Friday, July 4, 2014

Another Week With Paul- Part III

Late on Wednesday night Cody, Paul, and I were downstairs watching a movie (we introduced him to Bill and Ted).  Paul got a message from one of the guys in his caravan saying they were coming back a day early and they would collect him the next day, so he needed to meet them.  He came in an told us and all three of our hearts sank.  At first we thought we had him until Saturday, then Friday, and now he would be going back on Thursday.  When we all went to bed, Cody and I laid there and were filled with disappointment.

Thursday morning was sobering.  I made him a traditional (I think?) Irish breakfast of fried potato bread with a runny fried egg.  I gag at runny eggs, so it really was a labor of love for me to do that.  His mom had included different breads in the care package and he was excited to have potato bread. 
Runny egg.  Eeeeeeew.
After breakfast I got the kids ready to make our journey down to central Utah.  I got them in their Gort na Mona attire and took these pictures.  I cherish them. 

As soon as I was done taking pictures, the kids started piling on Paul.  He took that kind of abuse every day he was with us!

While I finished getting myself ready, I was in the bathroom doing my hair and trying to control tears.  I felt like we had ripped the bandaid off, and now I was doing it again.  When Paul said he wanted to come back to stay during the week, I had conflicting feelings.  On one hand I wanted him to come back because we adored him so much.  On the other hand, I knew that the more time we spent with him, the harder it would be to let him go again.  And I was right.  All week I tried to prepare myself for it, but I wasn't very successful.  My dad happened to call me while I was crying and I talked to him about it and he said it must be a blessing and a curse to feel things so passionately in life.  His emotions are very middle of the road.  He doesn't have low lows, but he doesn't have high highs either.  He said sometimes he wished that he felt things as strongly as I do, and I assured him that it felt like a curse most of the time.  We had a bit of a philosophical discussion about how the universe connects us to each other and how our random meetings of people aren't random at all.  I felt a little better as I hung up with him.

But then I recounted a conversation I'd had the day before at Seven Peaks with a stranger.  While Paul took the kids to rent tubes, I was digging through my bag for something when a woman camped next to us said "I hope you don't mind me asking, but is that young man with you a foreign exchange student?"  I kind of laughed and explained our situation to her.  She was intrigued, and told me that her family had been contemplating taking in an exchange student at some point.  She asked me if it was something we would do again.

I told her no, it was not.

She first thought our experience must have been a negative one, but I assured her it had been a wonderful experience, but that we had no idea how hard it would be to send our new family member back home, half way across the globe.  I told her what it felt like for me right then, and she said she had never considered that aspect of it.

Paul finished packing everything up and we left the house.  We needed to be to Green River by 4:00 to meet his group passing back through.  Cody asked that we stop by his office on the way out of town so he could say goodbye.  When he came out to meet us, I was taken aback by his tee shirt and jeans, but then I remembered that it was his "Friday" because the office would be closed on the 4th!  We took some photos and we left.


We grabbed fast food on the way out of town and hit the freeway.  I had made that drive at least a thousand times on the way to and from Texas, but never with my buddy sitting next to me.  I could talk to that kid for hours, and I hoped he didn't mind.  I loved that we had three hours to visit on the way down there, but with each passing mile, the pit in my stomach grew.  At one point he said he didn't want to be a baby and cry, and I asked him if he'd seen how puffy and red my face was that morning.  He chuckled and said he knew, but I promised not to get emotional on him.  Paul's ideas about life seem well beyond his eighteen years.  I don't know if it's that European kids mature that much faster than Americans, but he really is a special young man.  We talked about how sometimes we run into people in life who we feel some kind of familiarity with, as if it's not the first time we've met.  It's almost a feeling of dejavu, and I told him how we felt like that with him from the first day.  And then I thought of what my dad had said, and I thought maybe he was right.

Those three hours went quickly for me.  We pulled into the desolate town of Green River and found our meeting place.  As we approached it, Paul said "I have a really bad feeling that these guys won't be here."  Sure enough, their car was nowhere to be seen.  We got out of the car and I took the kids in to use the bathroom and stretch their legs.  Paul had been trying to call one of the guy's cell phones since we left Salt Lake, but it always went straight to voicemail.  He kept wanting to make sure we were on the same page with them and would be meeting them at the right time.  In Green River, he finally got through to someone, only to be told that they were nowhere near Green River, or Utah for that matter.  They were in between Vegas and the Grand Canyon!  They had decided they  couldn't go to the USA with out seeing the giant hole in the earth.

Paul about came unhinged.  He was furious.  After about half an hour of talking to them and trying to make heads or tails of what to do, we loaded back into the van and made our way back to Salt Lake.  His caravan was at least eight hours from Green River, and there was no way he was staying there in the middle of nowhere to wait on them, only to be picked up in the middle of the night by a group of overly tired drivers.

I wasn't mad, but I was annoyed with the rest of the group for the lack of communication.  we now had a van full of very tired, cranky, hungry kids and another three hour drive ahead of us.  Before we knew Paul would be leaving a day early, we had made plans to go see the huge firework show at the local gold course that night.  But we would be getting back into town way too late to get there in time to find parking.  So now what?
The good news is that we got to keep this guy for another night.  None of us could complain about that!  On the way back from Green River, we were in and out of contact with the caravan trying to decide what they should do.  Because I am very familiar with the area and the distances between places, I did the math and told them the best thing they could do was drive up to our place, stay the night, then hop on I-80 the next morning and get to Denver by way of Wyoming.  It would be adding an hour and a half to their entire trip, but it would keep them from driving through the night and they would have a place to crash.  For some reason (still unknown to me) the guys in the cars were certain that the Grand Canyon was only six hours from Denver.  I laughed and screamed our of frustration!!  Finally Paul convinced them to come to Salt Lake for the night, and they agreed.  So we started making plans to have ten extra people at our house for the night.  Air mattress and sleeping bags would be spread everywhere.

The caravan wouldn't be getting to our til the wee hours of the morning, so we decided to shoot off some fireworks in the front street with the kids before bed. 








We finally got kids in bed around midnight, then the three of us turned on Dumb and Dumber to watch while we waited on the group to get to our house.  Paul and I fell asleep.  Around 1:00 they called and said half the group decided to go on to Denver, but that half of them would be coming.  They got to our house right at 3:00 and everyone crashed right away.  Even though we hadn't slept much, Cody and I got up early to make a big breakfast for everyone. 
Coaches Kara from Wales, Jamie from Liverpool, Alister from Northern Ireland, Eric from Scotland, and Paul from Northern Ireland.  Yup, two Irish Pauls.

I made Paul one more special breakfast of potato bread and egg.  Then they finished packing everything up and loaded into cars to make the eight hour drive back to Denver.  It was a very short and sweet stop in from all those Europeans, but I'm glad some of them were smart enough to stop for the night.  I hugged Paul and told him to be safe.  I was right- saying goodbye a second time was harder than it had been two weeks before.  I've explained before what it's like, but those 24 hours were the hardest and slowest way to remove a band-aid. 

When I got back into the house, Seana had a message waiting for me on Facebook.  She asked how I was doing with him leaving, and I told her how much it stunk.  I said I felt like losing him was like losing all of them, and we had grown to adore each of them so much.  She said getting rid of a Ryan is like trying to get rid of a bad smell- you just can't.  I laughed.  

On Wednesday, Paul remembered that it was the three year anniversary of his Aunt Liz's death from cancer.  In the course of three weeks, I had learned so much about his family.  So much that I felt like I knew them.  Liz was his mother's sister, and like a second mother to Paul.  He told me all about what it was like for his family when she died, and my heart ached because I knew that pain firsthand.  This morning as Seana and I chatted, she said she didn't think it was a coincidence that Aunt Liz and Joseph died two years apart, almost to the day.  We concluded that something had taken place between those two souls in the life hereafter.  Maybe Joseph, being a seasoned spirit, was one of the people assigned to Liz when she crossed over.  And maybe they became fast friends, because it seemed like they were very similar.  Full of life, full of love, and full of spunk.  And maybe they got to talking about their families and the decided to connect them, and they helped to make it all happen- just like this.  Maybe it was to provide healing to two families hurt from tragedy.  So maybe it really was meant to happen like it did.  We don't think that Paul being placed with our family was an accident, or a random rotation of a spreadsheet.  For some reason, our families were supposed to meet.

Where we go from here is a mystery.  And as I've gone about the day with an emptiness in my heart, I'm trying to look at it like this- it's not the end of something, but the beginning of something fantastic.  We will see Paul again, and we will meet the rest of his family at some point.  I feel so blessed to have stumbled upon this amazing kid who has filled our lives with goodness.  And I'm grateful to his family for sending him across an ocean to have this experience, because it has enriched our little corner of the universe.  

I keep thinking about what my dad said about my passionate heart and it's ability to feel things so deeply.  A heart that loves easily, breaks easily too.  But I wouldn't want it any other way.

Until we meet again, Paul.  And until we meet the rest of you Ryans.  We look forward to a lifelong relationship with our new Irish family! 

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