It was Tuesday night and it was five of my boys and me. Again. The ladies of the Sabo house were off to women's Bible study, two kids were at soccer practice, one was at work and so it was the lads' night out. We made a quick stop at the True Value hardware store to pick up some supplies for my new found DIY woodworking projects and then headed for the beach at Gloucester Point. These lovely fall evenings (note the lads are in shorts & t-shirts and it's late October) are too alluring, too perfect not to enjoy with one of the last romps at the beach.
When we arrived down at the pier that juts out into the York River (you don't need a license to fish from the pier, which means fishing is better in Gloucester) the boys started hamming it up and I snapped some photos. Then we noticed lots of people with cameras around. A kindly gentleman ambling out the pier informed us that an Antares rocket was supposed to take off from the Eastern Shore and we should be able to watch it blast into orbit from the pier. It was 6:15 p.m. Lift off into the October sky was scheduled for 6:22 p.m.
News that we would watch a real-life rocket launch caused quite a stir among the Sabo boys. This was more than we bargained for. Are you kidding? This was really good news. Like, really good. You go to the beach trying to kill some time and you're going to watch a rocket streak into the night? For reals? Dude. From Gloucester Point to the launch site on the Eastern Shore of Virginia at Wallops Island, as the
I was armed with two cameras -- my iPhone5C and my Canon T5i -- and was really stoked to try the time-lapse feature on my iPhone. I figured that would be killer for a rocket launch. As we waited at the end of the pier, we encountered one variable that threatened to derail my photography efforts. Seth seemed intent on seeing if the water was still warm and kept leaning through the rails, even as Gabe wore him like a straitjacket. In the interest of safety I reluctantly herded my gaggle of Sabos back onto the beach. We still had an unobstructed view out over Chesapeake Bay where the rocket was allegedly going to streak into the nearly cloudless indigo twilight, but better yet, if Seth was intent on taking a dip at least we could fish him out before he got in way over his head.
It was 6:21. Seth was getting wet and was covered in sand, the four other boys were having races up and down the beach and some people behind us were getting the play-by-play of the rocket launch over some sort of hand-held device. It wasn't a Walkman, I know that. I was focused on the eastern horizon with my two cameras -- in between preventing Seth from becoming a mini-Jacques Cousteau. The people behind us, a mom and dad and two kids, started the countdown. The four Sabo boys slowed down then stopped to watch, their labored breaths mixing with the sound of the river washing ashore in tiny waves. Seth eyed the water.
The voices behind us got louder as the countdown got closer to one: "...three, Two, ONE! LIFTOFF!" We scanned the horizon, squinting intensely. My cameras were focused. I was prepared to blow up social media with our rocket photopallooza. We watched. We watched harder. Seth headed for the water before Gabe rassled him ashore despite his sharp protestations. And then we watched some more ... and then the cry from the dad behind us: "It exploded!" The boys looked at me. I shrugged. The boys went back to racing. Seth headed for the water.
I'm not going to lie. I was pretty bummed. I've never seen a rocket launch live, even from 70 miles away. The evening had taken an unexpected turn. It veered hard from your run-of-the-mill, ho-hum evening at the beach with five boys -- three, count them three, couples we encountered looked on in amazement at the collection of Sabos and remarked how full my hands were ... if only they knew -- into tantalizing excitement territory. I guess I shouldn't really be disappointed because just minutes earlier I had no idea I could have seen a rocket launch. But when the unexpected becomes even a glimmer of reality, only to literally crash to earth, there's still a sense of loss.
I've thought about this all day, actually. When the unexpected roars into your life, only to vanish seemingly as quickly. I won't go into details, but I feel a sense of personal loss on a completely different level. There was something unexpected that happened in our lives, only to be taken away. There's hurt, there's pain. It's not fun. I'm sad. I guess that's the best way to put it. Just sad. It's nights like these that I like to wander in to where our youngest is sleeping, in this case Seth. So peaceful. So beautiful. So perfect. Such a gift from God. I like to hear him breathe. I'll stand there and watch, listening to him breathe and for a little while everything is right in the world.