This was my column in the Greenville News on Monday.  I hope you enjoy!

My wife and two of my children are out of town.  She took our two oldest sons on a church youth mission trip to North Carolina.  It has been, apparently, a great success.  It’s hard to tell, since every time she calls me there are screaming teens in the background.

‘You’ve had some great limes?’

‘No, we’ve had a great time!’

‘Pinch the cat with some pliars?’

‘No, put the clothes in the dryer!’

‘Oh.’

I’ve been here with my youngest for almost a week.  We’ve played and talked, gone swimming and read books.  It has been a delightful week.  Well, except that for all that I love my youngest, they may hold the land speed record for most words said in any 24 hour period.  ‘Papa look at this, papa come here, papa he touched me, papa she bugs me, papa will you play, papa will you read, papa will you come downstairs there’s something that I need…’  I love the sound of my children, I love their need of me.  I occasionally enjoy silence, but since the only time I get that is when they’re asleep, I’m just wallowing in my time with my amazing little progeny.

I miss my oldest two boys, as well.  As they mature and grow, their questions and conversations are all the more fun.  We can share jokes we couldn’t before.  Wrestling is a much bigger challenge.  And our discussions about life have greater depth; mixed with quotes from Monty Python skits.

However, I have to say that I really miss my wife.  A lot.  I don’t sleep as well when she’s away.  I’ve shared my life with her for over 18 years, and without her it’s just not the same.  Furthermore, I feel, as she reports when I’m gone, ‘hyper-vigilant.’  We both, when alone, sense a need for heightened awareness of our home and hearth.

And when she’s gone, I don’t get as much adult conversation.  While I enjoy discussing fairies and the concept of time with Elysa, and I certainly like a good chat about medieval weapons or the isotopes of Uranium with Elijah, sometimes I need a little more than either can provide.  As any temporary (or especially permanent) single parent will tell you, it’s fun to talk to grown-ups.  I like looking at my wife and hearing complete sentences that don’t end in question marks, or ‘when can we have ice cream?’  (Heck, I didn’t even mind the two ER shifts I worked.  ‘No, really, tell me more about your abscess!’)

But as I walked outside yesterday with the children, it occurred to me that when we’re married, we become more than accustomed to our partners.  We become, in some very real ways, ‘addicted’ to them, as neuroscience increasingly suggests.  The brain chemicals that our relationships stimulate create very powerful connections.  We don’t just want our partners, we need our partners.  When the Bible says ‘the two shall become one,’ God isn’t joking.  It’s no surprise, therefore, that couples divorcing feel especially miserable.  A death of a living thing occurs.  An addiction (albeit an appropriate one) is disrupted.  This is probably why break-ups result in poems, songs, depression, medication, stalking and unfortunate (often tragic) criminal behavior.  The same thing applies to unmarried couples who are intimate.  A deep link is formed; and it is severed only at great peril, only with great pain.

In medicine, we see a kind of beautiful, melancholy illustration of the power of long-lasting love.  Many of us have seen older couples where one partner died, followed with remarkable proximity by the death of the other.  We smile and cry, and say ‘I guess he couldn’t live without her!’

Maybe it was true.  Maybe, on more levels than we realize, our marriages link us with more than tender emotions.  We may find, as our rudimentary science develops, that beyond neuro-chemicals, even our DNA is affected by our partner’s genetic codes, and that the loss of one sends a message to the other; ‘Leaving, please follow as soon as you can.  I love you.  End transmission.’  Laugh if you want.  The mind, body and soul are far more complex than any theologian or scientist wants to admit; we just haven’t looked far enough for the inevitable fusion of the two disciplines, wherein each confirms the other’s truth.

All I know is this:  I miss my family, for reasons obvious and reasons profound.  And because, quite frankly, Papa is almost out of words.

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