I know it was only four days. And actually, Cheri and I enjoyed our temporary empty nest. When the boys took their trip to Las Vegas, we found ourselves completely alone in the house, save for the three four-leggeds who became far needier with the two sons out of the home. We planned and ate the meals we wanted to, we watched the television shows we wanted to, we spent time just sitting in the gazebo, letting the cool breeze on a hot day blow through the little place, and staying far too long when normally we would need to get supper ready. We did our jigsaw puzzle for hours, because we wanted to, and we just enjoyed being together, without having to make adjustments for the other two bodies in the house.
And yet, you know when you have normal habits and patterns of living, that then suddenly are disrupted for even a couple of days. We had fun and talked and dreamed about a number of things, but eventually the conversation went back to “I wonder how the boys are doing?” Now, I have to say that I am the one who is willing to leave the question at the question. Cheri, however, with phone in hand, can’t help herself and ends up calling numbers of times over the four days, just checking in on what are truly two full-grown men, who just happen to be her little boys. Fortunately, her calls were fairly short, and mostly focused on what they were eating, where they were going, and if they were having fun. Well within the framework of acceptable phone conversations, even if they were bordering (or crossed the border) of being too many in number to allow them – and us – to feel as though they actually went away for four days.
Yesterday, Cheri had to go back to work after a week’s vacation, and the boys came home, landing at just after noon. I picked them up from the airport, asked a couple of questions, and noticed that they were satisfied with not having to answer all the details of their time. It wasn’t that they had done anything illegal or immoral – it’s just that it was their trip, and they had decided to keep it to themselves.
That’s all fine and good – except… the professional, world-class, champion Interrogator came home from work five hours later. It started as I picked her up from work, and she began rapid-firing questions to me about their trip, which brought my reply of “I don’t know…” Apparently, my debriefing of four days away was woefully inadequate, when lined up against the standards of a five-foot nothing mother…
So, when we pulled into the garage, and went into the house, the ordeal began. After a moment of hello and hugs (I guess I had forgotten to hug the boys when they got in the car – but they didn’t seem to mind…), the Interrogator launched her barrage of questions: Did you have a good time? Did you do anything special? Did you go to a show? Did you eat well? What did you have? What was your favorite meal? How was your room? Was it too hot for you (at 117 degrees, I think we can find that answer)? Did you walk around a lot? How were your flights? Was the plane on-time?
And on and on they went. I don’t really thing I could even come up with all the questions that came rolling out of Cheri’s mouth – but even if I had, I also don’t think I’d bother to ask them all – which I didn’t. I really thought she was going to find a chair with wrist straps and a bare light bulb swinging above their heads…
Well, the questions finally ended after a while, especially when it was apparent that they were only being answered with one or two disinterested words. Cheri appeared to be mildly satisfied, and everyone knew that it would all be revisited at some point in the near future, just to see if she could mine any more nuggets of information out of her sons. Seeing all this, I wonder why the government doesn’t employ mothers of reticent sons to question spies or others who might be dangers to the country. They would sure get the info – just wearing those terrorists down…
I have two thoughts as the boys reentered our world. The first, of course, is pretty evident: fathers tend to not have to have as many details about their sons’ experiences as mothers do. Let me be more specific, so as not to make things too general – I certainly don’t need to know as much as Cheri does about the goings on in my sons’ lives, especially now that they are full=grown, and just living with us for this long, drawn-out, temporary time. Of course, that may be generational, since I recall when I was in college, and calling home, if I were unlucky enough to draw Dad as the one who answered the phone, that the conversation would contain about three or at the most four questions about how I was doing – basically covering the areas of whether I had broken something or contracted some disease, or if I had been arrested or at least brought up on charges, and if I were having a good time at college. None of those were really curious questions – just more perfunctory, and then he would always ask the final question: Do you want to talk with your mother?
The other thought, of course, is that we are living on borrowed time. I know people may ask how we can possibly stand having two grown-up sons living in our basement. My response is that, sure, our plan and hope is that someday soon they will find different jobs and different living arrangements, and the nest will indeed be empty, including the storage areas we are renting to keep their apartment stuff while they are at home. Having them leave for four days simply remind me that the time is coming, and pretty quickly where this wonderful arrangement will change, as it should. Even now, as I dream and hope for them finding their places, and their life’s mates, my throat and the back of my eyes get sad. It’s the way things should be, but I have to think that these past few years have been a real gift, to enjoy them just down thirteen stair – even if it does cost an arm and a leg sometimes. I can’t imagine how Cheri will do when it call comes to be…
But that is the course of life – near and far – here and gone – questions and answers, and living each day as a blessing that can be. So, c’mon Time – do what you have to do. Just not today, ok?
Word for the day: ruthless. Pronounced ROOTH-less. Ruth was my mother’s name, which I always associate with deep love and kindness, but actually the root of this word has nothing to do with a name. The Middle English word, ruen, meant “to rue, or to feel regret or remorse.” “Ruth” therefore is defined as compassion for the misery of others. “Ruthful,” a word really no longer used, meant to be tender, or to be full of sorrow for another’s misery.
Enter “ruthless.” The word is the stainless steel opposite of someone expressing a ruthful nature. To be ruthless, as we know is to be heartless, soulless, uncaring, or just plain acting like a jerk. We usually tie the word to violence, but without any emotional connection. Stay away from ruthless people – better to find a ruthful person – at least they care.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.