An exciting day

When our daughter was two years old, we made two trips by airlines from Rapid City, South Dakota to Boise, Idaho, changing planes in Denver. At the time we lived in Hettinger, North Dakota, so the choice for airline travel was between driving 150 miles to Bismarck, ND or 175 miles to Rapid City, SD. Some people opted to drive 300 miles to Billings, MT in order to make a westward trip. Our trips were being paid for by the church in Idaho that was in the process of discerning whether or not to call us to be their pastors. I don’t remember if they made the reservations or if we did, but we probably would have chosen to fly from Rapid City because we had family there. What I remember is that on one of the trips our daughter suffered from ear infections. She frequently had ear infections as a young child and we had been through a lot of different attempts at treating them. I had grown up in and around airplanes and the process of clearing your ears as you change altitude wasn’t a big deal to me. It was automatic. But I also knew that young children don’t know how to deal with that congested feeling. With an infant, a bottle is a good way to get them to clear their ears. Sucking helps to equalize the pressure. When a child is old enough to safely chew gum, that will sometimes do the trick. We weren’t coming up with good solutions for our daughter on that particular trip. She was uncomfortable and fussy.

I’ve never been bothered by other people’s children when flying on the airlines. I’ve changed seats with others who are so bothered. But when our own daughter was fussy, it bothered me. I didn’t want to cause trouble for other passengers. I didn’t want our daughter to be uncomfortable.

I am remembering that trip today because as I write our 19-month-old grandson is with our daughter and son-in-law on an airplane. He’s taking a much longer flight, from Misawa, Japan to Seattle. When he was only three months old, he took the same flight with his mother. When they arrived in Seattle, they switched planes and flew on to Rapid City to visit us. On the return trip, they stopped for a few days here in Washington to visit our son and his family. Our grandson is quite the traveler. I hope our grandson is sleeping for a good portion of this eight hour trip. However you make the trip, it is exhausting. The difference in time zones is confusing to your body. They’ll be tired when they arrive and today will seem like a very, very long day to his parents. We’ll get to visit our son-in-law at the airport briefly and then he will continue to travel three more time zones east to South Carolina. That makes a super long day for him.

The anticipation and excitement of their arrival in just a few more hours reminds me of the excitement I felt the day we brought our daughter home. We picked her up in the morning in Grand Forks, North Dakota, 425 miles from our home in Hettinger. We had received little warning that we would be adopting and infant. We had been expecting that the agency would ask us to consider an older child. When the social worker handed her to me I had to force myself to stop shaking. I was that excited.

We drove 5 1/2 hours that day with the new baby in her car seat and our 2 1/2-year old son in his. I don’t remember how many times we stopped. It was in the days of the 55 mph speed limit, so travel took more time. We stopped 150 miles from home because a friend had given us a night in a motel to break up the long trip. After the excitement of the day and the long drive, I was eager to crawl into bed, but after an hour or so, I was wide awake. I spent most of the night sitting next to the crib looking in wonder at that tiny baby. Being responsible for another human being is an awesome task, and I was filled with awe at how quickly our lives had changed.

That was 37 years ago. Now our children are responsible for their own children. One of the delights of our grand parenting is that we are so impressed at what good parents our children are. I’ve known for a long time that our daughter would be a good mother. She had a kind touch and a natural way with children from an early age. She enjoyed babysitting as a teen and worked as a childcare worker in her young adult years. Becoming a mother came relatively late in her life and she was ready to be a mother when her son was born.

And now we get to have them in our home for at least two weeks. Their US Air Force approved quarantine plan allows them to be only at our house or our son’s house and to have contact only with us and our son and his family for the next two weeks. After that, their departure from our home depends on how quickly housing becomes available at their new assignment in South Carolina.

I loved being a father. I love being a grandpa. We talk by Skype or FaceTime several times a week, so I’m sure I will seem at least a bit familiar to our grandson, but now we get to be together for meals and play in our back yard and spend time together. There is a brand-new red Strider bike waiting for him and he will get to ride it with his cousins at their farm. He can hold the guinea pigs and chickens and visit the cats in the barn.

I don’t know whether or not he will remember this long airplane ride. He’s young enough that he is sure to forget parts of it. But I know it is a day I’ll treasure and remember for the rest of my life.

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