We hardly had time to process that our family is no longer caring for Grandpa when Rich was sent out of town for work. We do not do husband-working-out-of-town well. As a family or as couple. His job as a carpenter is not one that we would expect him to work away from home. I was thinking about the by-line for this blog… “preserving the fruit of life through tough times.” Rich working out of town is a tough time for us.
It is hard because we like each other. I know every couple likes each other. At least in theory. I also know first hand that theories get tested over twenty-five years of married life. But we have worked hard to be at a place in our relationship where we look forward to spending a good chunk of everyday together. We have made life choices prioritizing that Rich work only an eight-hour day so we can have significant time as a couple and family. Without one of us here, we feel like one of those cock-eyed cars on the side of the road titled off balance because a wheel is missing.
It is hard because Rich is simply working out of town. Nothing about this resembles a business trip. We found out at three in the afternoon on a Wednesday that he was to report to a new location, two and a half hours from our door, on Thursday morning. No hotel provided; no hotel points accumlating. No gas compensation for travel. Show up or sit at home without work or pay. We will get equal short notice that this foreman no longer needs him; that could happen tomorrow or in two weeks. The nature of the industry demands sedulous workers.
He is camping. Eating out of cans, sitting in the car next to the Smallmart camp store to get wi-fi, hiking up a bluff to watch the Mississippi river, sending me text messages with decisions he is considering for our future. He is working six days a week. We see him Saturday night after dinner until four on Monday morning. It hardly enough time to remember how he smells or laughs once he is gone again.
My days are hard without him. We have only had night nursing the last two weeks, and we do not leave Nathaniel alone with the teen boys. Truth is I count on Rich walking through the door at four every afternoon, grabbing a quick shower, then playing with Nathaniel and working on his therapies. I am not a fun mom after four in the afternoon. My right knee hurts from the first hundred times I have gotten up from the floor, and all my tricks for the day have been used up. I have to consciously remind myself to smile during dinner clean up and the two hours of medical care before bedtime.
So how do we preserve the fruit through this season? Probably in all the same ways other families cope when dad works out of town. We text good morning. We designate a time to talk in the evening to share our day. We pray for one another. We give each other the grace not to talk some days, but focus on our jobs. We divide the to-do list. We assume the best of one another. We listen. We gain new understanding for single parents. We prioritize the decisions that need made and let the non-urgent wait. We do the next thing. We sleep when the day’s work is completed. We miss each other. We learn again that our joy and satisfaction in life cannot be tied to one person or our marriage.