Let the record reflect that it was approximately 12 noon Saturday, when I realized the tension was gone.
The realization arrived while out with Jeni, nominally to find new lawn chairs for the back garden. Alongside hundreds of other Memorial Day weekend shoppers, we’d visited three stores, made our choice, loaded them aboard the Outback and then pulled into the tiny parking lot that contains the taco truck adjacent to the Home Depot. As we sat under the shade of a big conifer, the only tree in sight, overlooking the massive expanse of asphalt that is the HD parking lot, in cheesy plastic patio chairs on the gravel next to the truck-cum-kitchen, entertained by the 100db latino music, blaring in the general direction of the exiting traffic, I realized the tension had departed.
After several months of non-stop responsibility, obligation, commitments, juggling of concurrent and multiple priorities, they were all gone.
This four-day weekend substituting for a vacation was working.
I’d left the corporate laptop in the file cabinet at work and shut off my cell phone. I’d informed my family they should not expect to see me or reach me. No plans, just Jeni and me, with the ability to be together 24 hours a day for four days, to do whatever we chose, or do nothing at all; just, as she and I tell each other, two old smoothies on the loose.
The taco truck by the Home Depot seemed as unlikely a place as any imaginable to find that peace had descended, what with the graveled terrace, loudspeaker, the cashier calling the numbers of the orders at the pickup window and the cars both arriving and departing the busiest place in town on a holiday weekend, passing less than twenty feet from our crooked little table with the unmatched chairs. I couldn’t have been more carefree if we’d been on the Lido deck of a cruise ship.
At home, the new chairs set up on the lawn, under the shade of the maple trees, a gentle breeze providing the A/C, I sat observing my garden and the chickadee who currently occupies one of Jeni’s birdhouses. Watching the bird alternate between the house and the branches of the apple tree where it hangs, it came to me that I haven’t spent any time at all enjoying the garden, visiting only long enough to push the mower through. It is lush and more vividly colorful than it has been for several seasons. There in my new lawn chair, I started a book, a good one, by one of my favorite authors, alternating between the page, the kaleidoscopic view of the sun filtered through all the red and green maple leaves, and conversation with my wife.
Conversation with my wife has become a commodity alarmingly scarce, as other matters have increasingly forced aside our time, time to learn of the other, beyond any superficial level, to reflect, to look into each others eyes, to see, to remember, to feel the same feeling first felt over thirty years ago, feel it again, as if it were then, as though no time had passed.
I didn’t need anything more than the constant company of my best friend to help me throw off the responsibilities, the obligations, the commitments, the priorities, the tension, not a cruise ship, not a day in my beloved kayak, not even a good, long walk to my favorite beach. At the taco truck and now at home, under the canopy of leaves, moving gently above us by the spring breeze, with nowhere to go and nothing demanding our efforts, I realized it was just as it had been two summers ago, a summer without work, weeks on end with Jeni, when I had decided that just being together was the only vacation I wanted or needed.
All I ever need in this life is time with Jeni. Perfect.