A Man Alone

"Don't Worry 'Bout me, I'll Get Along"
That's the Sinatra lyric (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHAIZqYHPpA) that I always sing or say to Audrey when she is heading out the door and leaving on a trip. And that's been a lot lately. Israel earlier in the year. Bulgaria on a mission trip. Another journey with a dear friend. And Hillsville, Virginia, for the big "flea market" over Labor Day weekend.

The girl likes to travel, and I am happy for her to go, and encourage it.

This time she is leading a group of FBCA-ers on a mission trip to Beirut, Lebanon. We prayed at the church van as they prepared to leave for Dulles on Friday afternoon and I'll greet them at the airport when they return this Thursday night. The last thing I said as I waved good-bye was "Don't worry 'bout me..."

Now, the fact is that, after forty-three years of marriage, I am more dependent on my wife than I have ever been. I am in many ways lost without her. She's my dearest friend and confidant. The one I sing to, laugh with and, if you believe her, constantly have to touch or pat. Playing with her hair and in other ways annoying her.

I can take a week to ten days of her absence, but beyond that perhaps she should worry a little about me back here in Alexandria.

How have I been spending my time during this most recent trip?

Well, Friday night I went to the movies and saw the biopic, "Judy"—all about the last days of Judy Garland.

I had a commitment around mid-day Saturday. But besides that, I have been curled up in the evenings with a book. Currently something for my mind and my soul, the latest by my friend Jim Wallis.

Both Friday and Saturday nights I grilled some meat and ate alone out on the deck, enjoying the last gasp of summertime, even though autumn had already officially begun. I don't mind eating alone. I'm an introvert, you know, so the peace and quiet of dining alone replenishes my spirit. I read the paper or a magazine while I eat.

At other times, though, I crave companionship and time around the table with friends. Sunday night a lovely family in the church invited me and a few others over and we ate outside at their place. We talked about careers, children's birthday parties (they've changed since I was planning them!) and (following up from that morning's sermon) questions about death and dying.

The others had to leave when their kids needed to get to bed for school the next morning. "I can stay longer," I volunteered—I hated to leave I was enjoying myself so much. But I excused myself for home, too.

Now that the work week is going it will be more of this sort of thing. Last night I ate in the food court at Springfield Mall. Tonight my fellow pastors and I will be hosting Justin Wilson, Alexandria's mayor, for some food and conversation. As we are thinking ahead to what FBCA will be like once we enter the new facility (late next Spring), we want to hear from his perspective how we might be better neighbors and a more positive influence in our city. Next week we will do the same with other city leaders. A lot of listening.

And of course--there's dinner at church on Wednesday night.

Time away from each other ends up strengthening our marriage, I think. Evenings spent quietly with just myself allow for more self-reflection and "soul work." I think of things that I hadn't had time to consider in the regular flow of things.

I start to say some of them out loud—and then I remember that the house is empty except for me and I am all alone. The sharing will have to happen later. Audrey and I will no doubt have much to tell each other when Thursday night rolls around.
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