Words are not usually hard for me to find. I tend to have a way with them. Now, however, as I watch my journey draw to an end to soon place familiar soil beneath my feet, I struggle to express my excitement and my anxiety.
I have been gone for over half a year. It’s the job. It demands a lot of time away from home. I’ve never been gone for this length of time before, and so much has happened since I left. Life didn’t wait for me. It didn’t put itself on hold. It marched stubbornly onward as it always does.
I lost people. Important people. And while those back home have had their time to grieve, I will be feeling the absence for the first time. Wholly and unfiltered. It will be everything in me not to pick up the phone and call them to tell them that I’ve made it back home safely. It will be hard to face the reality that I missed their departure, couldn’t be there for the closure, and couldn’t grieve with those who grieved.
My children have changed. Each were in a different stage of life when I left, and upon my return they will be somewhere new. They will have crossed important milestones without me. My oldest may not be my little girl when I return. She may be more interested is hanging out with her friends. I pray my youngest still recognizes me. Knows who I am. Doesn’t shy away or treat me like a stranger.
My wife. I wonder if she will know me. Will I know her? Will we have to become reacquainted? She has had to take on so many new things while I’ve been away; fill a number of new roles. She’s grown fiercely in her independence. Has grown stronger in herself. For this, I couldn’t be happier, but it doesn’t suppress the worry that she may not need me anymore.
While there is so much excitement that bubbles within me to get home, to meet the new lives that have been welcomed into our world, to see familiar faces, and to lay hands upon solid foundations of reassurance, this excitement is likewise accompanied by an overwhelming sense of fear and guilt. And this is new for me. I’ve never been more conscious of the shifts caused by time. I’ve never felt like I have had to cautiously reenter the life I left behind.
But here I am.
Not only this, but what new habits have I picked up along the way? What changes have come about in me because of this experience? Certainly a person cannot do and see the things I have and come out in the end unchanged.
Perhaps there is irony in that this very thing I do in order to care and provide for my family is also the very thing I worry might one day tear us apart. We grow as a result of it, but if we’re not careful we may grow apart because of it.
I love and hate these homecomings.