Today was my son's 18th birthday. I was not there to celebrate with him, just as I have not been there for any birthday since he turned four. This is because his mom took him and his sister to Sweden when they were about 4 1/2 and 2 1/2 respectively, and they have lived there ever since. It's a long story, and if you have not heard it and are really interested, I don't mind sharing it, but not tonight. No sense going overboard this evening. I tried to call him to wish him a happy birthday, but only succeeded in waking up his step-dad at 7AM on a Saturday. That it was after 11PM here and I was bone tired isn't that important. I had told him I would call, but he stayed over with a friend and was not home. He has his own life now and I have to learn to accept that. It would be easier if I had been able to be more a part of the almost 14 years I mostly missed. I had to be satisfied with leaving him a message on his Facebook page. It amazes me how impersonal life is becoming in so many ways, but at least I was able to do that. No indication that he got my message yet, but I know he had a busy day from what he was telling me last time I spoke to him. 18. It makes me wonder, sometimes, where the time has gone.
For the past 14 years, missing him and my daughter has been an ever-present part of my life. It has been that void that is never quite filled, or that ache that never quite goes away. I have tried hard not to make it too obvious, but inside I have often wished I could be sharing a camping trip with them, or showing them some cool thing I had seen, or just wondering what they were doing and how their day had gone. I know that won't change just because he has turned 18, but I find that I can let go a bit more at this point because he is finding his own way in life now. I know that the times we talk will likely become fewer and that there will likely be years between seeing one another now. I have to rely on the knowledge that he knows I am here when he needs to talk and hope that he will have the time to chat with his old man every now and then. I wish I had a way to jump on a plane and go seem him, but I barely have money for gas for the car, let alone a round-trip ticket to Sweden. I miss him so much right now. Happy Birthday, Graeme!
Earlier today, Merilee and I went to our ward service project and barbecue. The day started out so grey that we were not certain we wanted to go, but we decided we would give it a go and were pleasantly surprised to find the sun shining as we went out to the car. We ended up raking up pine needles under a tree that they had recently trimmed back at the Provo Cemetery. Underneath the pine needles we uncovered a couple of gravestones that could easily have been covered for years. I'm not sure that anyone will visit them this Memorial Day, but I am glad that we were able to make it possible should any relatives come by. Afterward we went to the barbecue and had a good lunch. It ended up being a really enjoyable time and we were both glad we decided to go.
This evening we decided (OK, mostly me, but she graciously consented) to hike up part of the trail to the Y. Neither of us has been very active of late, so this was a big step forward for us. We only made it up to the second switchback, but that's a start. We saw a rabbit just up the hill and, at the second switchback, we sat on the bench and watched the deer that were grazing on the hillside before making our way back down. It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing, so we were really not prepared for a longer hike, but it was wonderful to be up there. The view from up there is really nice. I hope to get in the habit of hiking somewhere close at least two evenings a week. I think it would help me unwind from the day and make my job seem a little less onerous. That is my hope, anyway. I will also help us get ready for hiking in Yellowstone and Arches, and eventually we will be able to do a bit of backcountry hiking, complete with packs.
I think that is all I have for now. As it gets later, this great sense of loss that I have not been able to shake all day keeps getting stronger, and I am not sure I can give words to what I am feeling right now. It is almost as if sharing it here would only give it that much more of a hold on me. I know it has something to do with what I have missed with my kids over the last 14 years, and it has been fueled by I dream I had where they were younger. I was actually saying goodbye to them at a train station and I knew that I would never see them again. I wanted that last moment to last forever, but the train was leaving and I had to let them go. Not the sort of thing that lends itself to a day of carefree enjoyment. I have been able to keep it from interfering with my day very much, but it has been there nonetheless. I hope for better dreams tonight. Better yet, I hope for no dreams and just a restful night's sleep.
One more thing before I go. Last Sunday I received a gentle reminder about who is really in charge. If you don't know what I mean, maybe you will shortly. Let me start by saying I do not own a white shirt. I haven't had one in quite some time, mainly because I think I look goofy in a white shirt, and I have not found one that I liked. Now, in our ward, we have a shortage of Aaronic Priesthood and they are always asking for help in passing the sacrament. They always seemed to ask those in white shirts or suits (something else I do not own), leaving me with the impression that, like many wards I have heard about, the white shirt was a requirement. I had never been asked to help until three weeks ago, when I was wearing a light blue shirt that was fairly close to white. I am sure part of that was because I was there early and there were few people to ask, but I was still somewhat surprised because my shirt was obviously not white. I was more than happy to help out (though I had not helped pass the sacrament in about 30 years, including all the time in my BYU wards). Well, last week I was getting ready for church and I decided that I really did not want to help pass, so I intentionally wore a dark brown shirt, cleverly thinking that my shirt would disqualify me from being asked. I even bragged about it to Merilee. Imagine my surprise when I was asked to help pass. I immediately recognized that someone was showing me that I am not as clever as I think I am, and if the Lord wants me to serve, I'll get asked. As if to further punctuate the point, as I was trying to find my way to Sunday School (we are in a new building on a temporary basis as ours is being renovated), one of the brothers comes up to me and says, "Aren't you one of the primary substitutes? Would you mind helping me out with primary today?" That's what I get for trying to be clever.
And on that lighter note, I think I will call it a night and turn in.