Five Points, Vol. 9 No. 2Fall 2005
From Thomas Lux, “I think the only freedom I need (that all of us need) is time.”
Because he’d been one, an airline pilot, he was accustomed to keeping irregular hours so the prospect of being on call appealed to him. He imagined waking up to a ringing phone—they don’t ring anymore, he thought, they chortle—saw himself backing down the driveway at irregular hours, ten thirty at night, two in the morning.
“The premise, if you will,” said the priest, the “basic idea, is that we’ll have somebody on call at all times who’s ready and willing to do whatever’s required. I don’t even want to say required, too impersonal, too legalistic. What I’ll say instead is needed. The simplest words are often the best, don’t you find? We’ll have somebody ready to do what’s needed.”
I could probably do that, Tom thought. What’s needed.
“Look at it as an opportunity for spiritual growth. Ask yourself how you might be affected by daring to reach out in this age of disconnectedness. You give somebody a ride to work or to the doctor. Teach somebody to use e-mail. Keep somebody company during a difficult time. What’s the effect on you? How might you be changed?”
Tom added his name to the sign-up sheet in the lobby after mass.
Margaret was pleased. Like most pilots’ wives she’d gotten accustomed to her husband being out of town three or four nights a week. They, she and Tom, had always acted as if his absences were a hardship. They’d talked of managing. Every once in a while somebody, a woman, usually, who’d had a couple of glasses of wine, usually, would call them on their forbearance. “It doesn’t sound that bad to me,” this tipsy woman would say. “Breaks, right? Lots of mini vacations. Do what you want, eat what you want, watch what you want on TV. It’s probably good for your sex life, no?” Tom and Margaret were always quick to concede that there were compensations but on the whole, they maintained, it wasn’t easy. Tom had been retired now for a year and ten months. Margaret was beginning to wonder if his image, his square-jawed, handsome face had somehow burned itself into her retinas. Whenever she closed her eyes, there he was.