This past Sunday was Father's Day, so I was pleasantly surprised when my older son called and said he was coming "home" to visit for the weekend. Josh lives in Boston and he planned on taking the train to Portland on Friday to visit with a friend, and she would give him a ride to the house on Saturday. It sounded like a good plan all around, and I looked forward to his arrival as it's been a while since I last saw him. But good plans sometimes go awry.
My phone seldom rings and when it rings at 2:30AM I know something is wrong. It took me a few seconds to gain enough consciousness to realize that it was in fact the phone ringing that had awakened me and another few seconds to run through the possibilities of why it might be ringing. Alex, my 20 year-old son, had come in earlier in the evening and I knew he was safe in bed so that left Josh as the only possibility. By the time I had figured all this out the answering machine had stopped the ringing, but it began again almost immediately - clearly somebody really wanted to reach me.
I got out of bed and went in search of a phone but again the machine picked up before I could, and again the caller hung up and called right back. The third time is a charm, they say, and when the ringing started again I had a phone in my hand and answered immediately, hoping there would be no tragic news as the reason for the call. Happily, there was not. Unhappily, it was not a wrong number.
It was Josh in a very emotional state - there had been a domestic abuse incident involving his friend and her boyfriend. She had been physically assaulted and Josh had been verbally threatened, and they needed to get out of there; they could get out of the house but had nowhere safe to go - could I come pick them up?
Old Orchard Beach, where Josh's friend lives, is about 35 miles from my house, about a 45 minute drive without traffic and there's not much traffic at three in the morning. I pulled on some pants, programmed the GPS for the street where I was to meet them and headed south. There was no considering options or looking for alternatives to going, because when a child, even an adult child, calls in the middle of the night and says he needs help, you go - that's what a parent does.
When the GPS informed me I had "reached my destination" I slowed to a crawl and started looking for them just as they appeared out of a side street. They were shaken but OK and they were as glad to see me as I was to see them. I don't think I have ever seen Josh more grateful to get home then he was that night (morning). And I don't think I have ever been more grateful to have him there.
The rest of the weekend went according to plan and I have to say this might have been the best Father's Day I have ever had. Because, really, you never stop being a parent and your kids never stop needing you to be there for them, and I think all three of us were glad to be reminded of that.