Artist’s Lane: When to leave the party? Where we were then

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    By Betty Slade
    PREVIEW Columnist

    Perusing my old “Artist’s Lane” articles, I found an article I wrote in 2016. It’s interesting to read where we were four years ago:

    I convinced My Sweet Al to attend a book signing party with me. He didn’t want to go, but I insisted. It’s the Christmas season. He needed to do some Christmas socializing with me and enjoy doing it. 

    His response, “How long will we have to stay?”

    “Probably 30 minutes. It’s a book signing event.”

    We went. I was with friends and Al was with me. Thirty minutes into the party, he gave me the eye and a nod. We both knew what that meant. It’s time to leave. But I wasn’t ready to leave the party.

    I made my way toward the door. Passing through the crowd, a writer friend said to me, “You were right on target with your last article about the divided house.”

    Music to my ears; I wanted to hear more. I stopped in my tracks. Not only did I want to hear more, I wanted to talk about it.

    Gregg, my writer friend, said, “I was a football coach back in the day. We had A and B squads on the same team. They played against each other every day in practice. Just like in the NFL, the offense plays against the defense. They compete against each other to make both sides of the ball better.

    “Democrats and Republicans compete against each other to make our country better. Whichever team is in control is the A team. The teams constantly change. Now the Democrats are the A team. In January, it will be the Republicans.

    “There are a lot of tough games to be played against some dirty players in 2017. We need to be on the same team. A team divided can’t win.”

    I agreed and become engrossed in the conversation and forgot about Al waiting for me. Gregg’s thoughts were good and I needed another article. Al would have to wait.

    I looked up to find Al. He had moved closer to the door. I was still in the throes of hearing about the impact of my article. My Sweet Al was still watching me and he gave me another nod and this time a lift of the eyebrow.

    Hank, another writer, entered into our circle of “deep thought” and the conversation became more interesting. I looked up again and Al was standing, facing the glass door and looking into the street.

    “Oh, no,” I said to the two writers. “Al is standing at the door, staring outside just like Whiskey does when she needs to go out. I should go. But before I do, tell me about …”

    Finally I said, “I need to leave.” I reluctantly broke away from the writers and joined Al in the car. He had pulled this stunt on me before at my other writers’ socials. I was not a happy person leaving the party. But the car was leaving and I needed to be in it.

    He said, “You said, 30 minutes.”

    “OK, I lied, it was 45. But I was having fun.”

    It took 30 minutes on the drive home to the Blanco before the car heater finally warmed up and took the frost out of the air, if you get my drift.

    When we got home, I had a call on the answering machine. A man said he read my article about the divided house. He had been married 50 years and eight months and was now alone. His wife left him because of their young teenage son. I felt the pain come through his message. I wanted to cry for him, but he just needed to talk. He said he realized that I didn’t have the same problem, but if I wanted to talk, call him.

    I was still upset with Al, but we were both coming around. He took me away from my friends and I made him wait. Kind of childish, wouldn’t you think?

    Meanwhile, he started looking at a photo album and was crying. He showed me pictures of our children. My Sweet Al went from naughty to nice. 

    I asked, “Why are you crying?”

    “I have so many regrets. I was on the road for 18 years and I wasn’t home to be with our children.” He cried some more.

    I said, “I know. But you’re making it up to them now. When they call, you are there. You’ll do anything for them. They know you love them.”

    “We did live in a divided house for years, but by God’s grace we were able to keep the walls standing and the roof on top. We didn’t lose the house or the family unit.”

    I patted him on the head, “Meanwhile, let me have those pictures, I’ve got to put them on my Throwback Thursday Facebook page. These pictures are priceless.”

    Al continued to cry as he walked down memory lane and I was thrilled to have my next article and pictures for Throwback Thursday.

    Soon we will be leaving 2016 and moving into a new year. We need to leave those regrets behind. They won’t do us a bit of good unless we’ve learned how to treat each other and appreciate what we have together. It’s hard to stay unified, but it’s worth the work of trying.

    Final brushstroke: I know it hurts to leave the party when you’re having fun and you’re feeling empowered by your cronies. I know it hurts to be married 50 years, eight months and now be sitting alone. And, I know it hurts for a man to live with so many regrets because he left his family to make a living for them.

    So, when do you leave the party? A house divided won’t stand, and we need to be unified for the big game in 2017.

    I’ve learned it’s better to leave when I get the nod and the raised eyebrow. When I leave the party, I want a house to go home to.

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