Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Absence and Fonder Hearts

My wife and kids just got back from a 5-day trip to visit friends in another state. This is the first time I've been home alone in quite a while, and the first time at all that I've been away from my 3-month-old son for any significant period of time. Here's a little sample of my state of mind during those five days:

Night One -- Wow, I can roam the house with no shirt on (can't do this normally, as 2-year-old daughter would say, "Daddy, you're all naked!!") . Dinner: Chicken on the grill, cut up and served with fettucine alfredo (from the box)... aww, yeah. Simple, delicious, and carb-loaded.

Night Two -- This is still pretty cool. It's Friday, so after work I'm heating up leftover chicken alfredo, kickin' back in my favorite chair, and watching a movie. Of course, the sound system will be cranked to the point that it's still audible to my family... 700 miles away. Wouldn't want them to feel left out. After all, I own the sound system, and to be a good steward I need to put it to use, right? Hmm, the bed feels a little empty tonight.

Day Three -- I tell myself that for the first Saturday in several months, I can actually sleep late! So what do I do? I wake up at 7am as usual, waiting for my daughter to greet me so I can take her to breakfast. Oh well, I go back to sleep, wake up at 7:30. Then 7:45. 7:55. 8:12. OK, forget sleeping late. At least I can plow through my significant checklist today. And boy, do I ever plow through it. What was my excuse for not curing cancer or solving the world hunger problem before I had kids? I didn't remember that it was possible to have this much free time to get things accomplished. A little lonely at bedtime, but one of the cats lays on my leg while I read, so that counts for something, I guess.

Day Four -- It's Sunday. I get up later than I ever do, yet still get to church 15 minutes earlier than I have in months. Again, what did I do with all this time before the kids came along? Church goes well; I volunteer to lock up the building since I don't really have anywhere to run to after worship services. Then I run some errands, watch some football, and help my in-laws plant a palm tree (they live three houses away). Feeling pretty rested, relaxed and useful, but something's missing. Something big. I need to hold my babies and kiss my wife. Oh well, tomorrow's Monday, and there's nothing like a job to help a man deny his emotions, right?

Night Five -- Get finished with work, and get to the house to finish the 'Welcome Home' preparations! Nothing big, just a crude banner, some flowers, a card, a meal... OK, so I'm getting a little carried away. But tomorrow, they'll all be back home! I don't even notice what the bed feels like tonight -- just looking forward to tomorrow.

Arrival Day -- Traffic jams ensure that it makes no sense for me to go to work early and sit on the highway, so I work from home until the family arrives (convenient, yet true). I hear the garage doors open, quickly go out to meet them, and finally get that kiss I've been waiting for. Son is of course crying since he had to get up at 4am and get on a plane. Daughter is out cold. But two minutes later, she wakes up, takes a look around, and with a smile that erases the rest of my world, says, "Daddy!". I'm not the one who left, so why does it feel as if I just got home?

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