Ghosts of the Patio…

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I sat outside, drinking some Pumpkin Spice coffee, talking to my friend Kathy on the phone, as a thunderstorm blew already burnt-orange leaves across my driveway. It’s hard to believe that somewhere in the last few weeks, summer has danced away into the night and “The Something Wicked This Way Comes” way of autumn has brought mums to the front porches of my neighbors and thoughts of Halloween into the eyes of the children waiting for their school buses. And in a way, I’m ready for fall. But with each passing day, I feel more and more that I’m really and truly, as my mother was fond of saying, on borrowed time.

Tonight, as I was editing a chapter of my book, I put “To Kill a Mockingbird” on in the background, a comforting ritual which plays like a scrapbook soundtrack to my childhood. As the movie begins, Scout announces that during that summer, the days were 24 hours long…but seemed longer. And that is exactly how I feel today. And yet…I still can’t fit everything I want to do into my long day. Between seeing clients, running a social blog with Alex, running this blog, writing my book, taking naps, reading a few books a week, spending time with friends and catering to our two new puppies…there just never seems like enough time and I always have more things I want to do. Like getting a new library card at the Nora Library branch where I used to go as a child. Or make a list of all of the things I want to do before I die. Or go see about five movies. Or write a letter to my kind 80, year old neighbor lady who rocks away her days on her back porch, watching the days slowly turn.

On the phone with my friend Kathy, who has recently been diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy, she told me that she feels like she needs to slow down. “So why don’t you?” I asked her. “I don’t want to.” She said, matter of factly. And in some sense, she probably feels that she is on borrowed time as well. But aren’t we all? Every day I read two meditation books and my “Words of Wisdom” book while drinking my morning coffee to keep me centered. I also throw in some pulp fiction of Dan Brown or John Grisham just to even it out! This morning in my wisdom book, one of the phrases shot waves across my skin; “Time is not for sale”. Ahhhh…how true. And just like Kathy, I don’t want to slow down either.

But last night, Alex and I made a chili dinner, complete with garlic bread and corn muffins gone completely gone. Two of our closest friends came over and we watched tv and played video games late into the night. One of our friends, Stacy, sat at the computer while we were waiting on the corn bread and read this blog. Afterwards, she and I went out on the front porch to smoke a cigarette and she asked me how my mom died. For several minutes, I retold the story, crying as I always do when I explain how the last few minutes before my mother passed away were a tribute to years of strong spiritual faith. I looked up and saw tears in Stacy’s eyes. And knowing that she is truly one of the most genuine people I have met in a long time, I looked at her and said, “It would have made my mom so happy to have us all over here, making dinner, playing games and watching tv. She would have loved to have been part of that.”

But life moves fast, faster than I really like to admit these days. It seemed like one day I was wading in the creek behind our house long into the summer evenings, the next I was driving around with my friends in high school, thinking of new ways to sculpt our hair while listening to punk rock, then I was drunk, and then I was sober, and then I was motherless, and then I was in love…and now I’m 37. And I’m still here, dammit! But we all need a place to slow life down a little bit…

And that place for me is on my best friend Tonya’s patio. For years, she and I and several other friends would find ourselves sitting on her patio, rocking and laughing, drinking large fountain sodas, yelling after her redneck dogs, laughing, gossiping, crying, long into the night. And for me, no matter where I am, or who I’m with, there is a solace and a piece of mind I find on that patio. It is where I have made almost all of my most recent life decisions. It is my home and it is my sanctuary. On that patio, my feet up on the fire pit, a cigarette in my hand, chatting a mile a minute to my dearest friend, life…slows…down…

Earlier this summer, Tonya told me she was going to write a short story about all of the people who had visited the patio in the past few years, all of the times we had and all of the stories we had told. Essentially, I think she was saying, “where the hell did everyone go?” And I hadn’t been being a very good friend. I had been whisked away into social night life and as she always says, being “a man about town”. And I needed to slow down. So I found my way back to that patio. And really, it’s not the patio. It’s Tonya. She’s my heartstone. She’s my Emma in “Terms of Endearment”. And as long as she is still here, I’ll always have a patio.

So Kathy was right, it sucks to slow down, because you miss out on a lot, but Tonya was right too, you have to appreciate that which is most important to you. And I think there is a happy medium. I believe there is a patio for all of us, where time stops, laughter and tears fall like juice from a ripe peach and the stars are as bright as summer nights in the country. There must be and I hope I find it soon…because we’re on borrowed time as it is!

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