Tom Planck, life-long friend asked me today, "So Shep, how are you doing?" I took a quick self-inventory (I was breathing, not bleeding, not in pain, under no duress), and I said, "Well, pretty good."
He looked at me with skepticism and said, "Really?" I returned his expression and said, "Yeah." He leaned in and peered into my heart a bit and said, "Look, I know what you're going through right now because I'm there too."
There it was, reality cascading into my facade. My oldest, Caleb is at Cedarville University. It's been a big week of transition. It was harder than I thought to leave him there and drive away. Even so, it is very good. I am so pleased with him.
How am I really? I'm pretty good. Tonight was a little different than ever before though. It was the first night before the first day of school that Caleb isn't with us... the first since 2005.
Aleksandra asked me if we could have a last night of summer bonfire. Folks up here in Anna like to burn things. I'll add it to my "Recents List". I've learned to love: country music, soccer, and burning things. Well, I've always loved to burn things.
Last year she made the same requests and I fired up the pit while the rain fell down. This year we're minus Caleb but we still have the rain. I flipped an old chair upside down to shield the fledgling fire. The rain fell down my face as I reflected on the past twelve years of being Caleb's Dad.
I am so thankful and blessed and just overwhelmed. He is such an unexpected best part of my existence. I was so afraid when he was born, but I've just held him ever since. He knows that I'm not perfect, but he and I can laugh together and enjoy life like we're almost reading each other's thoughts.
And so I hold extra tight onto this beautiful soul. So tightly at times that it's uncomfortable for her as I desperately want to fill her with all the good that has ever crossed my path. When I look at her I know that I'd give my life for her without a moment's hesitation. I am so thankful that I have two more years with her before we drive away leaving her at Anderson University (Soar Ravens Soar).
And Sterling... when your big sister leaves, I am going to be a little wrecked. I thank God that I'll have a second round of bringing a child through adolescence. I'll get to live it all again with a new-found appreciation as your big sibs begin to carve out their lives. Don't you worry, once they take off, you'll be the "only child in residence." You're going to have it made kiddo. Just don't push it. There's no princesses in this family, and you're boyfriends are going to have a really hard time.
And so this is our recorded snapshot at this point in life. A few folks will read it and a couple might even tear up a bit. But most importantly, I just wanted to capture this night, this moment, and my aware heart as I answer the question asked by a dear friend, "So Shep, how are you really doing?"
I am beautifully, irrevocably, hopelessly thankful.
The rain falls, we pop umbrellas & bust out s'mores.