When our 25 year old son, Alex, broke the news to Penny and me that he was going in The Peace Corps we were stunned to say the least. We are a close knit family and the idea of our oldest son going to Africa for 27 months was a gut check. He went to James Madison but was home for the weekends at least once or twice a month. Plus we could go visit him anytime for lunch. He then went to Arlington and worked for the AmeriCorps for the last year, but same thing, we saw him almost every weekend. But yesterday, after 17 hours on the plane, he landed in Zambia (see picture below, Alex is the one right under the lion’s nose). So Penny and I, as well as Alex’s brother and sister, Drew (22), and Emma (20), have to deal with not seeing Alex for at least the next 15 months (Alex is scheduled to come home for a week next September to be in one of his best friend’s wedding, Joe Cady. Thank you Joe for getting married and having Alex in your wedding!) So how do we deal with it?
Obviously, we will all miss Alex dearly. We all have our special bond with Alex and not being able to spend time with him is going to be hard. Not having him at the UVA basketball games with us, not being able to play golf together, or just not being able to hang out together will be tough. But for me, the way I get through it is to stop and think about what an amazing young man he is. As one of my golfing buddies said to me, he is doing god’s work. How true. Not many people give up 27 months of their life to help the less privileged. Most won’t give up 5 minutes. So the best way I can put it is that Alex makes you want to be a better person. Every time I tear up and start missing him I just have to say, “stop thinking about myself!” There are people dying, starving, and struggling to get through the day and it is people like Alex that make this world a better place.
I will pray that Alex stays safe and has an amazing time in Zambia. I also know that he will change lives there along with all the other amazing people in the photo above. But most of all Penny and I are just proud and honored that Alex is our son.
Photo: Alex at age 6 with Emma and Drew