Feeling all the Feels: Family Visits on the Foreign Field

I had and have no intentions of abandoning this blog. BUT I took a little unplanned hiatus for my in-laws visit! Can I get a whoop-whoop?! We had a wonderful Christmas celebration with them (on New Years) and an over-all fantastic time. No land-slides or major crises this time! Can I get an Amen?! You don’t have to do that…really. I’ll be happy anyway.

We did lots of things and saw lots of stuffs. There were hugs and kisses and snuggles and squeezes. Lots of laughs and countless calories consumed (Non-essential diets are NOT honored here if you visit us). Games played, gifts given, and good times had all around! Way too much love to be packed into 12 days, but we managed it somehow.

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I wanted to contrast the first day, mid-visit, and last day activities, thoughts, and feelings for anyone who might be interested in the good, bad, and ugly of this life. Missionaries are real people too, you know. And we love our families in a real big way from real far away. When we get them in close proximity, we suck all the life and love out of them and manipulate minutes into years of memories.

DAY 1: So many things to do, but all I want to do is watch the clock. I clean things I’ve already cleaned and prepare more food than can possibly be consumed. My daughter asks how long it will be until G&G get here. I tell her 12 hours (ok I lied a little..it’s more than that). She says, “That is a LOOOONG TIIIIIIIME!” Ditto, sweet baby. We eat breakfast…lunch… dinner…drink way too much coffee…go to church…watch a few movies. Hubby goes to the airport, bubby goes to bed and the little princess falls asleep on the couch at 5 minutes after 8. I keep checking my phone. Nothing but a plea to put some Diet Coke in the fridge for their arrival. I go to get it out of the pantry which might as well be the refrigerator. It’s already cold. Head back to my cocoon and check my phone repeatedly for the next hour. No word. But wait! I hear our little Maruti-Suzuki-that-could huffing and puffing up the hill to our house. I use all my best techniques to wake my drooling diva, a little worried that she will be a scared sleepy head or the grumpy bear she usually is when woken prematurely. She sleepily squeals at first sighting and jumps (ok…falls…) right into their arms. She spends the next hour showing off her things, chattering non-stop, and playing an endless game of I-Spy in which she ALWAYS tells the thing she spies before Grandma guesses. After catching up and oggling the suitcases full of Christmas presents, we reluctantly head towards the bed. It’s gonna be a great week.

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Mid-visit: How can it be half-way over all ready? Our time is going too fast. We’ve stayed home a lot. Are they bored? They seem happy. Everyone seems happy. I know I’m happy. This has certainly been a stressful year. It sure does feel nice to just relax. I cry happy tears in bed with my husband and whisper my worries that the joy I feel will leave when they do.

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The Final Day: There’s a little less chatter over our coffee cups this morning. They sit half-empty on the breakfast table. I feel a little like that coffee cup and wonder if everyone else does too. I swear I was just full to the brim last night and warm…so warm (my friends in Nepal know this is not a literal warmth). I just know it won’t last. This day will drain me. The memories will remain but will suddenly feel distant. We will fall back into our routines but we will feel that emptiness, the cold for a while. We stay in, silently packing and getting things ready to go. The silence is repeatedly broken by baby giggles and toddler banter…beautiful sounds of oblivion. I’m so thankful they don’t know how many miles it is to America and how long a year is. We pass the time with coffee, snacks, games, waiting for the inevitable. I know they have to go home. I know we have to let them. We will all be happy to get back to normal life, of course, but right now that doesn’t seem to matter. The moment comes for lingering hugs and loose lips sharing all the love we can summon. Teetering between making this a special goodbye for Jo without opening up her eyes to the painful reality of this departure. The nanny takes the baby from Grandma and I can tell she feels a little guilty for doing so. As the car pulls away, I spy a tutu-clad toddler waving and yelling the sweetest sentiments in her best outside voice (it’s the only one she has). IMG_1302

My heart hurts and my stomach does too. It’s pretty quiet on the way to the airport. We help them find their way to the departure door. We pray over a pile of suitcases with hundreds of eyes watching us. Our own fight back tears that finally cascade down my face as we give the final squeeze. I watch them walk out of sight and for the first time in a long time I think, “Why do we do this to ourselves?” My husband hugs me on the long walk back to the car and says, “You know I couldn’t do this without you,” and I remember the answer to the question I asked myself. I smile a weak smile as we begin the quiet ride home.

It had been a great week.

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Tell me about your visits with family after extended absences!
I would love to hear your experiences in the comment section below!

 

 

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