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As I've begun to lurch into "middle age" (whatever that is), I've been on the lookout for all the horrible things we've all been told to expect.  Things like the "Middle Age Crazies" (I have yet to run off with a twenty-something and do not drive a flashy sports car); "Male Menopause" (the only hot flashes I experience are when I get into a car that's been sitting in the hundred-degree heat all day); and "Midlife Crisis" (I almost experienced that one earlier this year, when Fox put "American Idol" on opposite CBS's "The Amazing Race."  I watched "Idol" and taped "Race."  Crisis averted.)   The one of which I was always completely skeptical was "Empty Nest Syndrome."  I'm the proud (if frazzled) single father of a 23-year-old boy–er, make that a 23-year-old man–who has lived with me fulltime since the summer of 1998.  Many, many times over the past eight years I've yearned to experience an "empty nest."  To paraphrase the old Henny Youngman line…"take my son…PLEASE!"  I got to tackle, single-handedly, the really fun years of parenthood–like high school, knowing full well what goes on in schools these days, and praying that my son would make the right choices (which, thank God, he did).  Getting his drivers license–then putting him on my insurance policy and, somehow, avoiding bankruptcy.  Living through four years of high school football, which in Texas is a religion, and crossing MY fingers after every tackle that all of his bones would still be in one piece.  Then came the post-high school years, when every child thinks their parents are the last brontosaurii on the planet.  To put it in mathematical terms, the ease of cohabiting with one's offspring is directly, possibly exponentially, proportional to their age.  As the age gets higher, so does the degree of difficulty in living together.   Don't get me wrong, we made far more wonderful memories than we did unpleasant ones.  My kid and I forged a great–honestly, a unique–relationship.  We have functioned equally well as father/son, friend/friend and, when necessary, jailer/inmate.  At least partially because of that, our house wound up being the preferred "hang out" for my son and his buddies.  Later, the crowd included both buddies and girlfriends.  At least I knew where they were all going to be–UNDERFOOT (and usually with hands full of food they'd raided from my refrigerator)–and didn't have to wonder what they were doing.  I think there were entire years that I didn't sit down in my own living room because it was too full of teenagers watching TV, cracking jokes, and "chillin'."    Some of the most wonderful memories of raising my son have involved Southwest Airlines.  Together, my son and I have done things like cooking, serving, and cleaning at Ronald McDonald House dinners and at the annual Spirit of Dallas Burgers 'N Beer Bash.   I've marched shoulder-to-shoulder with him alongside the Southwest Airlines float in the annual Chinese New Year's Parade in San Francisco (Southwest is a corporate sponsor of the event).  And many Christmas mornings, I've cooked breakfast alongside my boy and other Schedule Planning folks and their families, for the Agents working on the holiday at our former Dallas Reservations Center.   Recently, my son moved out of the house and into his own place.  I realized as he was moving his furniture (which I had paid for–but, what the heck) into the U-Haul that my nest was, finally, about to be empty.  Just me and the dogs.  So, in the quiet of the first Saturday morning of the new phase of both of our lives, I sat in the living room and did some quiet, introspective reflection...and I realized some things.  I realized that I only had one load of laundry to do.  The carpet looked just as freshly vacuumed as it had two days earlier.  I didn't need to go to the store to re-stock because we were out of "everything." And the kitchen was just as I had left it the night before….clean.  My nest isn't empty–it's tidy.  And quiet.  It's still full, only now it's also tranquil.  Ahhhhhh.....   Do I miss my house being full of the youthful laughter, the energy, and the huddled masses yearning to be fed?  Sure, in a way.  I do miss the kids, although I talk to my son daily and see him several times a week.  But it's time for his life–his real life–to begin.  He's a licensed professional, a gun-carrying, uniform-wearing, may-I-see-your-license-and-registration-please police officer.   He's getting married early next year.  And he tells me to expect grandkids within a year or two of the wedding.   So I guess I didn't have a "Mid-Life Crisis," nor did I have "Male Menopause," and so far avoided "Middle Age Crazies."  And, it appears, I've also dodged the bullet of "Empty Nest Syndrome."  But now we have a new, even more horrifying and unsettling, specter on the horizon…..grandparenthood.   Good LORD…me?  A grandfather?  How the HECK am I going to handle THAT?   The answer is ringingly clear.  Joyously.    So good luck, Officer Owen and future daughter-in-law Janet.  May you have a long and happy marriage, live in health, and may you be blessed with wealth and children (trust me, if you have the latter you'll need the former).  Come visit my clean and nicely-ordered nest frequently, and bring my grandkids with you.  Just don't forget to take them with you when you leave.  At least….most of the time.