Ever since we dropped Kyle off at the MTC is Provo I have been looking forward to the day (twelve weeks later) when he would be able to call home from the Salt Lake City Airport as he began his 20 hour journey to Hong Kong, China. The weeks went by very slowly for Kyle, a little more quickly for me and seemed to fly by for many other friends and family members. He didn’t tell us his travel plans in much detail until the week before he was to leave. He said they would start out for the airport at 6 a.m. Utah time on Monday, August 6 (which, with Daylight Savings Time is an hour ahead of Arizona time) and that his first flight (a short flight to California) left around 10 a.m.. According to my calculations that meant he would be able to call sometime between 5 and 9 a.m. Arizona time (I know what you are thinking – the window was probably quite a bit smaller than that considering that it would take them at least some time to get to the airport and that he would probably board before the flight took off but hey, I wasn’t taking any chances) so I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and waited nervously (give me a break I am his mom after all!) It seemed like a long couple of hours but somewhere between 6:30 and 7 Jenna came running in with her phone. “It’s him,” she screamed and in no time at all we were all gathered around Jenna’s iPhone (if you’re wondering why he called Jenna’s phone then you don’t know Jenna very well. Her phone is surgically attached to her hand and sometimes even when it doesn’t ring – she answers it. I’m sure he was looking for someone who would respond to his call right away.) We put Jenna’s phone on speaker, called Sarah with Staci’s phone and put it on speaker, and recorded the whole thing with my phone. To an outsider we would have looked very odd, four of us huddled around three iPhones, alternating between joyous chatter, seemingly endless questions and dead silence as we strained to absorb every word he uttered.
He called twice. Once from Salt Lake and again from Los Angeles. The second time his sisters Julie and Katie were there too along with their children (Kyle’s nieces and nephews. ) We talked both times about pretty much the same things, like old friends catching up on each others lives. He told us mostly about the MTC, what he would miss and what he wouldn’t. He said it was a little bit strange to be out in the “real world,” mingling with people who were not wearing name tags, talking about sharing the gospel or speaking a whole bunch of languages. He felt like he would probably miss the food and the “safe” environment – where you could speak broken Cantonese and have people there to help you instead of laughing at you – and he knew that most of all he would miss the people. He has made some new friends, some that he hopes to keep in touch with after his mission and best of all, has been blessed with the opportunity to see many of his old friends. There he had been taught at the feet of apostles and other general authorities. There he had struggled along with other new missionaries to adapt to a strict new schedule and routine. There he had spent countless hours studying and learning lessons and scriptures. There he had listened intently to what seemed like nothing but a bunch of strange sounds and he had later figured out it was Cantonese. He came from there with a great sense of accomplishment and for that he will be forever grateful.
His future plans included eating at Wetzel’s Pretzels, then writing letters and sleeping on the plane. He was looking forward to seeing the city of Hong Kong and mingling with its people, working with his new mission president, President Hawk, meeting his trainer and finding out where they would live. He admitted he was a little nervous but told us he had faith that everything would go well.
We made some small talk; comments about the weather, our move to a new neighborhood and ward, how fast our family was growing, Jenna and Corbin’s upcoming wedding and, of course, sports. He was happy to hear that the two teams leading the medal count in the Olympics were China and the United States – his two favorites. He couldn’t believe which of the Sun Devil’s three possible quarterbacks was doing the best in practice. He seemed like my teenage son Kyle in many ways but he was a much more mature and capable Au Yuehng Jeung Louh in many others. At times he was a little awkward – like speaking to us in English and about things outside the gospel were foreign to him. He even struggled for the English word now and then. He enjoyed being challenged to say something in Cantonese and didn’t seem to have any problem with the translations. Of course he could have been saying “Mary had a little lamb…” for all we know, but it sounded great to us. Best of all it was great to just be talking together as a family again. I will admit however, that in some ways it was awkward for me too. After all, how could I possibly express in such a short time over such a long distance just how proud I am of him and what he has already accomplished? How could I tell him just how much I looked forward to his packages, letters and emails every week without putting him under too much pressure to continue these traditions? How could I possibly thank him for all the blessings I have already received as a result of his service without embarrassing him? How in the world could I tell him just how much I love him without sobbing (like I am right now) so that he could understand me? I couldn’t and in that way I failed him.
I guess there is always Christmas…..