Missing Dani at Thanksgiving

Three months ago this week, we put our only daughter on an airplane and sent her off for nine months of studying and living in Berlin.

We’ve missed Danielle a lot, but it hasn’t been TOO bad. Just seems, for the most part, like she’s been away in Laramie for a long time. We’ve been able to talk on the phone from time to time, and we have our weekly talks via computer webcam, our Skype sessions.

David Peck

But now it’s Thanksgiving week, and it will be difficult. Off we’ll go to Encampment to spend the holiday with sister Betsy, brother-in-law Dan and brother Risty. We’ll also see brother James and his family later in the weekend.

But no Danielle.

She’ll be attempting to cook her first turkey for our German friends 4,800 miles away. No hug from my daughter this Thanksgiving.

For us, it’s just been three months, and we’ve been in voice contact weekly, sometimes several times in a week, via Skype and the telephone, and there’s also e-mail, Internet messaging and Facebook – complete with photos.

But my how we still miss her!

How do you do it, those of you who have loved ones on a mission or serving overseas in the military? How do you bear a two-year mission or a year or more deployment with your son or daughter in harm’s way?

Susan and I certainly have a new appreciation for many families after experiencing just a touch of that kind of heartache ourselves. One minute your daughter is with you as a huge part of your daily life and then, bam!, she’s flying across the Atlantic Ocean.

I remember the day she left. We came home from the airport and I went to work as usual. That evening, I came home for dinner, and as I pulled into the driveway, my heart gave a leap. There was her car in its usual spot. But it took me just a second to realize that the car was there – but not Danielle. She was far, far away. Then a wave of sadness came over me.

We have always joked in our family as we traveled and then invited exchange students into our home that we were creating a monster – a desire by our one and only daughter to travel to the far corners of the globe and see the world. We love her worldview, and we’re even a little envious as she lives her dream. How many people receive a postcard from Bratislava, Slovakia? (You should see the giant castle there!)

We have seen her grow into a mature young woman before our very eyes – conversing in German with her German mom and dad while Skyping with us and making arrangements for a side trip to northwest Germany or Ireland while studying contemporary German history and culture. The girl who gets lost finding her way out of Casper knows the rapid transit system in a city of 3.5 million people.

Our little girl is growing up.

We are so very grateful to our exchange daughters’ parents – Antje and Jörg Parthen (Maria) and Marina and Jörg Rogall (Sophie Bock) – for watching over her in Berlin. Their love, care and concern for her is real and oh, so much appreciated by us.

But it’s not the same as us being there. While we give thanks this Thursday for the many blessings in our lives, we will remember to give thanks not only for our daughter, but also for the wings that she is spreading, and the fact that our heart aches means that we have someone to love – and miss.

Thanksgiving is about family, whether near at hand or far away.

For our readers, we wish all of you a warm, joyful Thanksgiving holiday.

Oh, and if your daughter is near, give her a big hug for us, will you?