Monday, July 8, 2013


Went for a ride on Friday to Vermont.  It was hotter than Hades in Boston and there were some friends who had invited us to a town in what I'll guess is the northern Berkshires.  Hot in Vermont too, but relatively comfortable compared to what was doing in the city.

Got about half way and were in stop and go traffic in a town that connected the interstate to a country road. Very charming little burg, but it was losing its charm as we chugged for what seemed like twenty minutes through the main street.  We were just about on the other side of town and ready to go on what would prove to be a pretty country highway, when we spotted what looked like a park.

We had some sandwiches in the cooler and figured this was as good a place as any to pull over and have lunch.  As we drove into the lot we saw that this was not, despite the appearance, a public park, but something called a Retreat Center.  Still, there was this picnic table on the lawn and the grounds were not swarming with retreaters. There were a number of cars in the lot, but I figured how much heat would a constable give me on the fourth of July weekend, for eating a sandwich at a picnic table even if the grounds were typically reserved for executive retreaters.

I had stuff on my mind, work and personal related, and that-added to the heat and the snail like traffic through town- had me in a mood one might call irritated.  Not much conversation taking place at the picnic table. Eating our sandwiches, passing the napkins, plucking some grapes, and drinking the water we'd packed. My nephew's wife once took a look at my mug when I was in one of these contemplative/irritated moods and commented, accurately, "Well Mr. Grumpy has joined us."

In the middle of our quiet lunch we noticed a couple emerge from the Retreat Center building.  He was dressed in a blue blazer with summer dress slacks.  She too was wearing a summer outfit, like what one might wear to work in August.  Summery, but staid.  She had a name card necklace that jangled about near the bottom of her top.

The couple looked subdued.  Did not seem to be having a great time at their retreat.  Holding hands but solemnly.  They took a look at us, got into their car silently and drove away.

We finished the sandwiches and packed up the car.  Then, just out of curiosity, went up to the front of the Retreat Center.   The sign at the door, we realized, was code.  This was no executive retreat center. This was a place, it seemed, for people who were in need of help.  Perhaps addicts, perhaps teens with behavioral problems.  This, it seemed, was a home for the troubled.  The couple we saw, we now figured, had been visiting someone.  Visiting day. Maybe meeting with the therapist to discuss the pain of their loved one, now, essentially, locked in the darkness on this sunny day.

The realization was a good antidote for Mr. Grumpy.  I can take the heat and should be able to withstand traffic even if its bumper to bumper. The travails that may seem debilitating to most of us, are very insignificant when compared to the emotional pain that others have to endure on a regular basis.  Probably a good idea to juxtapose the issues in our heads with the pain of wearing a name tag that reads "Guest" as you visit a tortured child who has retreated.  And the walk to your car holding the hand of your spouse silently.  And the drive back to what passes for normalcy with a hole in your heart where the whole used to be.

No comments:

Post a Comment