We are a three person household now.
Michael is the last bird in the nest, as his third sister has flown.
Sister L had been living with us since 2016, and as an adult child her rooming situation in our home was under contract. That is, she had specific obligations to fulfill in order to secure her room and board, and specific consequences outlined should these obligations be violated.
It wasn't much, really, but it was designed to help strengthen her ability to understand that life in the real world is hard, it isn't always fair and kind, and it demands a lot just to get along. We did not want to make living in our home smooth and easy and relaxing, as if to say "please stay with us as long as you like, and we'll provide whatever you want." That would be counterproductive to her as a grownup. Eventually she'd be faced with the harsh reality of taking care of herself completely, and it's best to get that set of muscles strong as early on as possible. As one pundit put it, as parents of adult children we should provide a safety net, not a hammock.
We came to a point recently where sister L was occasionally skipping out on her chores. Sometimes she would mention she'd be out late, sometimes she wouldn't. And then there were times when she didn't come home at all, leaving the chores completely undone. We had warned her that she was using up her strikes, and while I very much did not want to compel her to leave for two weeks, as per our agreement, it became necessary to do so when she bailed for the final time.
Only she decided right then not to bother with the two week leave, but that she was moving out permanently. My wife and I could see that this was not an accident, that she had been looking for an excuse to be "kicked out" so she could justify moving in with this "roommate".
So this last weekend she very happily finsihed loading all of her stuff up into a borrowed vehicle and she and her roommate headed off, and out of our living arrangement forever.
And if I know sister L, there won't be any bouncing back. She's the kind of girl who sets her face forward and heads in that direction. My wife and I are confident that she has gained enough strength and maturity over the last two and a half years her to face the adult world and begin to make her way.
It's been a rough time for me, and for Michael. He takes it hard, in that his secure world that he had "nested" in, being surrounded by sisters and love, is eroding and now he is open and exposed, with only his aging parents left. It has manifested itself in an increased level of obsession with the cats, in that he must know where each of them is at all times. He spends the daylight hours in a mild panic as he moves from window to window peering outside hoping to catch a glimpse of them. He is relieved, for the most part, each night when he can lure them inside the house and lock their cat doors.
It will be tough for him to grow through and past all of this, to realize his own strength and security in himself, but I know he can. He has made tremendous strides himself, and is doing very well in his first year in high school.
Some day we will say farewell to Michael as well. It will be the saddest day, and I am sure his mother will take it as hard as I am taking sister L's departure.
But then we have a brand new adventure ahead of us: kids returning for holidays, and grandkids!