Wishing homeward

I counted, and I’ve been in my office a total of fifteen minutes since sometime in April. I’ve been home maybe five days. DC, New Orleans, Atlanta, Detroit, DC, DC, DC. I suppose they’d all be nice to visit, if I didn’t have a family in the middle of Kansas. Their voices, when I hear them on the telephone, twist my heart like a corkscrew, until it’s almost easier not to hear them.

If they are awake when I get home they come running, and threaten to knock me over with their hugs that are like tackles. Every time this happens I wonder if it is the last, if sometime soon they’ll love me but not in that ferocious way that only children know how to love you.

I wish, these few days I have at home, that I could just be with them, that I didn’t have work creeping across the radio waves to leach away the time, or acres of Kansas grass that grows despite the cool weather, or eighty-seven pieces of machinery in and around the house broken or in need of maintenance. But there they are, all those external things demanding my time, and the most perverse thing is that it makes me grouchy with my children.

This is the salt in the wound, I guess, that too often, on the nights I am here, I lie awake regretting how impatient I’ve been, how often I’ve barked at them or hurried them through a story because something that is truly less important, but which comes dressed up in urgency, has been biting at my heels.

It’s temporary, I tell myself. Just a big project that will end. But there’s always another project, and another, and something, I keep thinking, has to give. I know I’m not the only one to feel that way, nor the only one to fear that the something that’s going to give is his family.

A friend pointed out recently that there’s a silver lining to all the travel, which is that I’ve written two books, much of them on planes and in airports. So maybe that is the silver lining. Perhaps it’s even a gold lining.

I’d settle for copper, were it enough to keep me writing in my little office in the barn, rather than writing at 30,000 feet. Some people write better in the clouds, but I think I’d do just fine with my feet in the soil, our little patch of it in the middle of Kansas, which is this country’s heartland to be sure, but also the land where my heart resides.

And maybe this is why, when I wake some nights and can’t remember what city I’m in, it feels like my chest is empty, and all the breath and life gone out of me. And it’s why, when I come through that door and they run to me, I feel my heart thumping, because it is restored to me there, with them, who have ever been and always will be home.

Comments

  1. Eli

    i’ve been thinking the same things for you…only you articulate them much better than i ever could.

  2. nichole

    You aren’t alone in those feelings. After weeks of insanity at the office – leaving before the kids were up, getting home after they were in bed — this weekend, despite many nagging projects, I blew them all off to chase the kids around. It was worth it. When they hug me, laugh with me, smile at me, and listen intently at storytime, I remind myself, this is the really important stuff. Work will be there tomorrow and the next day and the day after that, but you’re right, Tony, their childlike enthusiasm and fierceness of love may not.

    And for all that grass, get some goats. The kids will have fun staking them out to mow down all the grass. We use cattle and horses at our house, but I have a resident grandpa to take care of those.

  3. carl in GA

    There is hope. My youngest is seventeen, and he still hugs me fiercely. I would like to believe it is because I disengaged from the world to be with him. But I suspect it is in spite of my absences and weaknesses, rather it is his God-gifted ability to love even me.

  4. Marc V

    I used to think that home was wherever my lazy-boy was at, but now it’s where the faces and smiles I love are stored. I get up and go to work before they’re up, but I am blessed to see them each night, as I rarely travel for my job. My wife is amazed at my fuzzy memory concerning life BC (before children), but it didn’t feel like I really started living until I got the title “dad”.

    We can beat ourselves up over our shortcomings and flub-ups as dad, or we can just vow to do better, grab those young’uns and hold on for dear life.

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