Cornhole. Horseshoes. Passing a football. Playing catch.
We just returned from a little town in West Texas, a few miles from the border of New Mexico. It seemed so far away, almost like a foreign country. It would have felt like the back side of the moon to me had it not been for a little cluster of humans living in a beautiful home out on the edge of town with yellow roses, a stout, handsome young man, a pretty young wife and three adorable little boys named Pierpont.
When an adult child begins a family so far away that it takes two plane trips and two long car rides to get to them you find yourself working through creative ways to stay close. You try e-mail and snail mail. You use packages and Amazon. You text and you e-mail. You call and hope the timing is good and you are not being an inconvenience in their busy lives. You wonder if you call enough and hope they don’t feel neglected. You try Skype and FaceTime and Zoom, but you long to be in the room. How do you close the distance between yourself and the ones you love with an aching, longing, love?
Lois and I watch the almost 20 grandchildren on our phones when their photos and antics and achievements show up on various social-media platforms, and we cherish the rare times when we can visit, sit across the table and share a meal. We live for moments when we can sit together in the hot tub or across a fire in the backyard, or share a simple pizza. Tears turn to laughter. Talks linger on into the night. Memories are revisited.
Last week, when we visited Dan and Kate in Texas we saw their new home for the first time. There was a nice place with a quiet room, a comfortable bed, a private bath and a personal fan for us. There were abundant meals. We were able to visit their church and see their whole family was in good hands.
In the evening, after Dan returned from work and supper was cleared away he got out the corn hole game and we stood in the sun in the back yard for hours and walked back and forth and tossed bags back and forth and talked and laughed. The boys froliked in the hottub or dug holes in the yard, the ladies talked and kept watch. Lois made her amazing chocolate cake.
There is something simple and sweet about playing a game of corn hole with your boy now grown into a man with sons of his own. You deeply long for connection. It’s not so important what the connection is. For us it was cornhole. It took me back to when I was five years old standing under an old Maple on Francis Ave. in Grand Rapids, and my Dad, then in his 20’s taught me to catch and throw a baseball. A few times I have gone out of my way as an adult and drove slowing down that street and paused in front of that house. One day a man was sitting in a lawn chair a few yards from the spot under the tree where I broke in my first baseball glove and learned to catch and throw. I slowed down. He looked at me curious. I said, “I learned to throw a baseball under that tree when I was five.” He smiled and waved.
When someone is far away we have to figure out simple and meaningful ways to stay connected. I thank God for planes and modern cars, Zoom and Facetime and cell phones and other means of staying in touch, but there is nothing like a walk or a meal face-to-face or a game of chess, or watching a hockey game together or cornhole in the back yard with the chatter of little children nearby reminding you why you leave and cleave and start new families.
May 5, 2023