Sunday, July 24, 2011

Back to Earth

I have been on vacation for the last nine days. Tomorrow I must return to the reality of alarm clocks, early risings, and daily work. That's not all bad but being on vacation is better.

A week ago I left in pre-dawn darkness with my wife to meet one of my sons and my granddaughter at a resort in Gatlinburg, Tennessee where we co-own a time share. I enjoy driving down the highway as the day begins and the sun comes over the horizon. Half way there we stopped for breakfast and another dose of caffeine. We arrived at our destination without any any problems. The resort guide led us to our temporary home. It seemed to be in the clouds as he drove up and up and we had to shift into low gear to keep up. The place was great and we had a lovely view of the surrounding mountains. It's a myth to think that it is always cool in the mountains. The one negative of the trip was the brutal heat that dogged us the entire time we were there. Of course this same heat is baking most of the United States.

The week was filled with great meals, browsing in the local shops, trips to the water park for everyone but me, and naps for Paw Paw. Despite the heat and the challenge of too much togetherness for an introvert like me, there were no major family meltdowns although I flared up a couple of times. I am just not a person who can be with other people, even family, 24/7. Overall we had a great time and unfortunately it was over way too soon. Everyone was ready for home so we left in the early morning of our last day so we could avoid the intense heat of the afternoon. We all arrived home safely with new memories and family stories.

My first morning back home I slept long enough to feel rested before once again heading down the highway to spend the day with my friend Fr. Dennis. I always enjoy spending a day with him. We visited the monastery where I was talked into the purchase of a book on mysticism titled "The Big Book of Christian Mysticism" by Carl McColman. It is subtitled "The Essential Guide To Contemplative Spirituality". It was highly recommended by Dennis so I purchased it despite my effort to stop buying books all the time. With thoughts of mysticism in my head we went to lunch where, as always, we discussed the spiritual life and what was going on with one another. We also talked of my other son, the future priest, as well as the fact that we are becoming old men. After lunch we went back to Dennis's home and watched a deeply moving film called "For Colored Girls". It gave me a whole new appreciation for the experience of many African American women. After the movie I headed back home. It was a hot drive with a 98 degree temperature and heat index in the 100's.

When I arrived home, and after a short nap, I went to dinner with my wife and we stopped at Border's Book's. Sadly, all the Border's Book stores are going out of business. I have often joked with friends that everything I want and need can be found at Border's, i.e., books, music, movies, and coffee. While there I picked up a copy of a book that I've wanted to read for a long time. It's called "Across The Great Divide". It's a biography of the famous rock group "The Band". As I type these notes I have "The Basement Tapes" by Bob Dylan and The Band playing in the background. The Band is one of my favorite groups.

Yesterday was the last of my obligations for the week. I went with my youngest son to the seminarians picnic with the Archbishop, the seminarians, and a few local priests. Despite all the problems with the Church there are many good priests doing many good things and I am proud that my son wants to be one of them.

Now the heat has subsided a little as rain falls outside my window. Tomorrow I return to work and to a more structured life vastly different from the freedom of the last nine days. Whenever I am not working, and I have no obligations to carry me along, I reflect on the idea of retirement. Like most working people I often feel like I cannot retire fast enough from the politics, drama, and demands of the workplace. However, I also wonder what I will do with my life when everyday is Saturday and I am on vacation all the time. I long for leisure, and a life without work obligations, but I also need a reason to get out of bed in the mornings. I am now sixty years old. How much time do I have left? Twenty years if I am lucky, maybe less. What should I do with it when it is all mine? Most of it now belongs to others.

A week off from your regular work routine is nothing more than a tease. It is not a vacation.

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