There is an old saying in the military, “Hurry up and wait!” Well, it got to be an old saying for a reason - there’s a lot of waiting, but when things happen, they happen in a hurry. I’ve just been told my deployment has been set back to November 21, and the Colonel in charge of our team said he will push to have us stay until after Thanksgiving. So my family will have me around for another month before I go.
I’m still doing the day-to-day activities I normally do: go to work, help with household chores, chauffeur kids to activities, and the myriad other things that go on in the lives of most parents. But there’s an urgency now that was absent a few weeks ago - I know a specific day is coming when I won’t be doing these things. I must prepare my family to take over many of the things I routinely do, such as mowing the lawn, doing minor repair work, keeping things organized, and all the things I do as a husband and father. There are repairs to schedule before I go, such as sewer rodding, fixing the toilet, repairing the garage door, and other things I don’t want to leave lingering while I’m away. I’m a pretty busy guy.
I now have some empathy for anyone on Death Row, who knows that on a certain day, off in the future, their routine days will end. No, I’m not talking about dying, but on November 21, my routine will end as well, and that day hangs over me, now firmly embedded in the back of my mind. Nothing routine can be routine anymore. Whatever enjoyment can be had from each moment must be sucked dry. Every minute counts. Before, if the kids wanted to do something and I had some work to do, I might have put them off, saying I had work to do. Not now - I cannot afford to lose another opportunity to spend time with my family. I will pay someone to do the work, if necessary. I must spend the time I can with my family.
I’m sure that as my mobilization date gets closer, it will loom larger in my mind as well. I will become more and more anxious to spend “quality time” with my family, and more anxious to make sure they know what to do in an emergency. I will test and retest methods of communication to be able to keep in touch. I will pray much more often. I will likely laugh more and even cry more. As the day approaches, each moment will be a treasure.
Today is our normal day to do laundry, a chore I often perform. Today I will make the children take on this task, not because I feel lazy, but because I will not be available to perform this task in the near future. They have to get used to the weekly routine without me participating. They have to grow. It will be uncomfortable for them.
In many ways, my being away will be an opportunity for my family to mature and stretch themselves. I have spoken to my children about the need for them to become more and more like adults. Their mother will rely on them in ways she doesn’t have to right now. They will each have to become more self-reliant. I will not be there to push, prod, cajole, intimidate, bribe, wheedle, tease or otherwise influence them to do the things adults must do to become successful. Their mother, of course, will continue to exert as much influence as she can in their lives. She will become their rock, their refuge, their motivation. I will try as I can while I am away, but e-mail only goes so far to motivate a young person.
All these things will come. Today, I handle the normal routine by mentoring my children as I go about the chores to accomplish. This will be the part they will play as I go to play my part in our ongoing conflict abroad.
The time is short. There is so much to do. Every minute counts more and more.
If you want to talk with someone in person, please feel free to call 212-864-5436
The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and
Executive Director of CrossCurrents.
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here. God and Science (Hypertext Edition,
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion: Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).
Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.