I’m the most traveled member of my immediate family (as it relates to living in different places, not visiting different places – my dad blows me out of the water in travel miles). As of today, I’m the last one remaining in Central Illinois. I’ve lived in five cities and have settled back in Peoria, IL. My brother has lived in Phoenix metro area for most of his adult life, with a brief stint in Redondo Beach, CA and Glasford, IL. Both of my parents have lived either in Pekin, IL or Mapleton, IL (with a brief apartment stay in Peoria this summer) my entire life. And now they have joined my brother in Phoenix. My dad drove out of Peoria about 5:45 this evening on his way to join my mom at their new home/life in Phoenix. We are all alone.
I’m going to miss my parents being around. For as long as I can remember, we have shared at least one meal with my parents every week. I think its close to 468 meals we have shared over the last 10 years, at least. They have welcomed my wife and me back into their house when we were without shelter twice since we got married. They have visited us in every place we have lived, including when we lived in the Middle East for a year and a half. They have taken care of our kids when they were only 6 weeks old so we could go share a meal alone. They have given us two televisions, a bedroom set, three couches, two kitchen tables, and a dining room table. They recently watched our kids for us while we took our first vacation since we had children (my mom flew in from Phoenix to take the bulk of the responsibility). They have given abundantly to us, both relationally and materially, for the last 10 years.
And now they’re gone.
It’s going to be weird to go months at a time without seeing them here in central Illinois. They’ve been a staple in this area since my mom was 16 years old. They have been a part of our weekly rhythm for most of our married life. But this isn’t about me.
My parents are finally pursuing relationships, and I’m proud of them for that. They’re only truly good friends on the planet live and work in Tempe, AZ, and my parents moved out to Phoenix to help them start a new ministry at Arizona State University. My dad told me yesterday that my mom signed up for a small group at her new church and went without him last night. That’s crazy. My mom, as I know her, would never have done that here at home. She is living again in a new way.
I told my dad that what they are doing is what most young people do when they go off to college. Neither of my parents went to college/university as young people. They’ve never experienced the anonymity of living in a new place, of discovering new people and friendships, of being “the new people”. Up until last year, they had spent the last 40 years in the same church, with the same peers, with the same identities that they have always had (at least since high school). This is a big move for them. They are finally becoming something new, and its something we have been trying to get them to do for the last 15 years or so.
No one knows what happens next for them. They have a clean slate, full of opportunity and hope. I am proud of them for taking this risk. Its not ever easy to enter into a new city and find new friends, and I can’t imagine what it must have felt like for my dad as he drove out of town with the last of his belongings in tow. He’s got so much history here, and no history in Phoenix.
I am excited to see what happens next for my parents, however bittersweet it is for us as they move away. They have needed to do this for such a long time, and I know they will be refreshed and renewed because of it. I can’t wait for November to see what new things have come their way.