I always do. I always wish that he had come with us. I’ve never enjoyed getting on a plane without him. My throat always knots up and sometimes, my eyes sting. It doesn’t take long before escalators, boarding passes, security and my two small traveling companions divert my attention from the pull I feel with every step we take away from him.
When I go off without him, only a few hours have to pass before something comes up and I think, “Oh, I wish Jeff were here.” This time it was the afternoon I arrived. At RJ’s (my nephew) baseball game, someone asked me about which translation of the Bible I read. That is usually a harmless question, however, from this friend, I knew it was loaded. And, without thinking, my wish for Jeff to be there just tumbled out of my mouth. Even later that first night, when conversation with dear ones we hadn’t seen in a while didn’t flow comfortably, I thought about Jeff’s easy way of conversation and his ability to draw people out.
The next day, I needed his wisdom with a friend whose troubles weighed heavily in the most tender of places. His man talk would have reached farther, meant more. He could have ministered where I was unable.
When Denise called me from Florida on Saturday and asked me if I would teach her high school/college Sunday School the next morning, you bet I was wishing Jeff had made the trip. Oh. My. Teenagers and beyond. Not my specialty-- and I am not sure what is, actually. What was even more intimidating than teaching in place of my own sweet mentor, there was the possibility of my niece and nephew sitting in the room. Adding to the case of fluttering butterflies I developed after hanging up the phone, the day was so packed I had no time to call Jeff, think, or find a canned message on the internet. I knew he would know just what to say, but he had his own "sermon" to work on. He could speak to them with confidence and I knew they would listen to them.
And Monday when I returned from town to find out a small search party had been organized for Julia and Brighton, I wished Jeff had been there. Before I left, I told them to leave the house to explore. There are trails and dirt roads everywhere. I said, “You won’t get lost. Just look for the house. It’s big and yellow. You can’t miss it!” When they called them in for lunch and they couldn’t see them, my nephew, RJ, took off in his truck to find them. Daddy followed. Papa found them as far away as they could possibly be without leaving the property. Oblivious. Of course. They were doing EXACTLY what I told them to do--and having a ball. My family had been so worried and I was very grateful but I also felt responsible for their stressful half hour. Jeff would have either been at the house helping look for them or at least there in the kitchen to be “responsible” with me.
I have learned through the years, and especially these parenting years, his presence carries a lot of weight. It accomplishes many things at once-- comfort, confidence, security, ease, lightness, fun. I miss him when he’s not around. Trips like these just highlight that.
As the plane gets closer to DFW, the tightness in the “pull” is loosening. We are almost home. I won’t be missing him much longer.