Several weeks ago, my husband and I boarded the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad for a relaxing day away from our kids. I guess you could say we were on a date. At the time of our outing, he’d been traveling for work and hadn’t been home much.
All week I’d anticipated our time alone so I could fill him in on all the things that had happened while he was away. Exciting things, like how much I’d saved at the grocery store using my coupons, or how our dog had designated himself watch dog, barking so ferociously at the UPS driver that they would not stop honking their horn until I emerged from the house to retrieve the delivery. You know, stuff he couldn’t live another day without knowing.
But beyond the trivial, every day ramblings, I was just looking forward to spending time ALONE with my husband. Enjoying the moments that he was with me and not on the road, hours from home. Believe it or not, even though I’ve been married to that man for over 21 years, I still love to spend time with him and he still makes my knees buckle.
We boarded the train and settled back for what I hoped was a relaxing ride through the national park. Me, yakking incessantly, my husband, barely listening, staring out the window of the train car, deep in thought. I could see he wasn’t in the mood for conversation and if I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s not to ask a man “What are you thinking?”
I leaned back in my seat and snapped a few pictures of the passing landscape.
I glanced back at my husband who was watching me, kind of nervously. Clearly he had something he wanted to say. I took a breathe and prepared myself as he opened his mouth and began to speak. I knew the words he spoke were coming sooner or later, but I wasn’t ready to hear them.
He spoke a simple sentence and my vision blurred. For a moment I teetered on racing to the bathroom as fast as my not-quite-sure-how-to-walk-on-a-train legs could take me to release the flood of tears that threatened to flow down my face. Or option two; suck it up and pretend that I’d not understood the words he had spoken.
I opted for number two. This was OUR day and nothing was going to ruin it. Nothing.
But I couldn’t get those words out of my head. The words that no mom wants to think about.
The words “Our kids are going to be gone soon, and we’ll be traveling alone.”
And there I sat, pretending I didn’t hear him. Pretending. Pretending….
It didn’t help. I had heard him.
I also knew what he’d spoken was true. Our oldest child had turned 20 a few short weeks before our date. He’d recently taken up woodworking, creating beautiful pieces of furniture that he plans to proudly display in his first home.
Our 18 year old had just passed his ASVAB test for the military and was initially told he could ship out for boot camp as soon as October.
Our baby, our almost 17 year old high school senior, was intently filling out a questionnaire and answering essay questions on an application to be a missionary.
My husbands statement began to sink in and settle in my heart.
He was right. He had spoken the truth.
Soon. Very soon. My husband and I won’t leave the kids at home to have a date.
Soon, my kids will begin a life that we have raised them for, they will follow their dreams and my husband and I will find new dreams that include two, not five. We will begin a new journey to new destinations as we discover empty nest travel together.
And suddenly I no longer wanted to cry.
Instead, I became filled with gratitude for the time I’ve had with my kids and the places we have traveled to as a family, and the relationships that we’ve developed along this less than perfect journey.
And how could I cry at that?