Last week, my wife left town. Fortunately for me, our four children, our dog and the good of the community, she returned four days later.
Bess had long planned to fly to Houston to see her identical twin sister graduate from nursing school. But even after she bought her ticket, she expressed concern that we could survive without her.
True, it was an especially busy week. The kids had daily practices and four games for three different teams, as well as a band concert, a middle school dance and two doctors’ appointments.
It was the first time she’d ever left me at home with all four children.
Before I took Bess to the airport, she handed me a stack of paperwork bearing Post-It notes and clipped-on checks and bills. There was a chicken enchilada casserole and two quiches in the refrigerator and 12 hamburger patties in the freezer. She’d put all the kids’ events on my Google calendar, and she had special instructions concerning the guinea pig we’d adopted from a friend with allergies: “Ramona had better not die.”
Then she was gone. How hard could it be?
I’ll spare you the details of what actually happened. Let’s just say that about halfway through Bess’ vacation I thought of the movie “Moneyball,” when Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager, and coach Ron Washington are sitting in an aging player’s living room, and Beane’s trying to sell him on the idea of becoming a first baseman.
“It’s not that hard,” Beane says. “Tell him, Wash.”
“It’s incredibly hard,” Washington says.
The first day, I picked up my 15-year-old son after football practice and he was on crutches. We got home and I was making hamburgers in an iron skillet, something that Mom probably wouldn’t have done, so the house was in a celebratory mood.
We ate our burgers on the screen porch and then took our plates to the kitchen. By then all that airborne skillet grease had settled into the floor, which was suddenly like a hockey rink. We’re sliding around and then the kid on crutches comes around the corner and
We didn’t have to go the hospital. But for the next three days, I was running hard and trying to remember everything. Occasionally, Bess would text to ask if we’d fed the guinea pig or found the right slacks for the concert, and she’d forward important messages from the Little League team mom.
My one moment of genius occurred when the kids balked at eating quiche on Friday night — it’s not Friday night food, one of them said. So I fried some eggs and cooked hashbrowns and grits and sausage and biscuits. I don’t know much, but I do know that nothing beats breakfast for supper.
Anyway, we made it. We did have to skip Sunday School to get the house in order before we picked up Bess, even though we knew she would ask if we’d skipped Sunday School.
At the airport, another family was welcoming home their mother too. Except they were holding up a giant homemade “Happy Mother’s Day” banner.
My 11-year-old son hugged Bess and said, “Those people back there stole our sign.”
Bess laughed. She knew I had told him to say that. But we were all back together, and that’s what matters.