there's a man who lives down the road from my grandpa and me. in a clapboard white shack. a few yards back from the rural lane. right in the crook of the turn.
for as long as i can remember, he's rented that little house. long enough to have paid off a real mortgage years ago. but month after month, he shells out the cash. to maintain his little refuge, alone in the country with a few good dogs.
old pickups, at least four of them, decorate the front lawn. there is a metal contraption in the yard upon which at least a dozen randomly shaped birdhouses hang lackadaisically. clothes are hung on the line even when it's raining. the back porch is visible from the road, decorated top to bottom with old license plates, rusty with age and weather. a lifetime bachelor, it's not uncommon to see him sitting shirtless on his deck, surrounded by his few best friends, being a little too loud.
and all around the place, random bits of furniture are scattered. a few worn down barns sit just off to the left, old tobacco sheds rotting away season by season. on halloween, he passes out stale circus peanuts.
from an outside eye, he is a bit eccentric, to say the least. but he's a good man--a harmless outlaw holding on to what he loves.
yesterday we drove by his place, going slow in the snow.
and i saw smoke rising from his deteriorating chimney. heard lynyrd skynyrd blaring from somewhere inside his heap of a home. and imagined him. in his favorite recliner, hands wrapped around his meager cup of weak coffee. not hurting anyone, just being. being himself. alone. comfortable.
and i thought about the line between offbeat and crazy. and i think he has managed to squeeze his ripped up wranglers right in between. sometimes i envy his ability to live so openly, so completely him. without any care of societal norms or what anyone might think.
because what is normal? maybe, for some people, normal takes on a different appearance. that doesn't mean it's not completely suitable for them.
i don't think my neighbor is crazy. misunderstood, yes. but content, secure and sweet? you betcha.
look past the chaos littered on the lawn, and inside sits a man who's got a lot of life, at least the part i struggle with, neatly ironed out.