|Lauren and Paul, about fifteen minutes after he got to our house.|
With school for me and a million activities for kids and Cody working very long hours at work, I started to get very stressed about having a hairy legged European stranger staying in our house, invading our space, and disrupting our element for a week. There came a point about three weeks ago when I came very close to emailing the director of the regional program and telling him the deal was off. I sat on that email for three days before I sent it. And then I decided that we had already committed and it would be crappy to back out, so I girded up my loins and started getting everything ready. I figured we could tough it out for a week and then we could get back to our normal lives.
On Monday June 9th, we got our coach assignment. His name was Paul Ryan and he was eighteen years old from North Ireland. Cody and I were shocked that he was so young because we had been expecting someone older and more experienced with being away from home. Other than his demographics and a few minor details such as food allergies, we didn't know anything else about him. All week long I had a knot in my stomach thinking that this was a bad idea. What if we didn't mesh with him? What if he didn't like to talk? Our family can be loud and obnoxious and very "in your face" at times, and this poor kid was going to be immersed in it for a week, whether he liked it or not. We supposed that if it turned out to be a bad fit, he could lock himself down in his room when he didn't want to be with us.
Sunday was Fathers Day. On top of the already stressful event of making things wonderful for Cody, I had the extra stress of getting things ready for this stranger who would be living with us. All day at church I felt a little queasy. I wished all day that I HAD sent that email three weeks before, saying that we were no longer able to host a coach. Was it too late to back out?
At 6:00 that evening, I was supposed to drive to the soccer field and meet Paul and the other coaches in the group, some who would be going in separate directions with their host families. The fifteen minute drive to the field was bad. I was very anxious, very nervous, and very much wishing to get the week over with.
There were three coaches in the group going with families. Lee from England, Kevin from Scotland, and Paul. All three of them seemed so nice, but Paul was special. Maybe it was because he was going to be "ours" for the week so I needed to psyche myself into thinking he was extra nice and bubbly, but looking back on it, he really was. After a brief introduction, he threw his bags in the van and the two of us made our way for the place he would call home for the next six days.
I can't really explain what it was like in the first hour we knew Paul. He came into our home and became one of us almost instantly. He was so nice, so personable, and so incredibly likable. Before we even got in the van to go back to the house, I shot Cody a text that said "Oh my gosh, he's great. I think we're going to love him!" And it was true. We ate dinner, we talked, and talked, and talked some more. He joined us for the traditional reading of the "Thoughts On Dad" interview book that we read every Fathers Day. The kids took to him right away and we ended up staying up far later than we should have that night. The kids were in bed about 10:00, and the three adults didn't get to bed until about 1:00. We were sooooo very tired the next day, but it was worth it getting to know our new friend. We had a feeling that the week would be fantastic.