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Empty nest syndrome hit me like a ton of bricks

Sometime early last May, I noticed a great deal of avian activity on my front porch. On one wall, there are three protruding bricks intended to hold plants or other decorative items. However, one of these bricks was selected by a mother robin as the best place to lay her eggs.

This was a new experience for me. Since I am not a grandmother yet, I carefully watched the activity each day, marveling at the energy this little one extended by arranging her nest. I know humans are not supposed to intervene, so I watched from afar. Since it was high and out of my reach, I couldn't see inside the nest. Every now and then I would notice another robin, presumably dad, sometimes helping out, other times just observing.

Often when I opened my front door to get the mail, the mother robin would immediately fly away. After some practice, I learned to open the door very gently so I wouldn't scare the birds. Eventually they got used to my coming and going as they went about their business building the nest.

Toward the end of May, I noticed the mother robin sitting on the nest 2 4/7 . Since I couldn't see inside, I could only reasonably deduce that she had laid her eggs and was preparing them to be hatched. Occasionally "dad" showed up to check on things.

About the first week of June, I excitedly noticed little beaks sticking out of the nest. Three grandchildren for me -- what a thrill! Then the real hustle and bustle began. Mother and father robins got busy digging up meals for their brood. It was intriguing to see them take a worm from my front lawn and fly it over to the nest for the eager little babies, beaks ready. This animated routine was carried on day and night for a couple of weeks.

As I snuck out to the porch early one morning, I observed mama trying to get one of her babies to fly. This one was timid and stubborn and seemed rather content to have her meals served to her. The next day when I went out, there were only two beaks sticking up, so I assumed she either left voluntarily or was forcibly evicted. Later that week, there was only one beak left.

I got to thinking about names for the last one and decided to call her Volare (Italian for "to fly"). I thought perhaps I could coax her into leaving the nest. She was most reluctant. I began my dialogue with, "Volare, to wit! Come on, Volare, you can do it! You're a big girl now! Fly, fly away!" Well, she didn't budge, so I went in the house to get another cup of coffee. When I returned, Volare was gone.

Suddenly I had empty nest syndrome, big time! It was such an unusual feeling to know there was no one left in the nest. The incongruity here is that when my kids left for college, my empty nest syndrome lasted about five minutes. It must be the difference between sending off my children and losing my grandchildren.

To celebrate the occasion of becoming a grandmother, I decided to enjoy my experience and send out birth announcements:

Front: It's a girl! Inside: June 19, 2005. Weight: 3 oz., Height: 4". Proud grandmother: Rita.

I received several gifts from well-wishers -- a five-pound bag of bird seed, a package of gummy worms and a wall hanging showing a mother and her brood that said, "Home Tweet Home." One friend called to ask how I knew that one was a "girl." My reply, "There was one pink egg in the nest."

Rita M. Ganim, a professional speaker on humor, lives in West Seneca.

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