When we hear the ping of the Skype call, we all scramble and dive for the laptop. It is resting on the kitchen counter, charging overnight to ensure full battery life for the most important call of our year. I had previously held visions of us chatting with him comfortably on the couch, stockinged feet resting on a tufted ottoman, the fire crackling nearby. It would be as though no time had passed, and our banter and laughter would be instantaneous. I was counting on it. This picture perfect moment was going to need to sustain me for another five months without him.
But upon seeing that familiar face, and hearing his voice, the miles melt away and I burst into tears. It hurts to see him and know the distance between us. Oh, how I want to reach through the screen and hug my boy close, to bring him back into my everyday life. I settle, instead, on scooting a bar stool up to the counter, unwilling to waste even a second of this precious time by moving to a more comfortable spot. My other two children and husband gather around me, as eager as I am to see our boy.
The banter is easy, our connection as a family still strong. We ask questions; he answers them and sometimes we talk over each other. He leans in, trying to catch everything we say. He laughs. He rolls his eyes and smiles at my persistent questions that only a mother worries over. Is he eating enough? Is he healthy? Is he happy?
He shares with us a little bit of his struggles with the culture, the language. Having a native companion who speaks no English has been good for learning Spanish; hard for communicating and processing homesickness. I cannot imagine what he has been feeling, and my heart just hurts at his pain. He delights us with tales of strange food and epic soccer matches. I marvel at my Football player, now playing Fùtbol with young Chilean kids halfway around the world. We meet his companion, who tells me in broken English how much he likes the tie I sent him for Christmas.
The hour is over before I am ready, and I want to beg him for a little disobedience to buy us more time. There is so much more to say, to ask, to explore. One hour is just not enough time. He asks if he can leave us with his testimony in Spanish.
We watch him speak to us in a language that he knew nothing about three months ago. Tears stream down his cheeks as he testifies to us about his Savior, and his gratitude for families. He can barely get the words out, and we are a pathetic, sobbing mess on our end. I can see growth in this boy in such a short time away from home. He is changing. He’s letting this experience shape him into who he is meant to be.
The Skype call is over – he is the one who pushes the end button – because I cannot bear to. I fall into my husband’s arms and just sob. This goodbye is eerily reminiscent of the one we had three months ago at DFW Airport. I was unprepared for the end of this call because I was so looking forward to the beginning of it. I had no idea that a short glimpse into his world would tear the bandaid off a wound that has had no time to heal; a wound that is raw and sore and feels as though we have removed a vital appendage. We just said goodbye to him, and it’s misery to have to do it again.
We cry for a few hours, on and off. We hug each other and try to ease the pain. We try to focus on how happy he seemed, though it does nothing for the hurt we feel.
We miss him.
And so we wait, somewhat impatiently, for the chance to get to do it all over again on Mother’s Day.