Saturday, October 6, 2012

The rest of the story...

What a difference a few days make.  And just a warning:  this is going to be really long!

Today I can get through an account of our time in Utah without losing it, but a couple of days ago?  No way.  I cried at random moments the entire time we were there, but particularly (obviously) after dropping Joshua off.  The littlest things would set me off, and I'd be sobbing and shaking.  I'm still tearing up quite a bit, but starting to feel like I'll live.

So, the story.  Last Sunday we attended Sacrament meeting and then took about 30 minutes to take pictures of Joshua with his family and friends. Then we ran home and threw our stuff in the Suburban and headed out by about 12:30.  (Six of our kids stayed home - mostly the older ones because they couldn't miss that much school and work.)  We'd completely forgotten about needing to have Joshua set apart before we left, but thankfully we were able to arrange to stop and see our stake president in Billings as he just happened to be headed out on a business trip (he lives three hours from us in the opposite direction).  This was just the first of many tender mercies that we were blessed with on this trip!

We stayed overnight in Idaho Falls and then headed out early the next morning so we could be in Provo early enough to do Joshua's suit shopping.  This was definitely a highlight of the trip; we all helped him with his clothing choices, and he let the little ones help pick out his ties.  He ended up getting a medium grey and dark grey suit, about 12 ties, 12 shirts, a couple of belts and some socks. It was lots of fun but also a real reality check to see Joshua in those clothes!

That night, Loundia and Maizie went to spend time with some friends of ours who recently moved from our town to Provo, and the rest of us went to a soup and salad place for dinner and shopped for winter gear for Joshua.  Later we drove out to our friends' house and retrieved the girls, and had a nice talk with the family.

Tuesday was also a great day.  We met up with Curtis' dad, his sister Mandie, and her youngest daughter and drove to Salt Lake to go to Temple Square.  We walked around the grounds and took lots of pictures (see previous post) and just enjoyed being together.  We met missionaries from all over the world, and all of them gave Joshua great advice.  The neatest encounter was with a missionary from China who shared Maizie's surname of Feng.  (There's a picture of them together in the previous post.)

Since Mandie and my father-in-law had to get back to her house before her older girls got out of school, we decided to leave Temple Square and go have lunch together.  We went to a vegan restaurant called Vertical Cafe, and it was pretty good, but very expensive.  My father-in-law insisted on paying and I felt badly we'd picked that place.  It was fun, though, and definitely a first for my father-in-law.  He ordered a veggie burger.  :o)

After lunch, Mandie and my father-in-law took Loundia and Maizie with them to their house, and the rest of us headed back downtown to go to the Joseph Smith Memorial Building to watch the movie.  It ended up being the movie about the life of Joseph Smith, and I got choked up several times as I watched all that the early church members went through in order to gain the freedom to worship as they wished and to share what they had with others.  I pretty much had a lump in my throat the entire day.

After the movie, we drove back to Provo to pick up Joshua's altered clothes and then went to Cafe Zupas (the same place we'd been the night before) and met up with our girls, Mandie's family, my father-in-law, and a bunch of friends.  I didn't have much of an appetite, but we had fun hanging out with everyone and taking more pictures.  After dinner, we went back to the hotel and went straight to bed so we'd be well rested for the big day.  I couldn't sleep, though, so I went to Joshua's room and laid down by him for a few minutes while he was sleeping and had myself a good cry.  I still couldn't get my mind around the fact that this was my last night with my son for two years!  Thankfully, Curtis gave me a blessing and miraculously - truly - I was able to sleep quite well after that.  I hadn't slept that well since we arrived, but that night it felt as though my brain was wrapped in bubble wrap; any time my mind tried to veer into sadness territory, it was as if there was a cushioned barrier that prevented it.  I was so grateful.

Wednesday morning we got up early, packed, ironed Joshua's clothes and got all of his things into his mission suitcases.  I still felt OK when I woke up, and even had a sense of excitement about everything that I'd not had up to that point.  I'd been so worried that I would cry all day, but I really held it together pretty well.  :o)

We checked out and went to a noodle place for an early lunch (Joshua got Wisconsin mac and cheese - ha!) and then decided to drive up to the MTC and scope things out.  Driving past it about gave me a panic attack, but I still kept myself together.  Joshua was pretty quiet and obviously very stressed.  I hated to see him like that, but we tried to say encouraging and supportive things.  We drove around for a while but finally decided just to pull into the parking lot across the street from the MTC and wait it out.

Curtis gave Joshua a blessing in the car and I held his hands the whole time.  All I could think of was that I wouldn't be holding those hands again for a very long time.  Then we got out and took some pictures and let the kids run around a bit.  Beck kept telling us he needed to poop and eventually got so desperate that he asked if he could either go in the bushes or in the "MPC" to use the bathroom.  This provided some much-needed levity!  :o)  I hugged Joshua a ton and just felt sick inside, but I still didn't start blubbering like I thought I would.  He talked about how scared he was, but he was stalwart about it.  I was so proud of him.

Finally it was time, and Maizie started wailing at the top of her lungs.  It ripped my heart out.  Once we got in the car, most of the kids were crying, and as we crossed the street to pull onto the MTC grounds, Maizie yelled, "Wait!  What is this place?!"  We told her it was the MTC, which we thought she knew, and then she wailed, "I didn't know THIS was the MTC!"  She obviously thought we had a little more time in the car.  The poor guide that was showing us were to go heard her screaming and said sympathetically, "Uh oh."

We were shown where to park along the curb, at spot #22, and a cute and very young looking red-headed elder with a "host" sticker stuck to his shirt came out to help us get Joshua's luggage.  He told us we could take a couple of pictures, so we did.  Then we hugged Joshua as hard as we could and let the red-headed boy lead our boy into his life as a missionary.  Ugh!  We got in the car and everyone was bawling, and it struck me as so funny that I started laughing through my tears.  Crazy what stress and worry and heartache can do to a person's emotions...

We drove back to Idaho Falls, ate a blah meal and went to the hotel.  That night I required (yes, required) another blessing.  I wanted so badly to sleep in the same bed as Curtis, but as we always have two-three rooms on trips, it wasn't possible.  The blessing helped, and I was able to get to sleep.  I worried like crazy, though, that Joshua was terrified and miserable.  I couldn't get it out of mind.

Thursday we got up early and got on our way back home.  We got to stop in Billings for a while and take Teffy out for her birthday, which happened to be that day, so it was nice to have a little diversion.  We went to Huhot and gave her her presents, and then we went and got her a cake that she could eat with her friends when she went out with them the next day.  It was fun to see her, but as she's planning to move to Utah in a couple of weeks, I'm going to be saying goodbye to yet another child soon.  Oh, my heart!  At least with Teffy we'll be able to Skype and talk on the phone and see each other at Christmas.  But still, it will be hard to have her further away.

We arrived home around 8:00 on Thursday night.  I'd been doing OK, but when we pulled up and say Joshua's car in the driveway, I lost it.  I had to go in and see my kids who I'd not seen in almost a week as a blubbering mess.  I couldn't get myself under control!  Thankfully they hugged me and said all the right things, and eventually I was OK.  The next morning - more tears when everyone left for school and work and I was all alone.  Normally I'd be hollering up the stairs for Joshua to get out of bed, but instead I just bawled.  I finally forced myself to clean the kitchen, start the trip laundry and go to the grocery store.  But even that made me sad because usually Joshua would be home to help carry my groceries in on Fridays.  I was a mess.

I had been praying like crazy for Joshua to be OK, and for me to be able to pull out of the funk I was in.  I put together a little package of stuff that Joshua needed (stamps, thank you notes and medicine) and thought about how I wished there was something I could send to him that wouldn't take up space in his suitcases.  He doesn't like to eat treats and junk food, so I didn't feel like feeding him was a good option, either.  All of a sudden, an idea hit me, and I know it was inspired.  I went rummaging through a cabinet in our living room and found Curtis' mission journals, and immediately sat down and started typing.  I sent Joshua the days of Curtis' MTC experience that corresponded with his, and as I read and typed, I started to almost see Joshua doing the things that Curtis wrote about.  It gave me IMMENSE comfort to be able to see Curtis progress from bewilderment and fear to enthusiasm and increased spirituality in the matter of just a few days.  I finally knew that Joshua was OK, and I know that he will gain great strength from seeing that his dad did just what he is doing now.  I plan to continue with a letter each day with the corresponding journal entry while he's in the MTC, and then I'll mail him a week's worth once a week when he gets to Wisconsin.  The bonuses are that I get insights into Curtis' mission experience that I never had before, and the journals get digitized.  It almost makes me feel like I have two missionaries serving.  I'm so grateful that my Father in Heaven would give me this idea.  It has totally pulled me out of my funk!

And that leads me to today.  General Conference was totally awesome!  President Monson's announcement about the lowering of the ages that men and women could serve missions knocked our socks off, and we know that as Joshua was watching with his MTC buddies, there must have been all sorts of excitement!  He'll always remember that this news came just as he entered the MTC.  :o)  I'd already been wondering how I'd handle two boys leaving in five years, and now suddenly it could be only 4!  Lily was beyond excited about the news since she wants to serve a mission more than anything.  She's always been indignant about having to wait so long, so she was thrilled.

I loved all the talks we heard today, but I especially loved Russell M Nelson's talk:  Ask the missionaries.  They can help!  I hope Joshua loved it as much as I did.

So Conference was great, but perhaps more exciting was that we got our first letter!  I hid in the bathroom and read it alone and cried tears of happiness over the words I was reading.  He said the first day was rough, but that as soon as he got into his district classroom, he knew everything would be OK.  He's rooming with a kid he'd found on Facebook ahead of time, so he knew this kid was also a soccer player.  He said he's a great guy.  He told us that his companion reminds him a lot of a kid in our ward, and that he's a really laid-back, no-worries kind of guy.  He asked us to send him a whole bunch of stuff and said that his p-day is Thursday.  He referenced 2 Nephi 2:25:  "Adam fell that men might be; and men are that they might have joy."  He said that God wants us to be happy, so he's going to work on not worrying so much, and knows that with his companion's personality being what it is, he'll learn a lot about that.  :o)  He specifically asked us to send him another photo book and thanked us for the one we'd tucked in his suitcase.  I was really happy because I had already mailed him another photo book on Friday.  Today I made cookies and even though I know he won't eat many, I froze a boxful that I will mail on Tuesday.  He can share them with his district.

So that's it.  He's OK, I'm OK, Curtis is OK, and I think this is going to be awesome.  :o)

1 comment:

  1. This is really a sweet post Tana. We wish Joshua the very best.