Last Monday I left for Louisville, KY for corporate training. It was my kids’ first day of school, so I had to say ‘goodbye’ to my girls at the bus stop. I told them to have a good first week of school, warned them of the dangers to their persons if they did not listen to their mother, and come Friday, I would see them again. They didn’t seem fazed by my leaving. In fact, they pushed me away as an afterthought so they could race on to the school bus and find a seat with their friends. My fatherly ego reassured me my girls would no doubt cry themselves to sleep that night. My wife and the dog were a bit more emotional (she started tearing up around 9am) with their goodbyes.
That Monday afternoon I was on my way. I boarded a jet plane that was no bigger than a rapper’s H2 limousine, on my way to Kentucky. I sat next to a man who, from observing him, I assumed had built up years of social awkwardness. He did not utter a word but spent the hour and twenty minutes in the air reading a Kindle, checking his iPhone, and playing on his iPad (I also concluded he had female names for all of his devices.) After prying myself out of the US Air seat, I spent two hours laid over at O’Hare followed by a connecting flight in to Louisville.
But I was conflicted. On the one hand, each plane I boarded I was on my way to being closer to my company’s corporate offices and training that I was genuinely excited to be a part of. I was excited for what it potentially meant for my future in the company. On the other hand, which was squeezed in to a US Air seat that had been made with people no bigger than 5’8” in mind, each plane I boarded, I was on my way to being further away from my family.
Now that my twenties are a distant memory and my thirties are quickly coming to a close, I look less and less forward to these times away. I used to use them as respite from the responsibilities at home but now, they are more of a reason to miss, not only the responsibilities, but those I’m responsible for.
I arrived in Louisville already missing my wife and kids. I walked in to the Hyatt Regency to none of the normal fanfare I am accustomed to at home. No kisses and hugs or shouts of ‘Daddy’. No kiss from my wife or slobber from the dog. I was shocked when a family had come in to the hotel and their kids didn’t come over to me and give me a hug. It was at this point I knew I needed some sleep. The hallways to get to my room were quiet. My room was meticulously decorated and creased and the bed, though hidden under a butte of pillows, looked comfortable enough.
I woke up in the morning from a restless night’s sleep. Despite how comfortable the bed had looked and how much room I had to myself to spread out, I missed my wife’s knees in my back. I missed waking up my 6 year old to go to the bathroom at midnight. I missed the dog curled up at my feet. I missed kissing my kids goodnight. I missed all the things that make it so easy for me to sleep.
When I talked to them that night, my kids were brief and to the point on the phone. My fatherly ego again reassured me the kids’ laughter and jovial attitude on the phone was merely a cover to the pain of them missing me. My wife wasn’t as emotional as she was stressed (obviously my kids had not heeded my advice when before I left) and she reassured me that the kids had not missed a beat since I had been gone (damn).
The restless nights continued, as would training, throughout the week. Nine hours a day in a conference room with ten other people and 35 total cups of coffee between all of us at any given time. I stayed focused through the week of training though because I knew this was the first step on my way to bigger things with the company. Then Friday came. Thankful I had taken part in the training but grateful it was over, I bid farewell to Louisville. I had a flight to Philadelphia then another flight to Allentown (which, by looks of the plane I would board, I would’ve sworn we were going to be crop dusting on our way to Allentown). I happily contorted myself back in to the uncomfortable US Air seats, ignored the guy next to me and ignored my muscles atrophying somewhere over Ohio. I thought about seeing my kids, kissing my wife, and fending off a slobbering Labrador Retriever waiting at the house. I thought, as I boarded each plane, how nice it was to be on my way.