Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Coming Home

“So when do you have to go back to that place?” This time.

“Oh no, dad! I’m not going back! I’m home for good!” I assured him, smoothing the blankets around his feet.

“You don’t have to go back?”

“No, I’m home now,” I said, firmly.

“Good.” And in that one word I could sense relief, forgiveness, and peace.

I was still jet-lagged from the long flight home from Dubai. It usually took about a week before I got my days and nights turned around. The first couple of days I was always wired to see everyone and get back into some kind of routine. So going like some kind of wind up toy, I’d be in a frenzy to be everywhere at once, and then suddenly stop and be dead to the world. But dad’s illness changed all that. I couldn’t waste a single moment. I had to be there for him.

I remembered back to when I first decided to go away. Even though I’d graduated from college, I still went to my father to advise me on the big decisions in my life.

“Dad! Guess what!” I launched into my story without giving him a chance to answer, “I’ve just been offered a job in Colombia!” Colombia.

He halted, a piece of firewood in his hand as he turned to stare at me.

“Yeah, dad! I can start in a few weeks! Can you imagine? I’ll be teaching at a primary school! I’ll be working with missionaries but able to support myself!”

He resumed stacking the firewood, listening to me bubble over with details. “Hmm” he grunted.

“Well, what do you think?” I finally asked, “Should I take it?”

“How long have you been working for the telephone company?”

“Just a few months. It’s something anyone could do!” I forgot for a second that getting that job had felt great, a big accomplishment.

“I’d stick with the phone company if I were you. They have good insurance. You can go places there, work your way up.” His sister was firmly established in a position for Bell South in Florida.

“But, da-ad!” It wasn’t Colombia. A real teaching job! At 24, I longed for something other than living in a small town; I longed to use my college education. I wanted to see the world. Speak in Spanish. Talk about God. Make a difference.

“I can always try it, and if it doesn’t work out, come home, don’t ya think?”

He shrugged, and only now do I realize what it cost him to nod his head and give his approval.

That decision altered the course of my life forever. Because after Colombia came Costa Rica. Then Indonesia. After that, I moved to Texas, which led to a couple of moves to Japan. Taiwan. Egypt, again and again until I even married there. And finally, to the Arabian Gulf in the Middle East where I’d lived for the past nine years

It cost us a lifetime of being apart, frantic visits home fitting in as many people as possible in a short time every summer, talking of places to which he’d never been nor could relate to. His world, which I’d soon rediscover, was so much more stable. Firmly-rooted. Just like my father.

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