I used my bachelor weekend to write until midnight on Friday and Saturday, just me and the dog and a bottle of Laphroaig in a quiet house. Lovely.
News & Record
The old joke has it that life begins not at conception or at birth, but when the dog dies and the kids leave home. For me, summer began when the kids left for camp and my wife went to visit a friend in New York, leaving the still-vital dog and me home alone for four happy days.
I get some funny looks when I tell people how much I enjoyed my time without the family, as if it means I don't love them anymore and would like to live out my days as a hermit in a cave without any human contact. Such is not the case, as caves have notoriously poor Internet access, but the occasional monastic moment definitely has its attractions.
Family lore has it that each day of the summer my great-grandfather Cone would row himself to the center of a large lake and just sit there in the boat by himself. I used to think this was an odd habit, perhaps related to his experience as a surgeon in the First World War, but now I believe I understand what he was doing out there.
Centering down, the Quakers call it, reaching a quiet core of your self, and it is all the more essential today in a culture that has lost its appreciation for silence and gentle ambient sounds. The boom-box on the beach that drowns out the waves, the iPod carried on a run around the park, the cell phone required for any car trip longer than five minutes -- it's as if people are afraid to be alone with themselves.
I wasn't exactly alone with myself when my family dispersed, I was alone with the dog, and that was even better. She doesn't say much, Luna, but she's a good listener, and she's good company.
We went to work each day and walked around downtown together and grilled steak for dinner and ate it while watching reruns of "The Simpsons." As much as I enjoyed a beach trip with our extended family earlier in the summer, the stripped-down routine of life with the dog was in its own way even more relaxing.
The best part is that when my brief idyll of quietude was over and Lisa came home from her own short vacation from the family, we still had a week left without our offspring in the house. I called it Grown-up Camp. Activities included going out for Indian food, seeing current movies in theaters instead of renting old ones to watch on TV, staying up late enough to watch "The Daily Show" and not chauffeuring children to and from the swimming pool three times a day.
Every morning I would send each kid an e-mail (that's how it's done these days, you e-mail the camp and they print it out for the campers) and then get on with my wonderful new life without them.
Missing someone is a nice feeling, it means you really do care about them and value their presence in your life, but you need some distance between you to make that particular magic happen. Our children give our existence so much meaning, substance and structure that it's no wonder we want to ship them off from time to time.
When they did make their eventual reappearances, we were very happy to see them, and they appeared to be reasonably pleased to be home, too. The dog seemed thrilled to have her entire pack reunited. And now, as the crickets sing in Charlotte's Web," "summer is over and gone, summer is dying," and another school year is upon us. The kids don't seem quite ready for it, and I know their parents are not, but I guess it wouldn't be summer if it lasted all year.
© News & Record 2005