As the Bee Gees once said, “Where would I be without my woman?”

During an 11-day stretch in August, 1998, I spent 11 days touring Holland (The Netherlands) with the Hope College men’s basketball team as they toured the “homeland” (Hope men are nicknamed The Flying Dutchmen). At that time, I became acquainted with a gentleman named Jim Bekkering and we hit it of INSTANTLY. That he was the only other person on the trip that was not a player or a coach helped immensely. My dear friend Papa Bekkering passed away a number of years ago, but I still hold him dear to my heart as his picture occupies a prominent place on my computer desk. During that time, while I was overseas, my wife was “home alone,” albeit with three teean-age boys. This morning, Illy left me home alone. She and 11 others climbed into three vans on their way to Toronto where they will, on Friday morning, be flying to Cuba for a little more than a weeklong mission trip. My sons are all out of the house now, but they are only a phone call or a facebook message away, so I’m not really alone. But, after 41-plus years of marriage, you kind of get used to each other, and it’s going to be odd not sitting across from her while we eat our evening meal, not sitting next to each other while watched our favorite TV shows and not sharing a bed together, along with the requisite elbows to the ribs and nose pinches that force the offending snorer to stop.

It was odd returning home from picking the grandchildren up from school and seeing my wife’s car in the garage, yet knowing she was not home.

Yes, we’ve been apart before. Some years ago, Illy spent a few days without me in Florida as she attended a class reunion in Miami. Then there are the nights out with “the girls” and overnighters with ladies from church for Bible study or whatever.

But this is the first time we’re spending more that just a few days apart where SHE is the one who is gone, not me. When I was a full-time sportswriter for my newspaper, I had overnighters with either Hope College or Calvin College when their basketball teams qualified for the Division III national tournament. I spent a couple of days away in Florence, Alabama in the early 2000s when the Grand Valley State University football team won the Division II national title. And, of course, my 11 days in The Netherlands.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that when I was gone, it was usually for a reason. (I remember my mother telling me after my father passed away that “he was so proud to tell people ‘My son is in Europe on business.”)

But now I’m the one who is “home alone,” so I guess it’s up to me to find things to do for the next week-and-a-half. I’m not saying I can’t, or won’t, but when you spend 41-plus years together with your best friend, you kind of get used to doing things together.



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