Today was P-Day for my son. That means it is also the day I hardly dare brush my teeth in fear of missing him when he writes.
I’m fairly new to this missionary mama thing — four months and counting — and find that each week brings a new tidal wave of emotions that I’m often unprepared to deal with.
This week, the sentiment that washes over me in a loud, angry thunderstorm of feelings is that I’m being gypped. I feel left out of his life in a way that causes a toddler-like tantrum in my heart and leaves me teary most of the day.
I get to email with my missionary for about an hour each week. We have created a group conversation in Google Hangouts, and my other two children (and occasionally, my husband, when his work schedule permits) join in on the conversation. I love this. It’s a treat to see our family banter playing out, to see the familiar teasing and nicknames fly back and forth. I can ask him questions in real time, and, provided I can keep my other two children from hijacking the group message to discuss unimportant matters like our two stupid dogs or Tom Brady, get answers right away. He shares bits and pieces of his life in Chile, but the conversation usually stays on the surface and light.
And it always leaves me wanting.
It is hard to gauge and interpret tone from typed letters on a page. I frequently feel there is more to every story, and want to press for deeper details. He seems happy, (he is happy!) and yet I worry continuously. I can’t help it. I’ve been mothering this
boy young man for almost 19 years, and turning that off overnight is impossible.
My heart just aches at knowing so little about the people in his day-to-day life, at not knowing exactly how he spends his time. He feels so far away and is having experiences that we’ll never get to be a part of. He’s doing things we’ll never really share in.
He’s growing up, and I find that I rather resent it.
Conversely, our life at home marches forward without him, as well. We have new inside jokes that he doesn’t get to laugh at. Anecdotes he doesn’t get to hear around the dinner table. Stories, memories, people, and experiences — all of this is happening without him. These trivial pieces of the puzzle that make up our life are simply too prosaic to mention in a letter, yet shape and define each one of us.
We’re spending the next two years moving forward on parallel lines, growing, living our own lives, and crossing paths only at the end of this missionary journey.
We won’t be the same when we meet again; neither will he. Life will have changed us all in these two years.
And so today, I mourn a little bit. I pout and wipe away tears at the memories we’ll never know we missed. The experiences he won’t write home about because they’re too personal, too mundane, or too hard to explain. The moments he won’t tell me about because he knows I’ll worry. The days that he is so overwhelmed there are no words to describe them, even if he wanted to. The culture and idiosyncrasies of a people we cannot appreciate and know nothing about.
Today, I ache at missing out on the things that will shape him into the man he’ll become.
I know the boy that left with him will still be partly there, but sometimes it just plain hurts that I don’t get to watch it happen.