Updated: Aug 27, 2019
You’d think I’d be used to it by now. This packing up and moving out and saying good-bye. It’s the same thing every fall, and summers, too, for that matter. But no. Every change of season everything changes one more time and I’m never quite ready.
This time it’s double-whammy. Last week it was Luke packing a trailer once-and-for-all, and today it’s Nils setting out on the same stretch of highway. His Dad and I circle the boy on a too-hot driveway to bless and pray. He’s got one last stop at church to collect some forgotten musical something, and I hurry to blow-dry, hoping I might arrive at work while he’s still waiting. But no. I search the road the whole way there, the parking lot, too, for his bright-blue Jetta. And church feels empty, full of people, because these past years I’ve worked with one son or another, my oldest three, and this year they’ll be three in Iowa. (Three guys and three gals, in the months to come.)
Iowa. I shake my head, telling Barb in the lady’s room, and goodness. If anyone knows what it’s like to send them off and welcome them home it’s Barb. All those years on a mission field with family, grown children now, grands, and great-grands, all over the globe and here at home, too. And still she always listens like this story is new, all compassion, though she’s been there and done that, and could tell me as much, but she doesn’t.
This week Jimmy’s an only child, three at dinner, and we’ll have salmon tonight, his favorite. And then Thursday will come, and we’ll do it again. This time, Sidney. Jimmy’s girlfriend since just after the prom, the gym-teacher’s daughter, college-bound. And we all know St. Bonnie is only an hour away, but still it’s an hour. (Iowa’s four, everyone says it like this. At least it’s just four. And you don’t really know how only it is, four hours or one, until you’ve lived it. Just saying.) So Thursday it’s Sidney, and I’ve been down this road, too, plenty of times. Starting out cautious about a particular girl, until you realize you’ve grown awfully fond, might just like to keep her. But you’ve been here and done this and you’re stern with your heart and it pays to be careful.
So this morning I’m sitting on my porch-swing, reading my Bible, while Nils starts to load his car. I’m in Genesis and it’s a love story about Abraham’s servant finding a bride for Isaac, the miracle son. And he finds Rebekah, a miracle, too, and her parents ask this legitimate question. Can she stay ten more days before she leaves us? It’s all they’re asking. Ten days. Before she moves across country and she leaves her family to marry this guy. But no. The servant just wolfs down his dinner and loads up his camels and away he takes her in the dead of night. Too bad for the mom as she waves her good-bye.
Truth be told, I’m telling this story sadder than it is. (Mine, not Rebekah’s. That one is a bit more tragic.) Because the truth of the matter is Friday follows Thursday and we’ll follow good-bye with another hello. Maisy and her parents, in town for the weekend. Felipe home the week after that. Luke and Nils back for Labor Day break. The very next week the whole gang together for a NEEDTOBREATHE concert here in the city. And so. There’s that.
Just before Nils closed the door of his Jetta, packed and ready, I leaned into the car for one last snuggle. See you soon. This mom’s favorite way of saying good-bye.