The Garden City Telegram
5/18/2013
SOUTHWEST LIFE

Dinner at our place: You never know what you're gonna get

My wife and I have forgotten how to cook.

Not literally, but Kelly remarked the other day that she used to plan meals, but not any more.

In some sense, we are still getting used to not having kids around on a regular basis.

On any given night, it could be one for dinner or five.

Nights my wife works late and there are no kids around, I rummage through the refrigerator for anything that takes little effort to make. If I can put it in the microwave, all the better.

When my wife comes home from work, it's usually cereal for her.

Now that college is out for the summer, there are times my daughter is home for dinner, sometimes her boyfriend is with her, and on the rare occasion, my son will join us.

Mother's Day was such a rarity. Everyone was home and hungry.

Alek asked me what's for supper, and then Kelly asked me what's for supper.

Here's where planning would have been handy.

Luckily, we always seem to have some pasta on hand, so that was dinner.

The days that followed were more normal, me asking my daughter if she was going to be around for dinner and planning accordingly.

My son is spending the summer in Columbus, Neb., where he works, and is living with a friend's family. We buy him a few groceries that he takes with him, but have to keep some of his favorites at home in case he pops in.

We are buying fewer groceries. I expected that during the school year, but thought there would be more mouths to feed during the summer.

That means food lasts a lot longer in our home. In fact, I wonder what's at the bottom of the freezer? Might be a surprise meal some night. I'll wait until everyone is home.

A lot of parents of recent graduates will be going through the same thing soon.

If the last of their brood is leaving home next fall, they will understand the changes that take place.

I went to a graduation party a couple weekends ago and was talking to a mom who was ready to transition into the empty nest. She said she's always been busy and will now just find a new kind of busy.

That's true.

For years, our lives were school functions and baseball games.

Now all that has gone away, and Kelly and I are busy with the newspaper and her job, and we don't spend much time wondering what we are going to do.

There will come a time when we will know how many people will be home for dinner every night — just the two of us.

Claire and Alek will be out of college and on their own — hopefully not too far from home — but we won't have to cook for them on a regular basis.

Life is a constant change, and those who accept that have the easiest time getting along.

Right now, I'm going to enjoy trying to figure out who's home and what's for dinner.

I always have the mystery at the bottom of the freezer to fall back on.

Patrick Murphy, of Humphrey, Neb., is a former assistant managing editor of The Telegram.