The house is very quiet again. Over the weekend, Al helped Emily, our youngest, move to a new apartment in a new city. She had started her new job a few weeks ago, and come home for a quick visit to collect her furniture and pack up the rest of her belongings. This, following a year-plus search for the right first step in a career in higher education, working with students with disabilities. She found the perfect fit, and we couldn’t be happier for her.

But I will admit, as the U-Haul pulled out of our driveway, I got teary. This was it. She’s launched. Our eldest, Mindi, has been working for almost two years as an early intervention social worker in Greater Boston. So now, both of our daughters, very capable and dedicated young women, are on their own.

It’s one of the big goals of parenthood. We made it.

And the house is very quiet again. I find myself at a bit of a loss for how to fill the silence. It’s different this time from when our daughters were in college and then graduate school. Our home was still the common ground, the place everyone would always return to. Now, for both of them, it will be the place to visit. This is as it should be, but it still feels strange.

Some of this emptiness also derives from the fact that I cannot use my hands in the way I’m used to. My go-to instinct when I’m alone is always to make things, whether it be my writing or sewing or weaving or cooking up something special for dinner. Writing is now much slower with dictation software. The other activities must wait until my digital ulcers make more progress toward healing. I’m relying on Al for a lot of help to do the most basic tasks, from chopping vegetables to opening all sorts of containers. He has been a wonderful support, and I am very grateful for his willingness to do whatever I ask, but I wish I didn’t have to.

I started new medication to ease nerve pain, and it’s taking a bit of adjusting—finding the right dose and adapting to the side effects. The healing process is complicated. I’m back on antibiotics, once again. All of this and the need to constantly problem-solve simple tasks is tiring and leaves me feeling more vulnerable.

On the plus side, it’s finally summer. We ate our first meal on the deck Monday night. The oppressive humidity of the past few days has finally eased, and it will be a comfortable night for sleeping. My bandages have stopped glomming to my fingers as the air has dried out. This evening, as I write, I think (I hope) that my new medication is beginning to take the edge off the neuropathy in my hands.

On to the next chapter.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

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