Traveling Dad:

eagle

This summer has brought its share of memorable events in our family — horse lessons for my daughter, potty training for my son, another trip to Central Asia for me, and testing the patience and endurance of my wife. The Mongolia trip is an annual adventure that takes me to remote places as an election monitor. Through this ongoing project I have visited some far-flung parts of Central Asia, fulfilled an unending passion for travel and came home to a family enthusiastic about my return. After one of these trips, though, my wife admitted she did not know whether to “hug me or hit me.”

Taking the long way home…
The 2011 Kazakhstan presidential election looked like a great opportunity to visit somewhere I had never been. This was a ten-day trip and my wife insisted she would be fine alone with the kids. Even though I had some trepidation, my desire to travel caused me to overlook any harbingers of trouble.

My days in Kazakhstan went fast and soon my obligation was complete. I was in the remote western edge of the country when we began our return. Before leaving, I contacted my wife after what had been an extended time of no contact. It was then that I found out how frustrated she was and how tough things had been. The news from home was “get home as soon as you can.”
The first leg of my return was a flight to the capital. The plane took off, but two hours into the flight we were diverted to another city because of weather. I rolled with it, even though I realized I was going to miss my next flight to Frankfurt and there- after, the connecting flight to get home.

The plane landed, our group of monitors disembarked and tried to figure out what was going to happen next. While several members of our group argued about the best move, I found a wifi connection and texted my wife. The response to “how are you” was “the car broke down, what should I do?” I decided to hold off telling her about my own situation.

“What happened?” I texted.

“I don’t know. It just stopped running. I am visiting mom and I don’t know what to do!”

“Call my dad,” I texted back.

“I did. He gave me options. Did not help!” That is not what she wanted. My dad is a mechanic and she wanted him to solve her problem.

Use in Emergencies Only
I decided to call her on the “use only in an emergency” phone. This seemed to qualify. Through the frantic call I hurriedly explained my predicament while she shared her’s. I never felt more helpless. The kids had been difficult; her mother had been critical of her child rearing; the dealership told her the only option for the car was to spend $3,000.00; my father had not helped and all I could do was tell her that I was stuck in Central Asia.

Ultimately, she got my father to speak to the dealership and the car was fixed for less than $100; I returned a day later than scheduled and we all met at the airport. It was there that I saw in her eyes a desire to hit me; she had every right. But in spite of her frustration she hugged me.

There certainly is no place like home, even for a father with an annual wanderlust that his wife patiently indulges.