Think you know AARP? What you don't know about us may surprise you. Discover all the 'Real Possibilities'

Contests and

Dream Vacation Sweepstakes

10 weeks. 10 amazing trips. Seize your chance to win!
See official rules. 


most popular



My Father’s Getting Married…and I’m an Empty Nester

The liberating and frightening experience of letting go

He announced the big news one night over dinner with my brother, my sister, and her three children—our family nucleus. Quite stunned, my 47-year-old sister glanced up at me and quipped: “Does that mean we’re going to have step-brothers?” A hilarious thought at age 50, I agreed.

That night I joined my siblings in giving him our blessing. But as days passed, I felt unsettled and a little nervous. Would he be okay out there in a new world? Since my mother’s death, I had worked hard to maintain a semblance of the quality of life she had given him. Although I was away at work most of the week, I planned meals and shopped strategically. I cooked in my mother’s old pots, attempting to channel her secret recipes. I served Sunday dinners on her favorite tablecloth and kept the pantry full of the same labels she once favored: the canned pimentos, tomato paste, dry beans, rice.

A home-cooked meal is sacred to Cuban men of older generations. This is what I always believed. But when my father fell in love with the church lady, that rule went out the window. She doesn’t cook. And he doesn’t care. He’s happy with take-out, cold leftovers, drive-thru window food, and packaged snacks. And all I can do is stand by, powerless, as he heads into a new home—with a cold kitchen.

“You’re going to be an empty nester,” joked a friend when I told him my father was getting married and moving out.

An empty nester. His words resonated in a way I had not expected. Of course, this is exactly what it must feel like to release one’s charges into the world. It is at once liberating and frightening. The empty nester comparison gave me a kind of roadmap into this new stage of my life. The most successful empty nesters realize they are powerless over the situation. They are stoic and generous. They respect new boundaries. But, most importantly, they move on. Gently, happily, and gratefully, they move on.

More from Liz Balmaseda
Journalist’s First Novel a Joy Ride

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Liz Balmaseda admits her first novel, Sweet Mary, isn’t the great American novel. Rather, she says, it’s “a funky, Florida-style ride. On a big, fat Harley.”

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Discounts & Benefits

Norwegian Cruise Lines

Norwegian Cruise Line offers 5% off on select cruises, plus other special offers.

Tanger Outlets

Members receive a free Tanger Coupon Book including up to 20% discount offers.

Life insurance: you are covered rain or shine

Members can convert their assets into guaranteed income for life with AARP Lifetime Income Program from New York Life.

Member Benefits

Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change. Join Today


5 Weeks to a New Life

How do you resolve differences in a relationship — without fighting? Share your tips in our online community and be eligible to win prizes. Discuss

The Reinvention Group

The Reinvention Group

Ask questions, find support and share information about changing gears in your 50+ years. Discuss


The Coffee Shop

Kick back and enjoy lighthearted conversation among Online Community locals. Discuss