It is 5:30 AM on Saturday morning. I have claimed a little round table at Starbucks, and I’m ready to write. Claiming may be an overstatement, as I’m the only customer in the shop. This morning I packed a little Chromebook in an over-the-shoulder bag that I bought on Amazon for about $19. The Amazon photo of the messenger bag gave it the look of stylishly aged fine leather. The actual product resembles an item made of cardboard with a cheap “Contact Paper” leather veneer. So much for truth in advertising!
I am reflecting on last night, Friday night.
The end of my workday, my phone beeped. It was my friend Tom asking me if I was about to leave Rockford. We exchanged a few text messages. I finished my last progress note, packed up my computer, donned my Aussie cowboy hat, and stepped into the day.
The weather outside was beautiful. In fact, I would say that it was a perfect fall day. Seventy degrees, a light breeze, and the wonderful smell of fall. It is about 90 miles from home, and so I was grateful that the drive would be pleasant.
My iPhone automatically connected to the car’s Bluetooth audio system as I drove off. I placed a call to my sister Nancy. She answered the phone and immediately commented on the wonderful weather. She was camping in central Illinois and was enjoying the breeze from her pop-up screen house. The drive passed quickly as we talked over speakerphone. How is my family doing? How is her family doing? Did she find a new dog yet? She comments on my “Money and Mike” blog post. She grew up in the same household as me and held many of the same fears.
Nancy is a retired psychotherapist and it is easy to get into “psych-speak” with her. We both come to the conclusion that the fear of money is actually a fear of not having control of our lives. She then tells me about the joys of retirement. “Every day is Saturday, Mike.” She suggests, “Won’t it be fun to just come over and visit me for no reason? We can go exploring or out to lunch!” We both love exploring towns and local culture. I smile to myself. She is right, it will be awesome to have the freedom to not be productive. I confide in her, “I have spent my life taking care of other people. It feels wonderful when someone takes care of me.”
I find myself at home. I go inside to find my daughter Grace there. We exchange a few pleasant words. I look out my study window and there is Tom parking a huge dumpster in my driveway. He is a wonderful friend and he has offered to replace my windows.Tom is a general contractor who owns his own dumpster. For some reason, I find that fact very cool. Tom brings out the “Bob the Builder” in me. When I “help” him on a project (gofer would be a better term) I feel like I’m 12 again. It is wonderful to be less than perfect, to use my hands, and allow someone else to be the responsible one.
I go outside and greet Tom and his son Charlie. The dumpster already has a few odd pieces in it. A glass shower door, a giant mirror, and some other stuff. The three of us climb up on the wheel wells and proceed to throw large objects in as we attempt to break the glass. Charlie is the only one in the group who is under 10, but at that moment I feel about that old as I experience the sheer joy of my silly actions. Carol, my next door neighbor appears and smiles a hello to me. I ask her if she wants to come over and break some stuff. Another smile flashes on her face as she declines and returns to the confines of her home.
I invite Tom and Charlie in. I come from a culture where you show caring and hospitality with food, and I immediately start to offer both of them food options. Finally, Tom accepts some fizzy water and Charlie goes for a popsicle. We sit at the kitchen table with Grace who is snacking on a bowl of microwaveable Vietnamese Pho noodles.
Grace gets to see a video of Charlie’s latest guitar accomplishments. We talk about Pho noodles. Tom’s glasses break and he curses barely under his breath. We discuss the Cubs defeat, gene splicing and genetically modified fruit, Gracie’s college choices, Tom’ s angst over an unreliable plumber sub-contractor. The conversation continues until Tom signals to Charlie that it is time to go home.
I walk out with them to say goodbye and Mercury the cat bolts out the door. It is dark and Mercury is a solid black cat. Grace and I go looking for her using our phones as flashlights. Finally, common sense reigns, we return inside and leave the patio door open. Within 2 minutes Mercury is back inside. Her behavior suggests that she is happy that her misadventure is over.
Julie walks in with a bag of groceries. Salad fixings, a broasted chicken, and some grocery store sushi. I make myself a salad and add large chunks of chicken to it. I pour myself a glass of suspect box wine. Julie tastes my glass and turns up her nose. “No thanks,” she says. She opens up a bottle of the good stuff. Good meaning probably about a $6 purchase. We sit at the table. I sip, munch on my salad, and chomp on the sushi. We ask each other about our day and talk a bit about politics.
The family group text channel beeps, and it is Will, my son. He sends a picture from Menards where he is shopping with his friend Joe. The day before Will informed me that Joe always carries extra oil in his 18-year-old minivan because it leaks like a sieve. I’m glad that he is only about 5 minutes away.
My conversation with Julie continues. At this point I can’t remember what we were talking about, it doesn’t really matter. Julie’s phone beeps again and it is Kathryn, my Arizona college student. Kathryn recounts a trip to Trader Joe’s and sends a picture or two of her purchases. She tells Julie that her roommate thought Julie was 40 years old. “She thought you must have had me when you were very young.” Both of us realize that Kathryn is pulling Julie’s leg. Julie still likes the comment and smiles.And so my evening went. Nothing really, a typical Friday in many ways.
For me, these kinds of days are my favorite. Connecting with people that I care about. The significance of the insignificant. We weren’t solving problems or having great adventures, we were just connecting. Our conversations were simply frameworks to allow those connections to occur.
We live in a world that prizes purpose. People get together to do things, go places, buy stuff. In reality, we mostly connect because we are social creatures. By our connections we build bonds, and we enrich our lives. Last night was spent connecting with people that I love and care about. A perfect Friday evening.