Here he is 3 years ago when he graduated high school:
And here he is a couple of weeks ago, getting his Missionary groove on in Argentina:
Because he's gone, and out of the reach of mail, his birthday was a bit strange. I thought of him all day long, remembered the day he was born and all the good things he's brought to my life, but I couldn't call or text or even send a gift. I wrote my feelings into an email that he will get tomorrow, and that pretty much constitutes my efforts toward his birthday. Luckily I have lots of other birthdays to make up for this one and the last one.
Also because he's gone, and all I have to go on are his emails and a few skype calls in the last 22 months, I can only share so much about him at this stage of his life. Here is what I know:
- He loves being a missionary. He really believes what he is teaching, which is that the religion we practice is true and has the most direct path to long-term happiness that is currently found on earth.
- He delights in the people he has met in Argentina. He sees the good in them and honestly desires to help them.
- He loves all sorts of new foods, including empanadas and, of all things, mayonnaise. Who knew my picky eater would learn to love mayo while living in a faraway land?
- His smile is genuine and automatic. He smiles and helps others around him to smile almost effortlessly. He has become aware of his naturally cheerful disposition as a gift and has learned to use it as a tool for making progress in his endeavors--for overcoming challenges, for helping others, and for being grateful.
- He is just so dang cute. What can I say?
I'll get to see him in about 2 months, and while I am excited, I'm not wishing away the days. Here's a fun fact: When my kids are serving on missions, I don't really miss them. I don't think about them most days, and I sometimes forget to even write them that weekly email, not because I don't love them, but because I'm not focused on their absence. I'm focused on their presence in the daily doings of their assignment. I am so happy they are where they want to be. As for Ev in these last few weeks, I want him to savor every moment on his mission without worrying whether I'm missing him too much and without being distracted by my telling him every little thing from home. At the end of this race, I want him to be able to break the tape at a full sprint. I know, weird, but there you go. So, I'm okay for him to be gone two more months, because there's nowhere else HE would rather be.
And so, based on the numbers, it could be said that I'm done "raising" my kids. My youngest is a fully-fledged adult. Fortunately, I will have the opportunity to mother them forever. I have really enjoyed, over this last 10 years or so, the sweet evolution of my relationships with my kids from dependents to peers. I genuinely like them all, and love spending time with them. So, I'm at peace with this subtle shift toward whatever is next. (This birthday and Ev's approaching return also signal the end of our missionary era. We've had someone out on a mission almost consecutively since 2006. What a sweet time it's been. )
Happy Birthday to my green-eyed, smiling son! I can't wait to know the grown-up you!