I love routine. I'm all about knowing what comes next and what to expect, so it's not surprising that we have a routine surrounding each trip that Trevor takes to China. He always leaves on a Friday morning, so I arrange to go into work late in order to take him to the airport.
We stay up later than usual Thursday night, and then once we go to bed we randomly jump from subject to subject, trying to remember everything that we need to communicate before we are separated. The topics range from how to read the electric meter to encouragement to be patient with Nathan and Grace. I've established that patience is not one of my strengths, and it's good to know that he is praying for me and the kids while he's away.
I always take a few pictures of them together before we leave our house. I guess it's the not so deeply buried fear that it might be the last, and I want it to be as recent as possible. We take the kids to the babysitter's house where Trevor gives them last minute instructions, hugs and kisses, and then it's off to IHOP for breakfast.
We allow plenty of time to sit over coffee and breakfast, so we can enjoy our last few minutes together. There is something comforting about that time together. We are alone and able to say whatever might need to be said without the kids sitting there hanging on every word. Mostly it's just light conversation and the strange feeling of letting go. I often have the odd sensation of detachment from the situation, as though he is already gone. Maybe it's my heart's way of saying good-bye slowly so it doesn't hurt so much when he finally walks away from me.
After breakfast, we complete the drive to the airport (Bush Intercontinental), and pull into the international departures lanes. We get out for one final goodbye as he unloads his suitcase, carry on and pillow. I hug him tightly, trying to memorize the length of his body against mine and the feel of his strong arms around me. One more kiss, and then he's walking away. As the police officers eye me as a potential terrorist, I pull away from the curb as slow as humanly possible so I can keep him in my sight for as long as I can. He finally disappears from my view, and that's usually when I lose it.
I cried torrents of tears the first time we went through this ritual, and each time it seems that I cry less, and recover faster. I go on to work, and right before I think he is about to board the plane, I give him one more call on his cell. One last goodbye, one more time to hear his voice. I won't hear from him for the next 24 hours, because he will be in the air for a huge portion of that time and the few hours he lays over in Tokyo, it's the middle of the night here.
After I speak to him, I get on the computer and pull up his flight so I can track it online. I periodically check all day long as I watch the computer generated plane progress over Texas, Colorado and all the way up through Alaska. I feel a sense of relief for him when I see it leave US territory and begin to hug the eastern coast of Russia, because the trip will be over sooner than later.
When I pick the kids up in the afternoon, I try to make the evening fun and give them all of my attention. They pick what's for dinner, we have special dessert, and I let them stay up later than usual. We do a lot of snuggling and hanging out in an effort to ignore the big, empty chair in the living room. When it's time for bed, we all pray for his safety and for God to take care of him while he is away.
No matter how late I stay up Friday night, I always wake early the next day in anticipation of the call that will set my mind at ease. The one where I hear his voice again, and all is well with the world. I received that call about 30 minutes ago, and when the phone rang both kids yelled out, "It's Daddy!" Nathan spoke to him, but Gracie refused to say anything. I guess we all deal with separation in different ways.
Lord, please keep Trevor safe. Keep him focused and attentive as he works, and bring him home to us. Thank you for your mercies and love, and for blessing me with the joys of children. I pray for patience and kindness as I deal with Nathan and Grace in the next few weeks. Amen.