It's become a summer tradition. The boys head up to Ohio for a week to hang out with Papa Hoss and Gigi and the Strine family, which happens to include a heavy dose of cousins. The boys started talking about this trip well before summer arrived. By the time Ohio week was here the boys were locked and loaded and ready to be fired northward.
I drove them up there last weekend. It never takes them long to get settled in and let me know it's time for me to head back home. Without them...
When I talked to the boys at the end of the first day and they had already been putt-putt golfing, seen a movie, went swimming and bounced several hours away on a trampoline, I knew they were going to have little time to miss me. I have no problem with that. I'm glad they're comfortable enough away from home that they can enjoy adventures that will shape their lives forever.
Besides, I had big plans for the week. Katie was also gone. She was on a mission trip to Georgia with the youth from our church. So with six less legs and a million less decibels, I had a chance to get some things done that had been on my wish list for a couple of years. It was just me and my partner in crime, Fritz.
The plan was going well until I visited the Ruby Tuesdays salad bar to celebrate the end of a productive first day alone. Several hours later my life and body were turned inside out. If there's any exaggeration there, please trust me, it's minimal. I spent the next 24 hours evacuating every last remnant of that salad bar visit from my stomach, and then the next 48 hours beyond that doing what every human does who has been emptied to mere traces of nutrients in their body: I watched 3 consecutive seasons of the Office on Netflix.
And poor Fritz. He simply laid next to me. For hours. I'm sure wondering why everyone else was off on adventures while he'd been left behind to save the fat guy's spot on the bed while he got up to puke and pee.
Somewhere in the midst of it all I heard God - at least I'm pretty sure it was him and not Fritz - with a voice and haunting laugh remarkably similar to the devil's, warn me against ever looking forward to time away from my wife and kids again. Message heard, God.
Meanwhile back in Ohio, the boys plowed full steam ahead with their adventure:
I had coffee with a friend last week who was sad because her grandchildren had just moved and she wouldn't be able to see them very often. She didn't say it, but I could tell she was worried they might forget about her. I know that's not the case. I was incredibly blessed to grow up with grandparents and great-grandparents in my life. Those grandparents have been gone for many years now. Some decades. Yet, many of the memories that are freshest in my mind, memories in which I can literally hear the laughter, see the smiles, smell the plowed fields and Sunday dinners, are the memories of grandparents. Almost daily I call on those memories. Not just for reminders of the truly meaningful and good things in life, but for constant guidance.
So yes, God, I confess. I did look forward to the boys heading to Ohio. But I promise you my motivation was more than the anticipation of a quiet house. I know the boys spent a week that will become much more than a memory. A week that instills in them something well beyond this dad's capabilities.
With all that said. I assure you I'm no longer cut out to be a bachelor. And not just because my family is better at taking care of a sick me than my family's dog. Quiet sounds great until you promptly start missing the noise-makers. Their hugs. Their off the wall cool sayings. Their laughter. I am blessed to hang out with 3 incredibly loving and downright entertaining individuals. The noise that has once again made life loud, sent projects back to the wish list, that is the sound of family. For that, I am grateful.