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Jim Bishop | Home alone: Don’t cry for me, Harrisonburg

The week just passed gave evidence to something I’ve aspired to for a long time – I can manage quite well without adult supervision.
Previous summers about this time, I lose all sense of purpose and direction when my first mate hoists anchor and sets sail for a week-long outing to Ocean City, N.J., with her sister and about 10 other old friends from the Lancaster, Pa., area. It’s Anna’s last passage over relatively calm seas before battening down the hatches for another year of kindergarten teaching.

I don’t begrudge her going one iota. She needs this brief respite to help prepare her for the long, stressful days waiting in her bustling classroom. She still loves imparting knowledge and arbitration skills to wiggly five-year-olds, but the task gets more demanding and challenging with each passing year.

So, I stand poised on the threshold of a full week without my supportive spouse. It means preparing only preparing half the amount of coffee in the percolator (does that word still exist?) before going to bed, playing the stereo at a volume necessary to fully appreciate every golden tone of Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Duane Eddy, reaching into the bedroom closet every morning to find freshly-iron shirts and slacks for the week arranged in a row by guess who and cleaning out spoiled feline Avery’s smelly litter box.

It also means, if I play my Rook cards correctly, getting through the week without fixing any meals at home – other than cold cereal, orange juice and coffee for breakfast.

It means having to answer the phone every time it rings, despite the recorded message that informs callers, “Sorry, but we’re arguing over whose turn it is to answer the phone.”

Actually, I seemed to be managing quite well until . . . bedtime arrives, and the house is quiet except for the occasional mournful meow from Avery whom I’ve forgotten to feed. I have my quiet time, catch the local weather forecast from WSVA, turn out the light and it’s all too quiet, except by now Avery tries to snuggle up next to me with loud purrs, her long whiskers tickling my face.

I felt somewhat better after getting a cell phone call from Anna telling me she’s pulling into Ocean City. The long drive was uneventful except for nightmare traffic on Interstate 95. The only problem: she realized that she forgot her swim suit – after having bought two new ones earlier this summer. Her first order of business, after settling in, was to look for another bathing suit. At least they should be on sale by this time of the summer. I told her she’d look good in a two-piece.

I did achieve my food foraging goal for the week. I arranged a “business lunch” every day with daughters Jenny and Sara; one of our pastors, Jennifer Davis Sensenig; Oscar Alley, the honorary mayor of Penn Laird and loyal listener to my weekly “Friday Night Jukebox” radio show on WEMC-FM; and friend Steve Shenk. One evening I took grandson Jacob to his favorite fast food place and another evening my backyard neighbor Harold Huber, whom I meet with for dinner every few weeks. Good fellowship and fare-thee-well prevailed.

The one evening I did stay home I heated up some barbecued chicken purchased the day Anna left for the shore, supplemented by some cheese crackers and an ice cream sandwich from the freezer.

I mowed the yard, went swimming twice at Westover after work, created a photo collage to post in the church fellowship hall and, quite unexpectedly, traded my faithful ’97 Miata for a like-new ’99 forest green Miata with 30,000 miles on the odometer.

Anna called from the porch of the place the group is staying on her last day there and reported “near perfect weather” four out of five days on the beach.

Saturday afternoon, I call wifey how the long drive back is going, and she replies, “I’m pulling on to Mt. Clinton Pike.” She left earlier than expected, traffic was surprisingly decent most of the way and the Alero just hummed along.

It was a fantastic week. I survived, stronger for the experience, with renewed appreciation for my spouse.

Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. Alas, my waistline also grew an inch.


– Column by Jim Bishop

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