It's late enough to be truly quiet. There's no music blaring from the apartments down the street. No teenagers talking on the front lawn. No cats fighting on the front porch. No TV.

No crickets, even. Just the sound of a clock and the distant whoosh of a solitary car. Still, I can't sleep.

Our son returns from serving a mission for the LDS Church tomorrow, and I am crazy eager to see him. The extended family will be at the airport in all our stereotypical Mormon glory to welcome him home with hugs and tears and flashing cameras and possibly balloons, if I remember to buy them. Which I won't. But oh well.

So yes. I'm thrilled. It's never been easy to let someone go, but in our age of instant telecommunication and access, not seeing or talking much to a kid for two years seems particularly hard, even artificial.

But at the same time that I'm so happy, I'm also anxious. Downright scared, in fact.

Scared? Of what?

I try to analyze the reasons for my fear as I lie in bed, twisting the night away. Here's the list so far.

1. I'm afraid that we've got the time wrong somehow and that he's been waiting for us at the airport. Since Friday.

2. That even if we do have the correct ETA, we'll be late because my piece of crap German car might break down along the way, and I'll have to call Caesar (the Car Tow Guy!) to come rescue us. Again.

3. That our son will be soooo physically changed we won't recognize him.

4. That we'll be soooo physically changed he won't recognize us.

5. That home is nowhere as good as he remembers it.

6. That we, his family, are nowhere as good as he remembers us.

7. That he will, in fact, think we're all slackers.

8. Which, actually, we kind of are!

9. That possibly he'll try to make us stop being slackers.

10. (Which is a good idea but one to which some of his younger brothers might object.)

11. That he'll also wonder how his dog got fat. (Answer: I fed her too much.)

12. That he'll also wonder why we bought a second dog that weighs 160 pounds and drools.

13. That his friends will have all moved on.

14. That he'll be lonely because all his friends have moved on.

15. That he'll wish with all his heart he was back in the mission field.

That last one is the thing that scares me the most, because all you really want is for your beloved boy to be happy. And you understand that leaving something behind as absorbing as a mission must be difficult — as hard as it once was to leave home.

The French novelist Anatole France observed that "all changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another."

Saying goodbye to a mission is like experiencing a little death. And yet there's new life after it, too. And in some corner of my sleep-deprived brain, I know that my worries will fade in the bright light of morning.

Hey. The kid will be fine.

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