The House is Very, Very, Very Quiet.

Dylan left for a week. He went to West Virginia with a huge church group of teens (and adults) for a week. He’s going to work on projects that will help needy families in the Appalachians. Dylan is going to have an absolutely phenomenal time, which is why I was so excited for him to go.

The house is very, very, very quiet.

The trip is seven hours long, and the destination has no cell phone coverage. I don’t know if I’ll hear from Dylan at all this week.

There is a payphone available, and we gave Dylan a phone card. I begged and pleaded for him to call, and he said he’d try to call every day. But he emphasized the word “try” – which tells me that I might be facing another China-type experience.

Three years ago, Dylan sang with a chorus in China. Because he was only 12 years old, we all went to China with him. But we were on the “family” bus while Dylan was on the “chorus” bus, so we weren’t with him much.

We were only a few hundred yards away from him most of the time, but he was only able to communicate through chaperones – or he could talk to us at meal times. I knew it wasn’t easy for Dylan to write letters, so I made it as easy as possible for him to stay in touch with us.

So I wrote little phrases on orange pieces of paper. I told Dylan he didn’t have to write anything, but that he could just choose a phrase that described the way he felt. He didn’t have to do much – just pick a phrase on an orange paper and hand it to his chaperone, who would give it to me.

The orange papers said things like “I love you” and “I am okay” and “I didn’t get any sleep last night” and “I want to go home” and “the food sucks” and “the food is wonderful” and “China is awesome.”

Then I asked Dylan to give me one orange piece of paper per day. I made sure he had easy access to those papers. I didn’t care which one he picked. I just wanted him to stay in touch. I went all the way around the world so we could stay in touch, and I made it exceptionally easy to do so.

But after two days in China, I still didn’t have a single orange paper. Then, at the tourist-ridden Chinese circus, I wrote a note on a napkin and passed it to Dylan, who sat two rows in front of me. My napkin said, “I NEED AN ORANGE PAPER.”

Dylan turned around and looked at me, and shrugged.

The next day, he finally delivered an orange piece of paper. It said, “I feel OK.” And that was the only – and last – piece of orange paper I got during 10 days in China.

I mentioned this to Dylan, as he headed out for the no-cell-coverage area in West Virginia.

“Mom,” he said. “I was in like sixth grade then.” Dylan implied that he wasn’t going to leave me hanging for another week.

But here I hang.

I am like a fish out of water now, gasping and flopping around aimlessly, with no hope of finding a safe haven. I don’t have a thing to do, except stare at the phone. I carry it around the house with me like an oxygen machine.

In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, I wait for it to ring.

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