But recently, through an exciting service opportunity, I was gone from my children for two full weeks. For some, that might not seem like a long time. For others, that might be a welcome relief and not long enough. But for a guy who could be considered a bit of a “homebody,” two weeks felt like a year.
This trip also did not allow for long phone conversations, the nightly prayers, the reading of the books (one of my favorite nighttime events), and the daily updates. So, over the course of two weeks, I began to feel “out of the loop” and distanced from my family.
I was busy so that helped, but I felt myself longing to be home ... to get the hugs and the butterfly kisses that we all begin to take for granted when we have the privilege of getting them every day.
So when we picked the kids up in a McDonald’s parking lot, it was a joyful reunion. My son described it like this, “I missed you so much, Daddy. My eyes got watery, but not the sad watery, the happy watery.”
Me too, son.
My youngest, who is just at the beginning stages of talking, ran into my arms, gave me a big hug, laid her head on my shoulder and said, “Uv ou.” Baby talk translation: “I love you.”
This is the first time she said those words to me. A feeling of joy over hearing that beloved phrase and disappointment for being gone so long that she started speaking in short phrases in my absence came across me simultaneously.
My older daughter jumped into my arms and said, “Daddy, I am never letting go because I don’t want you to leave again.” I don’t want to leave again. The hug lasted forever and not long enough at the same time.
The other patrons of this restaurant must have thought I had been gone for a year, maybe a short stint in prison, or a hostage situation, by my unshaven look. No, it had only been two weeks ... two very long weeks.
But then the reality of being an overly emotional and sentimental parent of typical, playful, young children slapped me in the face.
My son, still hugging me, said the following in one long breath, “Daddy, you were gone too long, we missed you, we love you, can we play on the playground?”
“I love you too, I missed you too, wait, what?”
So much for the long, “Welcome home!” Back to being a regular old Daddy, chasing the kids on the McDonald’s playground ... just how I would prefer it.
(Editor’s Note: Matt has a beautiful family — his wife, son, two daughters, Tucker the family dog and seven chickens. Matt completed his first Boston Marathon on this two-week trip and was part of an incredible team that raised more than $60,000 for charity. “Father Time” is published in the Cleveland Daily Banner in alternating Wednesday editions.)