It’s 3:00 in the afternoon, late June, in Southwest Florida.
Like clockwork every day since we’ve been here, the sky darkens ominously, palm tree branches rustle nervously, and rain pours from above. I’ve learned to take an umbrella whenever I go out in the afternoon. If I’m not back home before 3:00, I’ll need it.
This afternoon I am home, stretched out on the leather sofa in our back bedroom which serves as a den. Osensibly, I’m reading Every Last One, Anna Quindlen’s recent novel about the “ordinary life” of Mary Beth Latham (whose life, I suspect is about to become anything but ordinary.) I’m distracted from this story, though, by torrents of water sluicing off the tiled roof, racing down the brick paved sidewalk to run off into the street. I’ve been watching it for a few minutes now, staring blankly at the rain while the ceiling fan stirs the cold conditioned air around my bare feet, prompting me to snuggle them underneath a blue and brown striped throw pillow.
Earlier this afternoon, I’ve wandered from room to room in this house, idly picking up picture frames, turning on lamps, opening mostly empty drawers in decorative chests and tables. We created this house from scratch almost 10 years ago, watching it built from the ground up untl we were finally presented with a tabula rasa of empty rooms to fill. Everything here was brand spanking new, a novel treat for the pair of us who have lived in the same two (old) places for our entire lives. But on this rainy afternoon, I poked through rooms which have remained pristine, opened drawers and cabinets that still release the perfume of new wood, and wondered what to do with it all now.
Here’s my fatal flaw – I never expect change. Stupid, I know. I’m over half a century old, certainly I’ve seen enough change in my life to realize the inevitably of it. Still, I continue to block it out, stuff the possibility of it into the furthest corner of my mind and go blithely on as if every day will continue just like every other. So change always takes me by surprise, forcing me to react to it being imposed upon me, rather than embrace it as something I’ve chosen for myself. Consequently, I feel powerless, and stupid, and angry with myself. I’d like to be the change-maker for once, the reason everyone else in my little world has to stop, take stock, and figure out how to respond, the one that pulls in the reins on everyone else’s life.
Realistically, I know that isn’t likely to happen. I’m as predictable in my complacency as these afternoon thuderstorms. So as the skies above me begin to darken again with the spectre of change, I’ll take cover under my umbrella and wait for sun to return.