My father was an anti-social fellow. Instead of going to birthday parties or grocery shopping with my mother, he sat in his Barcalounger and watched war movies on TNT. His reputation was known far and wide, and my poor mother usually showed up alone at social events while he sat in front of the TV, planning the Normandy invasion.
It wasn’t that he hated people; he just hated to be around them.
Could I have inherited that gene or idiosyncrasy, or whatever it is? At this stage in my life, after more socializing than I ever cared to do – some of it required by my job and the rest of it required by my wife – I’m becoming, you might say, a “recluse.” I prefer to keep to myself even though I don’t own a Barcalounger.
My oldest daughter, who works in the fashion industry, is always text-messaging me about the celebrities she sees at events she attends. I’m convinced she could write the Page Six gossip column in the New York Post.
A recent message proclaimed: “Guess who’s at dinner with us? Jack Nicholson.”
A text during a flight from L.A. said: “That singer Robin Thicke is in the next seat.”
A message from a company event declared: “Coco and Ice-T are sitting near me.”
So I text-messaged her back and advised: “Don’t be rude. Put down the cell phone. I don’t care about those people anyway.”
At this stage in my life – I keep using that phrase – my priorities have changed. I don’t want to be around celebrities. I don’t want to go to fashionable events for work or play or curiosity. Furthermore, I don’t want to go to the mall or the movies or charity galas. Unlike my father, I still attend an occasional birthday party and go grocery shopping with my wife as the occasion permits, or more accurately, she demands.
When I stopped to reflect on what matters most at this stage in life – sorry – the list is remarkably short and unpretentious. They are things that give me the greatest pleasure, and let me assure you, happy hour and watching the Oscars aren’t among them.
I get the most peace from praying the rosary with my wife Sandy, in the evening when the setting sun shines through the window and the golden rays illuminate the face of the Blessed Mother’s statue. Something about that time of day and praying together fulfills me spiritually – at least until our dog Bella comes in, drops her ball at my feet and starts barking for me to play fetch. So much for tranquility.
She’s a smart dog, but she doesn’t understand the importance of prayer time. However, at night, when Sandy and I lie on the bed and pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, Bella snuggles up between us, and I realize I’d rather spend time with them than with Coco and Ice-T.
Another favorite activity is walking the dog through the fields and letting her lead me where she wants to go, sniffing and scampering along the way. That simple pleasure outside, under a deep blue sky filled with cumulus clouds gives me more joy than going to see the latest Hollywood blockbuster or Broadway hit musical.
And as much as I love to wander through the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I have something that’s much more fulfilling – eucharistic adoration. None of us has enough quiet time with Christ because we live in a society addicted to distraction, and the result is apparent. No Jesus, no peace. There are spiritual benefits to adoration that we’ll never understand in this life. Adoration changes us in ways we may not even realize. Jesus is always at work, sometimes when we least expect it.
Beyond a doubt, I’d rather spend my time with Jesus than with George Clooney or Jennifer Lawrence. Of course, nothing can compare with daily Mass in a quiet church where you can be alone with Christ and your thoughts.
Just to mix it up, so I don’t sound too much like Dad, I thoroughly enjoy going out to a good seafood restaurant on the shore for fried clams or grilled salmon.
What does it say that I can list the greatest pleasures in my life on one hand? And why are they such simple pleasures? I’ve come to realize that time with Christ, time with my wife and time with my dog is the most precious time of all.
At this stage in my life, I’ll leave Jack Nicholson and the party crowd for someone else. Life is too short. Or maybe it has taken me this long to finally realize what’s truly important.
As St. Paul, writing from prison, told the Philippians, “Christ has shown me that what I once thought was valuable is worthless. Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage.”
J.F. Pisani is a writer who lives with his family in the New Haven area.