Saturday, January 9, 2010


Seems like it wasn't very long ago when I was so elated that I could drive a car down the road all by myself while my mom was doing such a lousy job of hiding the anxiety in her large dark brown Okinawan eyes. Seventeen, and I ruled the world in our family's blue station wagon.

Forty years later, I've exchanged places with my mother--figuratively speaking, of course--as I wake up anxiously each day way before dawn, frantically searching my gmail inbox to see if my 23-year-old son, Ryan, has emailed me. Italy is, for better or worse, nine hours ahead of the Pacific Northwest time zone, and so--with 7 parts fatherly concern and 3 parts meddling buffoon, I fling the bedcovers off and, fumbling idiot in the dark that I am, scramble for my laptop, carefully raise the top, and find and press the circular device on the upper right. I close my eyes and desperately try to convince myself that doing so gives me a few more seconds of alpha sleep (I lie!). I groan as I see the LED display on my clock radio read: 4:15 AM. Sleepily--no, make that lazily--I do the math and determine that it is a little after 1 PM in spaghetti world.

Meanwhile, the irritating musical notes Microsoft implanted in this high tech machine I have only just recently become acquainted with--okay, so I'm a baby boomer caveman (if it fits, I'll wear it)--signals that it, too, is struggling to wake up. Just as I hit the g button that cues the words in my browser's drop down menu, the screen goes black on me. Cursing the idiocy of it all (with me at the top of the list), I realize that my battery has died. What this means, of course, is that I have to get up from my half sitting/half reclining state, step onto the cold thinly-carpeted floor (my landlord is a slum lord, I swear!), freeze my buns off, and blindly grope for the light.

It pierces my eyes, and it's a few seconds before I can adjust to the hurtful brilliance of it all. I rush to find the cord for the laptop, attach it to the machine, and plug the other end in. I plop down on my bed, my brain now losing battery power rapidly, and wait for the laptop to come to life.

Ryan, my handsome, bright, and talented 6'2" son (who hasn't a clue that I still view him with a split/frame perspective: the tall young adult on one side, and the cute little toddler on the other side) is thousands of miles away on the European continent, and I am dying to hear from him. Where did the yearsgo? Two decades ago, some kind soul told me, "Cherish this time. They grow up so fast!" No kidding! (No adulting?) Seemed like only yesterday when I was pushing his stroller up and down the sleepy sidewalks of the southeast Washington bedroom community of College Place.

Now here he is, four times graduated--first, from kindergarten; second, from 8th grade; third, from Walla Walla Valley Academy; and fourth, from Walla Walla University. He now attends graduate school at Cal Polytech University in San Luis Obispo, CA, studying for a dual major in Mechanical Engineering and Business Management. For his second quarter of grad school, he was blessed with the opportunity to study abroad at the University of Milan.

My wife, Rita, and I saw Ryan off at Sea-Tac Airport on Wednesday, December 30, 2009. He had a long but safe flight to London and enjoyed a great evening delighting in the splendor of the Queen's Empire. After that first delightful and relatively stress-free night, however, Ryan began encountering challenge after challenge. What I am greatly inspired and encouraged by is how he evolved from ranter and complainer to wise old soul--he turned the emotional corner when he was in the deepest of valleys, confronting himself to stop whining about his situation and making a decisive choice to start having fun. It was like the proverbial lightbulb turning on.

Which brings me full circle back to the light being on and things coming to life.

This baby boomer dinosaur has learned to SKYPE! Ryan turned me on to this wonderful and innovative high tech tool a week or so ago. I was at the Ballard Library when I decided to click on the lime green icon at the bottom right of my laptop screen. I'm glad I did because I came across my wife and Ryan having a great conversation. Quickly, I typed an instant message to Ryan, asking him to invite me to a conference call. He immediately responded.

Wow! It was great to hear both Rita's and Ryan's voices! And the wonder of it all was that Ryan sounded like he was right in front of me. Thank God for Bill Gates and Paul Allen and all the subsequent high tech geek clones whose brilliance resulted in figuratively shrinking this globe to the size of a grapefruit.

I am very thankful to be living in this amazing era. Yes, we see growing evidence each day that the angels are straining and steadily losing ground in their efforts to hold back the winds of misfortune and suffering. Even so, it only means that we who believe and trust and live our lives accordingly will soon be in a better place.

Until then, let us endure the gentle tugs at our hearts when we come to that juncture where we let our children go, thanking Him for the short yet glorious season He allowed us to have them.

I only ask one thing of Him as I meditate on how I will cope with this time in my life. Lord, whatever You do, let me have my split screen image of Ryan.

ps Thanks for the Skype!

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