Fencing Me In

I get a backyard today, summer solstice, although I prefer to mark this particular date as Road Trip Day, and also I could be off about the backyard.


The fence posts finally went in yesterday, though, which has been something I’ve been waiting on. With all the brush clearing that went on back there, I’ve done a fair share of trimming back and at least raking up some debris, but those blackberries will never stop and I’ve been waiting for a fence. I always feel a little self-conscious working in my open yard with construction workers a few feet away, building brand-new 2018 houses while I dig in the dirt in front of my 1960 variety.

It’s definitely weird, after 30 years, to look out my back window and see two-story houses with decks facing my house, although it’s not an eyesore. Just weird.

And I suppose I could have done a better job documenting the changes over the past year, as an old house with a huge lot became a new neighborhood, but I’m thinking we could all just use our imaginations. There aren’t really any surprises.

This is Road Trip Day because Facebook says so. Not only did I head for Boston nine years ago, appropriately on Father’s Day, preparing to drive with my daughter from New England to the Southwest, but I also note that on this day a few years ago, I went through some serious yearning to drive to Iowa.

This had to do with reading about (I think) a little reunion of the cast of Field of Dreams, held at the original Iowa farm where the movie was filmed. Just made me think about a pilgrimage. Sometimes the journey’s the thing; sometimes the destination.


I’m not holding my breath for that Iowa trip, although I’m not ruling it out for Someday. I’d hate to rule out another cross-country trip for that matter. It was a little tense and rushed, and almost entirely interstate, but I saw some beautiful parts of this beautiful country and I wouldn’t mind seeing more.

For the near term, I think I’m at most considering road trips to Oregon and maybe Idaho this summer. But my eyes are open and the road calls, always.

My wife is in San Antonio, her usual start to summer. She pounds through grading, finishing those final exams, then hops a plane for Texas and leaves a testosterone-only household. This is nothing new, or particularly stressful, since John and I hang out here a lot anyway.

John suggested there was a three’s-a-crowd dynamic, though, telling me that he’s noticed a calmer home when either I or his mom leave on a trip. Maybe. I think this time I’ve been getting more sleep, finally, after a few bad weeks, and that just makes me more social, but whatever. We manage just fine.

And in six days, he’ll take off also, this time to Dallas, where his mom will pick him up and take him to spend a few days with her mother, whose birthday they’ll mark as much as possible (it’s her 93rd, and she’s a little set in her ways and what celebrating there is will be done on her terms). They’ll then head back to San Antonio for a couple of days so he can visit with his sister and nephew, and is anyone else noticing something?

I’m going to be here alone. Let’s just take a moment.

I was talking with friends the other day, friends who are at the marginal empty-nest phase. Their daughter graduated from college last spring, and their son just finished his freshman year. Both are currently at home for the summer, although that’s bound to change and they’ve had a taste of the future. Both seem fine with it.

I can’t remember even imagining this. My daughter left home for college when she was 18, 15 years ago, and never came back. My son has lived in this house for 28 years; we brought him home from the hospital to this very room I’m in at the moment. I’ve never known a time without him, or that’s what it feels like, and I see no move on the horizon.

Which is fine, really. I’d love for my entire family to be living under the same roof. I have no dreams of just the two of us, traveling the world and sharing pictures of our grandkids with complete strangers. I can’t see that, never could.

And the last time I was alone, in this house, for any period of time? I think it was 2007. Seriously. Julie and John went up to Neah Bay, the furthest northwest corner of the contiguous United States, on a church mission trip for a week. I was finishing my first year of not drinking and it’s a blurry memory. I think I binged a lot of TV or movies and ate a lot of ice cream.

Anyway, I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea. I can be a solitary man, often, and I’m protective of my solo time, but that usually just involves closing the door. I don’t worry about socialization, since most of that I do apart from my family (oh, they’re usually around, but you know). I can socialize. I can talk to people in the grocery store, and on Facebook, and around the neighborhood.

There’s just something about having no one to think about, no meals to plan, no driving necessary to get someone to some appointment. Part thrilling, part anxious. I’m going to focus on the thrilling part, but we shall see.

I had my first dessert delivery last Friday, the syndicate of church ladies who were high bidders at our auction. This situation has changed—originally I was just going to deliver either a loaf of bread or a couple of dozen cookies, once a month. Now we’ve got ourselves a production, with a monthly gathering around the fire pit and dessert left up to my imagination.


Friday I went traditional with a bonus, baking three-dozen cookies and tossing in a quart and a half of homemade, French-style ice cream. I forgot how much fun it is to make this, to create a careful custard, cool it down for hours, then freeze it into some spectacular dessert. I may do more of this.

I may have to. My weight keeps dropping, impossible to rationalize or ignore. I could argue that it’s a small drop, but I have a history and I’m creeping into that territory, and there’s little I can do about. As I told a friend the other day, of all the physical issues I could have imagined dealing with as I turn 60, it never occurred to me that the only problem I’d have would be trying not to lose too much weight. God laughs, etc.

There’s nothing psychologically going on, or at least not overtly. My mood is fine, and actually better than in a long time, and I attribute some of this to a much healthier diet, far less meat and much more fruit and veggies. I just can’t eat as much as I used to, my sweet tooth is fine but not aggressive, and I’m usually fine and satisfied with a very consistent amount of food every day that seems to have knocked off half a pound a week this year so far. Some of that’s perspective, and just numbers, and the consistency will change the weight (instead of over-indulging and seeing the scale jump 3 pounds overnight, then slowly creep back down, I’m carrying the same amount of food in my gut pretty much every day).

So, old story. I’m on it. I’m thinking I may be making a lot of custards this summer, just to be on the safe side.

Chuck SigarsComment