Earlier this spring, Tim had come across an interesting ad on the internet. An elderly couple was selling their house. They'd done a lot of updating and replacing only to discover that the home had a black mold problem in the basement. They now live in a mobile home right next to the house, and are selling the house, piece by piece. Need interior doors...they had just installed new ones. How about replacement windows? All new thermal windows. We bought the Trane furnace/air conditioner last spring. Tim and brother-in-law Dave had gone down to pick it up. This time, we were going down to get the bathroom. It was a new bathroom, scarcely used before they had to leave the house. We were also buying a pile of oak trim board. We're in the process of putting a house back together, and Tim just closed the deal on yet another house yesterday. We stockpile home improvement stuff.
This was the first time that I met Merlyn and Margaret. I already felt kind of bad for them. They were in a pickle with that house. All that work, and for what? They had to move out. But Merlyn was just as cheerful as he could be. In fact, he had actually uninstalled the bathroom for us, saving us quite a lot of time. Being the weisenheimer that I am, I quipped, "What? You wanted rid of us that badly?" Oh, he thought that was funny, and next thing you know, we're blabbing away like we'd known each other forever (I may not have mentioned it, but I am a talker. So was Merlyn). And we kept on talking, while we were loading the truck. I commented that it was hard to believe that summer was over already, and we looked around. "Yup," he said, "I have that big old travel trailer out back and we never used it this summer. Not one time." I said that it really had not been a very nice summer for camping. We'd had so much rain. "Well," says Merlyn matter of factly, "I had big plans. I finished my chemotherapy in the spring, and figured that Margaret and I would take the summer for ourselves. Then they decided to do radiation and I went 40 rounds with that." Not sure what to say, I finally decided to be as matter of fact as he had been. "So did they get it?" "Oh, hell, all they were doing was trying to buy me a little more time. Cancer will kill me. It's in my lymph nodes." Awkwardly, I allowed that I was sorry to hear that. "Yeah," was all he said, and then off he went telling me stories about being a soldier in WWII. He'd started out in the Navy, but they tossed him out, but the Army liked him just fine, and sent him off to see Europe, all expenses paid. And we were laughing and working together in the fall afternoon, surrounded by autumn gold.
I thought of Merlyn as we headed home in our loaded truck. Had to leave his home. Looking death square in the eye. Despite all that, just the happiest charactor you ever want to meet. Earlier this week, I'd compiled a mental list of the things that make me joyful, and was surprised to find that not one of those things was unattainable. All of it, already present in my life, just waiting for me to seize onto it. I thought of Merlyn's merry chuckle. Today I learned another thing about joy. It is not dependent on your circumstances.
Joy is a choice. A conscious choice.