Reflecting on the Empty Nest: A Moment of Sadness but Running Towards a Bright Future.

Mar 23, 2024 by Anthony Damaschino
One would think the author of a book on everything Empty Nest would be immune to the rollercoaster of emotions that come with being an Empty Nester. Further, the last of my three children left for college three years ago. So, what’s the issue? Yes, I have made positive adjustments on my journey into Empty Nesting. Yes, I’m working on my Empty Nest Blueprint all the time. And yes, I am living my Best Empty Nest Life. But…and there is always a but, there are times when a memory, thought, or the reality of one’s child or children not being around slides into one’s thoughts. For this Irish Italian runner, it happened on St. Patrick’s Day.
When my three children were roughly 7, 9, and 10, I started a little club for the four of us. It was called DIRT, which stood for the ‘Damaschino Independent Running Team.’ At different points and times, one, two, or all three of my children would join me on short runs through our neighborhood. We were not disciplined or organized in any way, but whoever wanted to ‘run with Dad’ would join DIRT at the moment, and we’d go out for a jog. For me, it was always entertaining to exercise with my young children. We would laugh and breathe hard, and I always relished seeing their pride and accomplishment when we completed our runs. Soon after that, running casually led to us entering various annual 5ks in our local area. We’d run the SRVUSD Run for Education in September, The Lafayette Reservoir Run in October, The Walnut Creek Turkey Trot in November (on Thanksgiving morning), and finish our season with The Shamrock Run in Dublin, CA on St. Patrick’s Day. Over the years, one to three of my children would opt in or out of the various runs, but more often than not, there was always at least one other DIRT member beside me on race day.
This St. Patrick’s Day, I woke up at 6:30 am. I put on my running shoes, pinned my bib number to my new lime green Shamrock Run tee shirt, and headed for the race. As I drove down the freeway, my mind flashed back to memories of the DIRT runs past. The neighborhood jogs, the 5k’s, and how my heart would warm with pride as we crossed the finish lines together. This Shamrock Run wasn’t the first race I had run alone, and there was nothing different or unique about this event. But as the memories of DIRT came forth during my drive, I couldn't help but feel sad as I was about to race alone, missing the cherished time I once had with my children.
Three years as an Empty Nester and even authoring a book on the subject doesn’t make one immune from feeling the loss this life transition leaves behind. Looking at the bigger picture, I am more excited about what I am doing and what my children are doing today. We continue to grow, love, and experience life to its fullest. But this St. Patrick’s Day came with a realization and a tinge of Empty Nest sadness. I miss DIRT.