The bed is covered with clothes, containers, medications and solutions for “what if?” scenarios. At one end sits a suitcase and duffel bag, both small enough to meet the carry-on baggage requirements for international air travel.
My wife is joining an expedition to India, a key item on her bucket list, and she is figuring out what to take. The aim is to pack somewhat less than if the journey encompassed 4-star hotels where porters wrestle the luggage and a little more than an international spy. She will move from south to north in that massive country encountering a variety of climates.
My prime role is to act as the sounding board. I am, of course uniquely qualified for this since I have never set foot in India or Asia; nevertheless, I try and be a responsible partner and return every volley in the game of Leave or Take?
The rhythm of Leave or Take is fundamental to each stage of life and extends beyond the physical to the emotional and spiritual.
The rhythm of Leave or Take, in each life stage, involves the physical, emotional & spiritual.
In preparation for her tour we have felt it important to talk about matters relating to our Will, to review passwords to key accounts and to make provision that the children each receive what she would wish if calamity should strike.
My children worry, with some seriousness, about what will become of me during the month of my wife’s journey. Will I shrink from all human contact, eventually to be unearthed, weeks later, under a pile of O’Henry wrappings, empty potato chip sacks and McDonald’s packaging, with Netflix on the screen?
I try and assure them that I am making my own preparation - there are sermons to write, presentations to prepare, blogs to write, grandchildren from whom to learn. But the children’s anxieties are only partially assuaged by the listing of my To Dos; they wonder about the layers beneath the busyness.
My wife and I have become so integrated over the years the kids wonder about the sound of one hand clapping. Will I be able to function without the Muse, the Editor, the Spark that ignites with suggestions often launched with “we should…”
When I entered (semi) retirement I remember encountering the many dimensions of the Leave or Take process. On the list for when my wife is away is the next round of radical pruning of my books. The goal is to reduce their number by one-half. And again, while the process will, on the surface, seem a management task focused on the physical, it involves much more. So many old friends who, if nothing else, occupied the same office space as I when we wrestled with the weekly preaching text. Comrades now disembarking to different lives at the end of a long campaign.
Leave or take? What will really be necessary during the next chapter?
In many ways, the physical things are the easiest.
In another six weeks, one of our girls will end a year of maternity leave and the little bundle that has, quite literally, taken up residence on her hip will be handed over to daycare and grandparents for much of the day. Leaving - so much more than just dropping off.
As I write this, Rudolph sits on the counter beside me. When we picked up three (almost four) year old Grace this morning one of the urgent stories to be told to Gramma was how Rudolph fell in the mud and got dirty but “Mamma cleaned her up.”
One of the hardest things in our journey with our son and his battle with addiction was realizing that not only could I not clean off the mud but that, many times, my solutions did not reach the fundamental stain. It was very hard to leave that saviour image of fatherhood.
My children are all better parents than I was, at least in technique if not intention. Thus most of my parenting habits I am more than willing to leave as we take up grandparenting. Although, the words “No!” and “Don’t touch that!” come out of my mouth with more frequency and force than the other 17 members of our immediate family combined! Some habits and practices are not easy to leave even when one wants to!
Leave or Take - a three-dimensional question where the physical interacts with the emotional and spiritual.