Giving thanks for the simple things

This afternoon I was out on the front porch painting a second coat of white on our porch swing. For the last month, we’ve been working on repainting the outside of the house, a project which was no small undertaking.

“Do you do eyes?” 

I looked up from the bench. It was Darryl, the neighbor riding up on his bicycle. Darryl lives in a trailer up the road with about two hundred bicycles in his front yard. Among them stands a confederate flag. He loves bicycles and is constantly resurrecting them from various locations on the island. We’re not sure how they get there. Rumors abound.

“What?” I wondered if I heard him right. “Yeah I do eyes. I’m an optometrist. Why?”

“Oh I heard that from the lady at the store. You have nice teeth. You should take care of them.”

“Thank you.” I smiled. ” Yeah you have to brush them all the time.” 

“Well your smile becomes you.” Then he rode off home again.

As I went back to my painting, I thought how strange this little island is. I wonder who told him I was an optometrist. This town is so small- only 1300 people- it’s not like anything is a secret.

Yesterday at the post office I was walking out to my car and a man in his sixties approached me. “Are you really from Iowa?”

I was confused, as usual, about my origins. “Well kind of. My family moved there. I can’t work here until March, so I am sort of in between places.” I gave the short version of my reason for being on an island with Iowa plates. And somehow mentioned that I was an optometrist. His wife had eye cancer recently, and was still in the process of treatment. He was the second person who I randomly met with a direct family member who had eye cancer. The day before it had been a man on the ferry from DC whose granddaughter had bilateral eye tumors as an infant.

Sometimes I think this profession is useless repetitiveness but when I hear things like this, I figure that we’re doing good things. For the last five years, I’ve been working off and on, which has allowed me freedom to travel, regenerate and visit family. Lately, I’ve used my free time to work on the house and the yard with Justin. But I think the best thing about the quiet time is that it gives me time to appreciate this life.

We’re headed to Iowa for Thanksgiving. The first Thanksgiving that my whole family has spent together since 2000. I’m thankful this year to be traveling back to my family, with Justin in tow. I’m thankful for this new journey we are on, one small step at a time. 

Published on Nov 19, 2012

Grit Magazine

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