel has been running at full speed for the last twenty-five years.  There have been times I’ve wondered what it will be like when things slow down. What if we don’t have anything to talk about? What if we fall out of love? I’ve seen it happen . . . more times than I care to recall.

Last year, our sons moved out and our daughter will graduate from high school in May and head off to college next fall.

With the kids around less, we’ll need to keep each other company, find our way back to being unencumbered adults.

Recently, as we found ourselves on the precipice, peering down into the abyss of the empty nest, we talked about our upcoming twenty-fifth anniversary. “I don’t want to do anything in February,” I said. “I hate February.” I had always dreamed of an October wedding. Pregnancy had a way of altering plans a bit.

“How about Halloween?” he asked.

But where to go? What to do?


Bam! Baby!

The Stanley in Estes Park. That’s where we decided to go. It’s within driving distance. It’s old. It’s creepy yet beautiful. And, come on, mountains!

And so we went.


There is something to be said for being in a place with so much history. It’s easy to imagine ladies in fine dresses in the music room sipping their after dinner coffees while men played billiards in the room next door. The Stanley, all stories of hauntings and ghost sightings aside, has stood the test of time.

F.O. Stanley was married to his wife Flora for 62 years. They died within one year of each other and it is said their spirits still roam the grounds of the hotel, happy in their wandering, keeping watch over the staff and guests.  A little creepy? Perhaps. But also sort of sweet, in a weird and scary way.

I’ve never lived in a place I loved so much I would consider staying around to haunt it. Plus, that just seems like so much effort. Drain this battery if you want to manifest. Drain that battery if you want to provide an EVP for ghost hunters. Suck all the warmth from the room if you want to move something or turn off the flashlight cleverly positioned so ghost fingers can easily poke its button. That seems like a lot of work.

I didn’t see a ghost at the Stanley, but I did go on the ghost hunt. I loved hearing the stories about the specters believed to haunt the halls. I loved looking into the old rooms and hearing how life used to be. Mostly, though, I loved being with my husband.

I love that after so many years we can go somewhere together and it still feels new and fun and safe. I love that he is my best friend. I love that he makes me belly laugh every day and that he still holds my hand after all these years.  An empty nest is something that holds a bit of sadness, but also infinite possibilities and the promise of all that is ahead for my hubby and me.

–Jen Busskohl





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3 responses to “Empty Nest

  1. Our nest is empty though the sons come home to roost, listen to music, eat bread and cheese, and play boardgames. So we’d better keep the twigs and leaves in place. But trips together, just spouse and myself, are like golddust.

  2. That was utterly beautuful, Jen. My husband and I celebrated our 46th anniversary in September. At 22 I was headed to Brussels with the Federal Government when I met Bob. I fell hard for this beautiful man who treated me with respect and encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to do with my life. He walked me through my first college registration. When people ask me what is our secret to our long relationship, I tell them we make each other laugh. He retires at the end of April. I’ve been retired for five years having taken early retirement. I can’t wait. It will feel like Christmas every day. It’s wonderful to have the type of relationship you describe with the men we love. Life for the two of you will only get better. Thanks for such a beautiful story!

  3. Jen, what a joy it was to read this story! I thought it was so neat that you could enjoy one another and experience an adventure, too. I know you and your husband will have memories to share and relive for years to come about your time at the Stanley.

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