On rare occasion my work takes me away on travel. This past Wednesday I was up extra early for my weekly two hour drive to teach at the dental school (nicely extended to three hours thanks to inclimate weather). From there I went straight to the airport to catch a flight to a two day continuing education course. Now here I sit, heartsick, alone in a cheap hotel, in front of my laptop, feeling emptier than I can ever remember feeling in my life.
As often as I grouse at home about not having a moment to organize a single solitary thought for myself, after three nights of nothing but thoughts to myself I’m struck by the irony of how unsatisfying they were. Sure, when it started I thought I’d make the best of it, loading up on carbs (and protein, and fat, and hops, and garlic) at the airport before my flight. I’m too old to eat that sort of garbage with any regularity, but I was batchin’ it for a few days so I thought I’d indulge. I should have taken the resulting gastro-intestinal distress as an omen.
I felt the tugs at the heartstrings when I finally made it to the hotel – checking in without my family. I set my alarm, crawled under the rough, paper thin sheets (alone), and watched bad late-night on unfamiliar channels. Up early the next day I went off to do my thing without the usual kiss from my sweet, wonderful, understanding wife to send me on my way. A quick phone call, a failed facetime effort and a few short words from my daughter were all I got that night, and they weren’t nearly enough.
Thursday nights are usually the tough ones at home. UnDorkMommy’s mom spends the night at my sister-in-law’s house, and on top of getting all three of our kids put to bed we also have to tend to my mother-in-law’s pets. When it’s me and UnDorkMommy, we can handle it no problem. But the thought of her having to manage all those kids without me, and her mother’s pets on top of all of that… all I can think of is how she shouldn’t have to do that all by herself. I should be there. Friday movie night – I should be there.
So again here I sit, alone in a strange town, in a cheap hotel, my wish granted. I have all the time I need to organize a thought to myself. And the price for that thought? Three nights without seeing or hugging my kids. Three nights alone in thin, rough sheets without putting my arms around my wife. I sit here watching bad TV on unfamiliar channels in an unfamiliar town, and I feel emptier than I can ever remember feeling.
I’ve always known exactly who I am, but at this moment I feel who I am especially acutely. I need my family. Say what you will about whether or not it’s healthy to define yourself by your family, but there it is. I need them. They are who I am. They are all I can think about. Three nights away from them and I’m completely empty. I ache for them.
Call me lame. Make fun if you like. But I love my wife and kids so much, three days without them hurts and the hurt is as real as anything. I’ve got one more night in a strange bed with thin, rough sheets and then I’m off to the airport first thing in the morning.
I love you kids. I’ll see you tomorrow. I’m coming home.
(I generally detest emo-crap blogposts like this. I promise, no more for a long time)