Sandy Springs: An empty chair is hard to fill on Dec. 25

There are many things that might have an impact on our Christmas celebration this week, but I never would have dreamed the men’s basketball team from the University of Notre Dame would make this list of potential impingement.

Son Zach, who graduated with a journalism degree last spring, covers the Fighting Irish for The Times of Northwest Indiana, which means he’ll be on press row inside Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center when Bucknell visits on Dec. 22 and Providence drops by on the 30th.

So it’s a toss-up whether a trip to Atlanta will get sandwiched in there — a first in our house. And assuredly not the last.

It goes with the empty nest, but you rarely see it coming.

Among the many things your kids are during their growing-up years is a captive audience.

From birth through the next 21 years it’s virtually a lock they will be there for all the holidays.

It didn’t take long for me to start taking that for granted. Planning for every holiday started with the set number of four — mom, dad and the kids.

Even the early warnings when Zach and daughter Amelia hit puberty — an augury of their inevitable adulthood — didn’t register.

I just thought they had taken a hiatus from comportment.

Neither did the departures for college — Zach to the University of Indiana and Amelia to the University of South Carolina — serve as my personal version of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

I just assumed we would no longer go through so much milk until they came home in December.

The irony is that most parents spend time in the purgatory of being proud and happy when their children venture into the world, even when those ventures result in holiday absences.

A friend and her husband went to the islands this past Thanksgiving because none of the kids were going to be home for turkey.

It took a bit of adjusting to being without even one child.

So my resolution is grasp the realization that future holidays may have some empty chairs, some long-distance phone calls and, at some juncture, seeing whether Santa can find me in the homes of my children.

Granted, making this resolution is akin to deciding to get drenched by standing where a tidal wave can catch me, but it spins better than admitting to having been in denial.

What about that possible empty chair at this week’s table?

It will, no doubt, cause a tear and an ache in the heart if there indeed is room for one more.

But it’s the price that must be exacted if one truly wants to see their kids reach for the stars.

And I’m sure Santa Claus will find all the Ostermans on Christmas Day, regardless of work schedules, ZIP codes, or even the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Jim Osterman has lived in Sandy Springs since 1962.