The clock on the wall chimes. We have three hours left until our weekend is over.
“What would you like to do before our work week begins?” I ask. Kathy shrugs her shoulders. I begin naming some options including both fun and practical choices.
I’m in mid-sentence when my cell phone rings. I see the caller id, push the button and say, “Hi Sweetie! Did you arrive back safely?” I speak cheerfully, glad to hear from daughter Jenny. She was due back at her place around this time.
“I need help, Dad.” A few seconds pass while she tells me the situation, and before the conversation goes further, I head to my room and started putting on my shoes.
“Be there soon. Love you.” As I pack my pockets with keys and wallet, I grin at Kathy. “Well, let’s wrap up the weekend with a quick trip!”
In relationships as in life, we have a Plan A and we have a Plan B. This night, we’re going with Plan B which takes us to Charlotte. I catch up Kathy: in the scramble to untangle her pup Bear’s lead with one hand and grabbing her handbag and phone with the other, Jenny found herself outside the car and her keys inside the ignition. Her spare house key was safely with her sister a couple hours away; her parents have the spare car key, and we can be there in just a little more than an hour.
With four children, we have dealt with car lock outs before. In fact, a few years ago when we needed a locksmith four times in ten days, I jokingly asked for the man’s address so we could exchange cards at Christmas – we were on a first name basis, and I even had him on speed dial. But this night, the wait time would be significant, the evening was chilly, and, well, we really hadn’t decided what to do with our few hours left of the weekend.
On the road within minutes, my phone rings again. “We’re turning onto the interstate now. You okay?”
I listen to my daughter’s apology and assure her that her mom and I really aren’t inconvenienced at all – we are looking forward to our out-of-the-ordinary late night adventure.
Kathy and I have been empty-nesters for about one year, and we do not have it down quite yet. Our alone time is great, but sometimes we find ourselves at a loss on how to spend evenings. So, a late night run to Charlotte? Dinner out with our daughter on a Sunday evening? Hmmm. There is no downside to this plan.
“Jazz or swing?” I ask as I turn the radio dial, set the cruise control, and settle in for the ride, praying for Jenny’s safety and peace of mind as I make my way to her.
I don’t have the answers to a thousand parenting dilemmas per week, but I do pick up the phone to engage the questions. I will admit to feeling a hundred butterflies at times as I glance at my phone and see a child’s name appear, but I always pick up.
In love relationships, I know I must show up, answer the call, demonstrate the care I would expect were the tables turned. I get it wrong sometimes, but I practice diligently to be trustworthy and constant in these relationships. There are a handful of people in this world who I love beyond belief, and I want them to call; I want them to be confident that if they have a need, I will answer. I have the perfect model for my imperfect attempts at unconditional love.
In my Bible, there is a strip of green paper with an image of a phone – the old kind with a C-shaped receiver attached to a spiral cord, and these words: Jeremiah 33:3.
Many summers ago, seven-year-old Jenny handed this to me after Vacation Bible School one day. She told me about how God our Father is faithful to answer anytime we call to Him. “This is God’s phone number. My teacher said I could call Him for anything and He would always answer. I told her I needed two – one for me and one for you. I knew you would want to call, too.”
I do call Him, and He always answers my call, listens to my need, assures me of His love and care.
Sometimes my loved ones have needs beyond my ability. Sometimes, like this time, I can help. On what appeared like an ordinary evening, I spend an extraordinary time with my wife and daughter. We enjoy a fun late-night meal, swap fun stories, and ease our way out of the weekend ready and able to face a new week.
Waving to Jenny as we began the return journey, I look over at Kathy: “Who are we? Out on a Sunday like we haven’t a care in the world?”
We smile, turn up the music, and head back to our empty nest. We are parents. We answer calls. Sometimes we are able to make the world right for our loved ones. I am thankful for this.