I miss my wife –
It’s lonely out in space…”
—Elton John, Rocket Man
candidate experience half-day workshops we’ve been running via the research organization I work for. Since February I’ve gone to 10 cities across the U.S. with a Toronto trip coming up to culminate delivering 13 workshops overall.
Not a Herculean effort compared to those road warriors who travel every week for business.
And no, I’m not looking for a medal or a gold star next to my name. I love doing what I do. I keep saying over and over that I don’t like being away from my girls and my wife, but I do love what I do and love to travel. (And no, I’m not going to sing you Cats in the Cradle.)
Although I think I keep saying it over and over because I’m trying to convince myself that I don’t miss my family as much as I do, which I do. Yes, I talk to them every day that I’m gone and we see each other on FaceTime. Of course it’s not the same as when I can give my girls a hug and give my lovely wife a kiss.
Now, combine that with the fact that my sister’s in the hospital four hours away from where we live and it gets even more complicated. Not just for the fact of being there for her and her grown children due to the seriousness of her illness, but for all the things that have to get done when a loved one is down. All the additional expenses that add up when you’re coming back and forth with your family or just yourself. Keeping your kids out of school if they come with you. Having to rent a frickin’ car because one of yours is in the shop. Managing your work and business trips in between. Attempting to unravel the highly complex realities of the healthcare system. Dealing with rotating nurses and doctors and technicians and social workers and endless paperwork and questions and headaches that all the hopes and prayers in the world can't make enough magic to change.
We just did this a few years ago with our own parents, and now my sister is the one in the hospital. You tell yourself that these are just the things that you have to do, and you don’t count the costs when it comes to taking care of someone you love and all the things around them that need to be taken of.
But you do count them, you have to count them, and that’s okay (so don’t look at me that way). Love is powerful, yes, and yet there are asterisks and footnotes in the paperwork. It’s just a matter of reconciling with yourself that these are the things you can and are willing to do and sustain as long as it takes.
The other morning I sat in my sister’s hospital room watching her sleep. I was the only other one in room with her besides the nurse coming and going. Her bed rolled automatically underneath her to keep her body moving and to help prevent pressure sores. It was fluid and slow, as if she were in zero gravity; I imagined she was floating in space. Why are we here? I thought.
“Why?” I said aloud. Why? It was just an allegorical question. A simple and calm inquiry. No angry fist shaking at God and the universe. No toxic well of emotion spilling forth in frustration.
Then I imagined we were both in space and all the years growing up together swirled around us and moved us along like soundless solar winds. I realized the why was pointless because it will never give me the solace I seek. The why is a vacuum that nature abhors.
The why is the loneliness of space, and it's gonna be a long, long time. And through it all I pray for my sister and miss my family.