When I was still teaching, Saturdays always provided me the opportunity not to set the alarm clock. Instead, I usually slept in. Indeed, many Fridays (especially after a long, full week of grading and meetings), I went home, locked the door, and cocooned for the weekend. I might not ever even get out of my nightshirt. Weekends — cherished time for being alone, for being quiet, for just relaxing.
Now there’s no longer the contrast between working weekdays and weekends. Rather, days often blend, one into the other, though now I tend to divide days between dialysis days (Monday-Wednesday-Friday) and the rest of the week.
With Dad in Southwind and the house in disarray, Saturday is just another day to set the alarm, at least temporarily, until the renovations are completed and the house in order. Today was no different.
Though I longed to burrow back under the quilt, I rolled out at 7 a.m., dressed, and then indulged in the impulse to go back to bed for an hour. Fully dressed in sweatpants and t-shirt, I did just that. I figured I could manage that.
And so another hour passed. Finally I realized that the sheetrock guy might well show up soon, so I padded to the front door and unlocked it, opening the door to look out the storm door at the grayish sky. Just then, the contractor showed up and teased me about being sleepy and it being time to wake up. I let him in, and we talked as the sheetrock guy worked, his young son acting as helper for the day.
When he moved on to the back bathroom, Tim (the contractor) went back with him to talk. I sat and read, enjoying a bit of time curled up in a recliner. After a while, I heard footsteps on the ramp and looked up, expecting to see my neighbor Charles, and saw my friend Jimmy instead. We’ve been friends since first grade and he’s now a dentist. In fact, he’s the one who led me to Tim, and thus to all the renovations now taking place around me.
Being back in Egan has been a series of revelations of sorts. Perhaps “reminders” might be a better word choice. Reminders of what the best of small-town life can be. The knowledge that neighbors always check in to see not only how Dad is doing, but how I am. Being able to call on friends, day or night, knowing they’ll be over across the street if I need them.
I run into people at the post office when I go to get the mail. Sometimes I know them; sometimes I don’t recognize them but know that I should. Always, though, they ask about Dad, and ask how I’m doing. And I know that their inquiries are not simply polite chitchat but are truly meant to elicit responses. So I find myself lingering and talking, then getting back into the truck (or the Mini) and heading to Crowley or back to the house.
It’s the kind of place where you can show up at someone’s house, knock on the door, and be welcomed. As Jimmy was welcomed today. He’d come to see how the house was coming along, and it was fun to take him through the chaos and know that he could see progress.
When I was growing up here, all I could think about was leaving and going somewhere bigger, somewhere more exciting. I still think I enjoy the amenities of a larger town, to be sure — bookstores and coffeeshops and stores other than Walmart. Traveling to Greece for a few weeks in my place there or spending a week in London — my childhood dreams of living in other countries find some semblance of reality then. Yet even with that love of travel possible, even with my home in Lake Charles, I find that Egan is comfortable and reassuring.
There are a number of people in Egan now whom I do not know. Yet the neighbors are still the ones I had when I was 16. We’re just older and grayer.
Coming back here has been, in many ways, like putting on a familiar piece of clothing that I’d put away to the back of the closet. Other, fancier clothes hang there too, but the familiar comfort of hometown life has surprised me and wrapped around me, making me know I’m not alone, that it’s not that I must choose one place over another.
No, it’s not that at all. I can have all the choices, all the places that make up my life. Egan. Lake Charles. Athens. Texas. There’s room for all of them in my life. All of them have shaped me and continue to do so.
Places have times, too — and right now, at this time, Egan is the place for me. The others will still be there tomorrow or next week or next year. When I was younger, I was oblivious to this truth — and only longed to leave, to escape.
Now I can cherish the opportunity to live here again, finding my pace here without skipping a beat. Living in this moment, savoring it all.
I didn’t get as much done today as I’d hoped. I got some painting done, and I can finish that tomorrow morning. I didn’t get anything boxed and moved out of my room, but I can do that tomorrow too, since that won’t take more than an hour or so.
Instead, today I slowed down the pace, visiting with friends, shopping, cooking lunch, even napping. I worked a bit, then dressed and went in to town to spend a couple of hours with Dad. Even there we didn’t talk the entire time. After catching up on news and chatting, we could just sit there comfortably. He closed his eyes; I opened my iPad and started reading. He mentioned a number of times how glad he was that we could talk; he’d missed me.
Eventually I left and returned to the house. I ate supper and decided that work could wait another few hours.
Now I think I’ll crawl into bed, read a bit, and go to sleep. The alarm will go off at 7 a.m. And I’ll eventually get up and finish the jobs I started today.
Slowing down today hasn’t been because I was still tired — at least not completely. Not even mostly. Instead, it was about being in the moment, enjoying the sudden cool spell after 80-degree-shorts-weather in early March.
Enjoying my time, my life. A welcome day. A good day.