Silent Howls

Silent Howls

My two dogs, Nano and Bagyo, howl every time my brother-in-law, Rudy, leaves the house. They continue howling the entire time he’s gone, beginning the moment he steps out of the gate and persisting until he returns. It’s an eerie sound, like sustained high winds passing over canyon rocks, generating a weird range of wavering tones. The pitch varies from low frequency moans as they start each howl, morphing into shrieks as they near the end of each long breath. My neighbors have figured it out: when Rudy leaves the noise begins and when he returns the clamor stops. These are horrible guard dogs because they announce loudly, “Our master is not home.”

Nano and Bagyo obviously miss Rudy; he plays with them, feeds them, and grooms them. They love Rudy and life without him isn’t the same, so they wail loudly until he returns. Maybe they think that Rudy hears their cries while he’s gone and that’s what brings him home to be with them. Perhaps they are calling him home when he’s gone. It’s a pitiful, despondent sound that reflects their loneliness in Rudy’s absence.

And today I am also howling out of loneliness. It’s a silent cry that my neighbors can’t hear, but it is audible to God. I miss my sons to the point of tears today and desperately want to be with them. I want to hear them laugh again. I want to experience life alongside them. I want to hug my daughter and tell her how perfect and beautiful she is. I want to kiss my granddaughters and sit beside them as they tell me about their lives, (which I have been absent from.) I want to go hiking, camping and fishing with my grandsons. I want to experience what other grandparents enjoy. And because I know that time is running out, I feel an urgent need to hold my mother’s hand and tell her how much I love her. Her eyes are growing dim from the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease and I’m not sure that she’ll even recognize me the next time I visit America. Today, more than any other, I want to be with her before she’s gone. And I miss my father immensely, but will never see him again on this side of eternity. He died quickly from double pneumonia fifteen months ago and was gone before I could tell him what a positive influence he’s been in my life. Can you hear my wailing?

My older brother was my best friend growing up. When the Air Force moved our family from one place to another, he was the one true friend I could always rely upon. I admire his wit and intellect and I miss him. His health is now failing and there’s little that can be done to change his physical decline. Alan is a remarkable guitarist, but now his fingers ache too much for him to enjoy playing. I am witnessing his deterioration from afar, and I want to spend time with him again. I want him to know that he’s one of the most influential people in my life. He’s a private person that you won’t find on social media; even his wife and children don’t have a presence on snapchat, facebook, instagram, twitter or tumblr. Alan has lived in upstate New York for nearly eight years and I’ve never seen his house. Our infrequent trips to the US are spent raising visibility for our Philippine ministry by speaking at churches in: Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. My heart aches for a family tour — not a fund-raising trip. Owooooo

I want to see my baby sister roll her eyes when I tease her. It’s not the same when I pick on her using facebook, which gives her time to search for a clever retort. I also want to wrap my arms around her and apologize to her for all the times I’ve made her feel small. And, if she’ll let me, I want to use a sharpie and make a picture on her face by connecting all the freckles. (It will be tasteful.) Ou.. ooo…hoooo

My most creative moments are spent with my youngest brother, David. We can’t speak through our laughter as we concoct a variety of far-fetched schemes, including: odd new products and services, bizarre advertisements, humorous song themes, and ridiculous comedic dialog. David and I would both be more creative if we spent more time together. Owoooo .. hooooo

My cousin, Marvin passed out when his heart failed during a men’s breakfast meeting last week and he was rushed to the emergency room. He was fitted with a pacemaker/defibulator and is now recovering at home. I don’t see Marvin often, but can’t imagine not seeing him again. After I discovered the news about Marvin I called my Aunt Phyllis just to hear her sweet voice. Then I called my Uncle Jim for the same reason. I do not know my nephews and nieces. I could likely identify them if I ran into them at a grocery store, but it would take me a moment to recall their names — I have no relationship with them. To them I am simply the uncle who lives in the jungle on the other side of the world. Owooooo

I often overhear our short term missionaries telling their wives, children, or grandchildren how much they miss them. I’ll catch a glimpse of a young boy or girl on the screen of their smart phone as they say, “I can’t wait until I get to get home to hug you!” or “I miss you so, so much!” I’m sure that they feel the absence and are eager to be together again. But they are normally only away from one another for a couple of weeks — they will quickly be reunited. Long term missionaries, like me, often remain separated for many years. The pain is chronic and the ache never fully goes away, but we learn to deal with it. But there are times, like today, when the anxiety of being away from loved ones is amplified beyond our ability to dismiss the thoughts and move on. Today the loneliness is magnified and overpowering. I miss my family. Today I am howling. Owoooooooooooooo….owooooo…… owooooooooo

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