Well, it could actually be considered part three. There was the first time, which I wrote about earlier, but that didn’t really count. After all, it was less than 24 hours, though it was a solo-15-mile hike which required a 270 mile round trip. So I guess it sorta counted. But not really.
At least not like last weekend when I really left my pregnant wife alone for a long time. I was down in New Orleans for a conference, and while away, I became so aware of just how much Caroline’s sacrificed this entire pregnancy (all while the rest of us in my family just be-bop along our merry way) that I was inspired to write a post about how preposterous it is when men use the royal we to announce their wives’ pregnancies.
But is that as preposterous as leaving my wife alone yet again for the second weekend in three weeks while I backpack 52 miles of the Appalachian Trail with one of my friends?
I’m going with no. Because going out of town for the second time in three weeks is far more preposterous than some clown saying “Yup! We’re pregnant,” while pointing to his wife’s belly.
But allow me to plead my case. There are four points, if you will.
Point #1: I had cleared this with Caroline months ago. And she was, indeed, pregnant at that point in time. We also already knew that I’d be out of town just two weeks prior for the conference in New Orleans. So it’s not like I didn’t seek permission. And I was as surprised as you (likely are) that permission was granted.
Point #2: I will be in contact at least two times per day. Contrary to what one might think, there are plenty of spots where there is quite good cell phone reception (e.g. the picture I used for this post was taken on my trail trip last year). Each time we hit one, my friend and I will no doubt be touching base with our lovelies.
Point #3: You don’t know many (if any!) men who spend more time with their families than I do. I don’t play golf (anymore), nor do I do anything else which regularly takes up chunks of my time. I carpool in the morning. I shuttle to soccer practice in the afternoon. I say grace while holding everyone’s hand in the evening. (Okay, that last part was kinda bullshit with the whole spiritual thing thrown in to kinda make y’all more sympathetic to my situation. But I really am home every single night for dinner. It’s just that Caroline usually says grace.) My weekends? Nonstop family. And I’m not looking for a medal. It’s as it should be, in fact, the exact way I want it. But I’m just pointing out that it’s not like I nickel and dime my wife. (I take all my time in big-ass chunks, thank you very much.)
Point #4: My friend and I made a commitment a few years back — to hike the entire Appalachian Trail in annual sections. And though we made that commitment to each other, we really made it to ourselves. It’s hard to explain, but my friend gets it. You might, too. But if you don’t, I promise you would if you hiked alongside of us.
As I wrote last month, hiking 52 miles in 4 days while carrying 40 pounds on my back as I trek up and down 3,000-foot inclines isn’t exactly some four-day-golf-playing bender with my buddies in Florida. It’s hard work. It pushes me to my limits, both physically and mentally. It’s about trading my complicated yet comfortable life for a simple but arduous one. And while I’m on these trips, my mind is on two things: God and my family. See, this commitment I’ve made? It’s a wonderful metaphor for commitments in general. And that’s part of why I do it.
And my wife gets that. What’s more, she thinks I’m right when I argue that going on these trips makes me a better husband and a father.
Yet, despite all that, my wife is still pregnant. Which means she’s still moody. And this pregnancy, she’s even become a bit forgetful. (Both delightful attributes, sweetheart.) So I knew to be fearful when the topic came up late yesterday afternoon.
“You know what all we have to do this weekend, don’t you?”
“I know it’s gonna be a standard, action-packed weekend, if that’s what you mean.”
“I’ll ask you again. You know what all we have to do this weekend, don’t you?”
[head sunken] “No, honey. I don’t.”
“Well, first I’ve gotta pick up Alli and a bunch of her friends at school and deliver them to a slumber party on Friday night.”
“Hey, that’s great. At least one of our kiddos will be out of your hair,” I said, trying for the positive spin.
“On Saturday,” she continued without missing a beat, “I have to get the triplets to a birthday party from 1 to 3.”
“More down time,” I countered cheerfully. It wasn’t working.
“Then Saturday night is that party that you and I are supposed to go to for Matt.” (whoops) “And Sunday, Alli’s got the Girls on the Run thing where she’ll run her very first 5K. She was hoping to do that with you, you know.”
“OH,” my wife continued, “and Sunday is also the first week that you and I are back on as Shepherds for Sunday School, so we obviously have to be at church.”
At least the worst is behind me, I thought, knowing full well that she had exhausted her laundry list of obligations. The next question she asked seemed to confirm just that.
“So who’s goin’, again?” she asked.
“Just me and Chammy.”
“What about that Jason guy?”
“Oh. He can’t go this year.”
I knew the answer. Didn’t even think twice about saying it, in fact. “Because his wife is pregnant.”
Did I mention that Jason’s wife is due the first week in May?
And that this trip is a purposeful commitment which serves as a great metaphor for all the other commitments in my life?
And that I love my wife? A whole bunch? Because I do.