Virtue & Mischief: Nearly perfect


As I write this, Krista lies a few feet away, warm and snug in a comfortable bed, reading a good book. My wife is happy. Last night we cuddled up together and watched perhaps the best baseball game I have ever witnessed. I did not concern myself with work obligations, neither of us fretted about various tasks around our home which require attention, and there were no children in the background hollering, “DADDD!!”

At this precise moment, the only sounds I hear are a few cars driving by in the distance, the rubbing of her fingers on paper as she turns a page, and the clickety-clacking of my fingers on the computer keyboard. I have just enjoyed a peaceful and filling breakfast and am sipping some decent (I cannot lie; it is not better than “decent”) coffee. In short, I am inhabiting—for a few more blessed moments—Tim Swensen’s version of heaven-on-earth. It is nearly perfect.

For the past couple of days, Krista and I have taken up residence in a nondescript hotel in middle-of-nowhere Ohio (population, us) and we have tried to do just about nothing. Mission accomplished! Oh, alright—because we are both big-time risk takers by nature, we did try our hand at a few things we almost never get to do in our normal, every-day lives: We slept uninterrupted until 8 a.m. We ventured into a bizarre and foreign territory when we spoke to each other in complete sentences. A couple of times this weekend, we even (GASP! Mon dieu!) risked dipping our toes into those metaphorical bodies of water we both enjoy vague memories of—the “Sea of Full Paragraphs” and the “Bay of Attentive Conversation.” We read, we exercised, we saw a terrific movie, we ate calm and unhurried meals, we lingered in the bathroom, we watched television, and we soaked up the sounds of silence.

Silence. Ahhhhhhhh.

Yes, but a man with three teenagers can only absorb so much good stuff without getting antsy. We are on day four now, and it’s time to return home. I have reached my limit. I am developing what some clinicians refer to as “relaxation-induced anxiety.” Too much quiet, peace, and order make me nervous after a few days. I am beginning to wonder what sorts of catastrophe have already occurred back home without my being aware and how long it will take for me/us to clean up the mess. Oh, sure, Abby’s sent us reassuring (borderline giddy, even) texts throughout the weekend, but really, how can we trust her?? She’s always putting a shiny gloss on even the direst of situations. Abby is—and I mean this in the most admiring way—a modern-day version of Annie Hall. “La-di-dah!” should be her middle name. After four days with the amigos, has granny (finally?) lost her sanity? If so, who could blame her? Certainly not I! Has Luke showered or left the house? Has Daniel consumed anything other than Cheetos? Has the plumbing in our humble abode finally collapsed, leaving a lake of sewage in our basement? Has Graystripe, our cat, been stranded in our bedroom closet all weekend, leaving a variety of grotesque and smelly mementos? The mind reels.

Yes, I’d better shower and shave and pack the bags. I’d better check my work email and attend to some unfinished business. Time to load up the car and hit the road. Maybe we’ll arrive by mid- afternoon and still have time to go grocery shopping and put in a few loads of laundry, help forge an intra-sibling détente, take out the trash, wash some dishes, change some light bulbs, soak up the chaos and cacophony of our home.

Sigh. Time to leave our little, quiet, admittedly bland slice of heaven behind and return to Purgatory, USA.

Krista rises from bed now, places her book at the foot, and dresses to go downstairs and exercise a little while before we drive home. She walks toward me and opens up the drapes next to the desk where I am typing, exposing the view supplied by our room—a British Petroleum truck stop, half a dozen semis strewn helter skelter across the hardscrabble parking lot, scrub bushes, a handful of dead or dying trees, and a couple of acres of gravel, mud, and small craters filled with brackish water. Yes, it’s true. When it comes to pleasing my beautiful bride, I spare no expense.

Well, like I said. It’s NEARLY perfect.

By Tim Swensen

Virtue & Mischief

Timothy Swensen is the author of the column series Virtue and Mischief. He can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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