Tuesday night, my firstborn climbed on a charter bus and rode through the night with his eighth-grade class to Washington, DC. It was his first trip without his family. Nick seems to be having a wonderful time although he got lost at the Holocaust Museum and I'm dying to hear the details of that.
Some of the best things happen to us when we're lost, you know.
I miss him. George and Jack miss him, too. George even commented last night, "I wish we'd bought him one of those little Cricket phones for the trip." "I thought that, too," I replied.
Part of missing him is rather selfish. I wish I were having the experience with him. I haven't been to the Holocaust Museum yet. I've never walked the Mall at night to see the monuments all lit up. I've been to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum (most recently with Nick) but not the American History Museum or National Cathedral. In fact, there are plenty of cool places in DC I've never set foot in. I'd love to do these things with him and George and Jack, and see everyone's faces as we share the experience.
I see a family vacation to DC in our future.
Being left behind is no fun. George once left me at home in Michigan while he took a B-52 to Key West. His jet broke, and he was stuck for two weeks sailing and swimming and getting a sunburn. Meanwhile, I shoveled two feet of snow while the water on my eyeballs and in my nasal passages froze and I muttered the lyrics to "Boat Drinks" behind my scarf in a very grumpy voice.
I've often joked that the Rapture will leave me behind because I don't believe in it. At least, I don't believe in it the way literalists say it will happen. The Book of Revelation gives me the heebie-geebies if taken literally, and I prefer to focus on the fact that God wins in the end, which is a very happy thought whether I get raptured or not.
But being left behind is definitely part of life. We leave others behind, and they leave us behind all the time, figuratively and literally. Some women have lots of babies because their babies grow into toddlers and leave them behind. Break-ups sometimes happen because one partner's love grows in a new direction and leaves the other behind. Children leave the nest, loved ones move to Liberia, and a flood of misunderstanding quickly sweeps one best friend miles away from the other.
Loved ones die, leaving us behind in the most complete way possible.
We feel the losses; in fact, we get lost in the losses. But when we are lost, we have an opportunity to find ourselves.
I hope that's what Nick is doing right now...finding himself. At least a little bit. Finding out who he is and what he wants to be and how he wants to be it. Because we--his mom, dad, and brother--can't give him that. He has to discover the options and choose for himself. All we can do is show him where he comes from, cheer him on, support him as he moves forward, and love him through it all so he doesn't feel so terribly alone.
Because the love...he will never leave that behind. It'll go with him every step of his life, every step away from us.
That's what family is for.