Dreaming of Dad

In the dream, Dad is pulling up his shirt to show me a bandage that is only half covering a bloody hole where his rib is broken. The bone is visible poking out of his chest. I am horrified. My mind is racing around how did this happen. I wake up.

Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. Twenty-four ribs organized in twelve pairs. God anesthetized Adam and took out a rib. When Adam woke up he looked at the woman and he saw the bone of his bone and the flesh of his flesh in perfect companion. Twenty-three and me.

Four days before their 58th wedding anniversary, my Dad died. Three weeks before he died, Dad tumbled on the driveway while they were moving into their new house, scraping up his knees and elbows.

There is a balm to heal. The wounds are clean and not infected. Edges crust and scab. Underneath new skin grows. In the hospital, I comment on how well the places had healed and it feels like the joke in the movie, Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s just a metaphor. And it goes over my head.

Dad had in his wallet a little piece of paper with 49 prostate-specific antigen or PSA scores. He had started in 1997 noting the date and the PSA number. Recording the information as he received it for almost 20 years. There had been two biopsies.

My imagination reels through the what ifs. I think of how it is my fault for not asking the right questions and being too easily comforted. Dad said it was a statistical anomaly.

The family gathered and we circled the wagons. We said goodbye. We waited by his side. At the end of the last day, I was tired and resting in a chair. On the other side of the bed, my Mom and brother spoke quietly. I could not keep my eyes open but I had decided to spend the night.

My brother was telling my Mom a story of how he had gone to pick up his daughter at her college and going to her class had caught a glimpse of her finishing a tough engineering exam. He had been moved seeing her there. This is the granddaughter that my Dad had often taken to McDonalds in his new truck when she was a preschooler. My brother spoke lovingly of his daughter and my sweet niece. The room filled with Love itself. And in that perfect moment of rest and grace, my Dad stopped breathing.

So, it was, when I was not looking or paying attention, that my Dad slipped the surly bonds. No more crying. No more pain. My father gently passed away leaving us to mourn and grieve such a loss. May it be well with our souls and I believe there is a balm in Gilead.IMG_3381

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Revelations 21:4 King James Bible












Where’s the Safest Place on Earth?

We were a motley group of twelve employment seeking souls that had somehow been plucked from the Monster resume pile by a recruiter for a car dealership. I was very amazed in our diversity in age, race, education, experience, and lack of experience. There were three 20 year old kids and several grandparents. The lady next to me said she was 50 years old and thought she was the oldest. I smiled and said nothing. The recruiter was a ex-marine with a lot of stories to tell. He loved slogans and had a lot of great ones. He is full on selling the idea of being a car salesman in order to make a lot of money. Is it easier being rich or poor? Why do you want to make money? He tells us his personal story to prime the pump and off we go with some truly interesting and detailed reasons. The 20 year old girl is most earnest and she captures our attention by saying transgender. She needs to make money so her little sister who is transgender can get the hormone shots she needs. Also this caring girl wants to buy her long suffering Mom a cabin in Montana. Her Mom has always been there for her through all kinds of horribleness. The young boys were more direct – they needed money to live a good life. Then a discussion about car salesmen and why the general public dislikes them and what our love ones think about us selling cars. I wanted to say, “As of yet, nobody knows.” Again the 20 year old boy got our attention when he said his Mom thought selling cars was not safe. “How so?”, the recruiter asks. Well, then it got mumbly and we needed the Mom herself to explain. The ex-marine orders the boy to go home and ask his Mother where was the safest place on earth? The marine yells, “The safest place on earth is in a Maximum Security Prison. Tell your Mom,  that’s where it is, hence the name Maximum Security.” Well, I thought, that was a great ending to our money making discussion. Mo’ money Mo’ problems.

Seven Ways to Sunday

This week I think I found the reference for the expression seven ways to Sunday. Each Bible read through has something that jumps out with new meaning. For sure Moses had a way with a phrase. Giving up the ghost is a favorite. I was cruising along in Deuteronomy, nodding knowingly at Mose’s lack of patience with rebellious youth – stone them to death at the edge of camp. Moses may have been most humble but he had an anger management problem. You can look this one up if you don’t believe me. The rebellious youth verse is easy to remember because it involves numbers that all parents of rebellious children long for and appreciate – Deuteronomy 21:18-21. (You got to admit that it is an interesting coinkidink and a great memory aid.) Anyway, I got to a part with a long list of you-will-be blessings and there I found the phrase your enemies will come out against you one way and flee from you seven ways. Single-minded evil intent dispersed seven ways to Sunday. This is followed neatly with a long list of curses that include the one way out and seven ways back. The cursed will come out one way, turn running seven ways.

Of course seven is a lucky number. It is supposedly the number of comfortable slots available in our short-term memory. We measure out our lives in cycles of seven. Working for the weekend and starting over again. Seven ways to think about going one way or one way to think about going seven ways.

Rules, regs, and requirement abound whenever two or more of us are gathered. It had to be a hard thing to organize a large group of ex-slaves in the wilderness. More than once the congregation was taken to school. It was brutally simple – you were either blessed or cursed. This reviewing of the rules went on for forty years.

Forty years to prepare the next generation for the Promised Land. Forty days and forty nights to Resurrection Sunday. The dove returns to the ark with the good news of a fresh start. The great hope of never again. The temptation lasted forty days. Ministered by angels, raising eyes to heaven, the veil falls. We can see clearly for ourselves the power and the glory. Seven ways to Sunday.

And the land had rest from war.

First Second and Third Person

Memoir with a third person perspective is freakish. All of the I thought this or I felt that are missing. What is left is a highly descriptive telling that demands attention. Third person is the middle-aged person telling about the child. Her mother said she was an imaginative child. Second person is the consensus building storyteller. You do what you can to hang onto your integrity. This week I started a memoir where the author starts it in third person. It felt creepy like the author is having an out-of-body experiences as he tells the story of a childhood. When he becomes an adult he changes the perspective to second person with you, yours, and ours. It was a warmer read but still weird. Many of the experiences could not have been done by me as a woman. Somehow the book works for many fascinating reasons that include being in a body cast multiple times and his drive to make a living as a writer. The author tells of his search for a living in the second person. For sure we are together on life’s highway.

There is a trick to hiding the first person. Writing so the reader can relate. It is boorish to go on and on about one’s self. Being self-absorbed and thinking others care is a sacred delusion. The truth is we listen to hear our own story. We are detectives on the beat for information that will help our case. We want to be entertained or amused. We love beauty and drama and look for it. Sadly it is hard to step outside our self-centered perspective. The challenge is to put yourself last and consider it first.

And so I skipped ahead to the end and the author writes in first person. He experiences the power of the Spirit to be at work in him doing far more than he ever asked for or imagined. In the end it is a first person account of being saved. With a shiver going down my spine and goose bumps I say Amen.

Inevitable Surprise

The juxtaposition of those two words has been swirling around in my brain now for months begging to be explored in writing. I want to be a writer but I fail to write often. Reminds me of a lot of desires I have had that turn out to require more day-to-day attention than I am willing to commit. This is why I am happy to be back at a 9 to 5 job. It is easier to daily commit to a gig that pays. I love imagining the artist and lose patience with the practice. For instance, pottery is harder than it looks. It is better to be a patron of potters than the actual potter. But this is not what I want to write about this morning. Patterns and parenting, devouring love and destructive habits are on my mind. And what is the most inevitable surprise of all? Death.

Reading the last paragraph makes me want to point out that everything good comes as a result of day-to-day attention. Another way to work this is to carefully consider one’s intentions. My farmer granddad had a faithful dog named Petey. I was impressed by Petey’s command of the barnyard. Petey was a good and loyal dog and it was the day-to-day attention from Granddad and together their day-to-day intention to chores that made Petey great. I think Petey and Granddad had some fun together.

This brings back the childhood memory of wanting a Lassie to call my own and thinking that Granddad had made a Lassie out of a mutt named Petey. It is like marriage. Two people fall crazy in love, get married, have kids and thirty years later realize that through loving each other they have created something far more enduring than anything previously imagined. Ah… the creative power of love to overcome the destructiveness of time.

Time is at work. Cells die and are replaced with slightly inferior copies. The little telomeres at the tail end of each DNA ladder gets shabbier and shorter and it shows. We decline. At best we hope for a well-managed decline. But decline we will.

Knowing that we die is the only inevitable thing. From here to there is life. To live well is to love well. Both figuratively and literally, love is the creative power in us to propagate.

There are patterns that we fall into in order to comfort ourselves but we don’t know anything for sure. I want to devour my life. It is eventually to be a necessary loss. But let me have life in full. Grant me the courage needed to do what is good and right day-to-day. Let me understand my role as a parent and to be a guiding light to my children. Take my hand.

Lead me home.


To gather your loved ones together is to feel all is well with your soul. I have tried to explain over the years, whenever it comes up that Mom had a lot of boyfriends, that the reason was to try to feel secure. Boyfriends made me feel secure in the face of new circumstances. I have told a few that it was actually systematic. When I was taken from the big city and torn away from my first boyfriend, then dropped off without warning into Amish territory amongst football players and cheerleaders (enough said), I began compiling a mental list of possible boyfriends. I know being dropped off in the outskirts was traumatic because it continues to haunt my dreams. The reoccurring dream is being stranded without transportation in the township at the provincial high school trying to figure out which boy will be my safe harbor until I can get to college. (My dreaming self is constantly asking why I have to go to college all over again and where the hell is my husband anyway – aren’t I married?) Nowadays in my dream, I have a lot of trouble finding someone acceptable and then getting their attention. Being middle-aged has its drawbacks and my dreaming self recognizes it. But back to the first stateside summer of 1976, my Mom tells of me whipping my head around to check out the lush scenery of American boys. Working or playing, according to my Mom they were all looking pretty good to me.  It was probably a perfect time to leave South America or I’d be married to Wilson (a side story) and writing in Portuguese. But it was a confused, torturous summer spent partly in Ohio and Ontario with quite a few incidences that thankfully are not recorded and I hope I am spared a review of before entering the pearly gates. There was also a surreal trip to St. Johns in New Brunswick, again I am thankful there are no home movies. Finally and serendipitously I meet an intellectually oriented boy who captured my attention and I his. He went to a private school, had a car and lived with his never at home Mom at the town’s country club – all pluses. He was my lifeboat for two years. Sadly I always knew I would not marry him and as soon as I got the hell out of Dodge our coupledom would be over. I have memories of feeling bad about this, especially when my Mom loved him and wrote him letters. Just let it go, Mom. So now we are at college and still not feeling very safe. How does one feel safe when there is constant background chatter about how to avoid being raped by never being alone? The message I got was clear – get a boyfriend fast. There were endless possibilities and unbeknownst to me, I was already saying hello to my future husband and exchanging quips but first there were a lot of frogs to sort through. Here again, my Mom recently told a story about an incident that happened early in my freshman year that I cannot remember. It is like it did not happen. But I do remember his last name was Meek which is really fanscinating in and of itself. (You can’t make this stuff up.) So I don’t remember the incident at all but I do remember the name of the boy who rescued me, the newspaper account of it, and riding home with him hoping like hell he would ask me out. To date the football player who saved me from a gun welding psycho who had followed me into a dorm’s restroom would be the ultimate catch for my 18-year-old self. He was not the least bit interested in me. His first name was John – so many Johns. Let me stick to my theme here. One night it all changed for me. This is how it happened and of course, in hindsight it was Divine Intervention. Here’s the story. My friends and I were sitting around the dorm room telling of recent escapades and a girl who I knew from my high school casually mentioned that she had kissed my future husband late one night at a party and he wasn’t a very good kisser. This statement struck me with the singular thought – I have always wanted to kiss that boy and he’d be a good kisser kissing me. My soul got wide-eyed and accepted the challenge. Like America when Russia launched the first space probe, I knew with my ingenuity and drive, I could accomplish this and so much more. Three kids and 28 years later, he is still my man. Put that on your Facebook. Speaking of Facebook, the original kisser of my husband has connected with me and I have looked through her pictures trying to get an idea of her life now. She still has gorgeous hair and talks about her kids and big extended family, who were crazy way back when. (Her older sister had shoved me up against the high school lockers threatening to kill me if I didn’t leave her best friend’s boyfriend alone.) The original kisser seems happy. Talk about unintended consequences, it boggles the mind to think that an off the cuff statement about a failed attempt to hook up could result in all this. I gather my loved ones. I surround myself with lifelong relationships. I lean into everything I know about love. I pray to never be the one to forsake them or deny them. May we always be together.


This would be a good title for a book. Nuns wear habits. It is a word with a full spectrum of emotionally impact. There is a redundancy to calling someone an habitual something or other. We do all we can habitually. We do it out of habit. Habit is easy to fall into. It became a habit. On my birthday this year (a nice habit) driving to a job I am four months into and still in awe that I got, I started thinking of how there are patterns emerging of my life. After living more than 50 years, there are habits that reveal values with trend lines for easy graphing if I so desired. I am writing it instead, showing yet another trending value. There are core competencies and of course weaknesses to be disguised. The leaves on the trees were changing with my favorite yellows everywhere I looked. I felt good. Driving east towards a rising sun well in the flow of cars and trucks heading off to employment, I felt pretty sure about myself. Thankful for the many blessings, pondering if it all begins with an idea that you stubornly hang onto until out of habit it comes true. My six word biography comes to mind – Found Love Got Married Had Kids. But even before that I was working on the plan. Between 9 years old and twelve years old, I have strong memories of wild imaginations keeping me from sleep. If my parents were out, I would lie in bed imagining being an orphan, trying to figure out a general plan just in case tonight was the night. It would involve taking charge of the siblings to be the master of my own destiny. No living with relatives or foster families for me. There are also some embarrassing imaginings around Christmastime of what would become of me if like the mother of Jesus, I spontaneously got pregnant. This was before I really understood the whole concept of sexuality. Mom had explained the mechanics to me with a book in hand but I had assumed it was a medical procedure done under the guidance of a doctor. We didn’t have the media showing us how and hey, I wasn’t that far off. Many babies today are conceived through some pretty sterile doctor supervised settings. Back to my imaginings, the one that disturb me enough to tell my Mom was the eternal pit of black nothingness. What is nothingness? Nothing is something. What is endless? If infinity has a beginning then why not an ending. Here’s how it happened. I would go to bed, close my eyes, and feel myself hovering above an endless blackness going forever down and out and up. I would open my eyes to make it stop but the illusion would persist with the shadowy walls pushing out with an endlessness. I would touch the wall and still have a sense of expanse with me getting smaller and smaller. The only way to get over it was to go to sleep and start fresh in the morning. Now I know that there is a body map on the top of our brains with all points of our physical being laid out for easy perception. For instance, my fingers are typing and that is firing up the finger area of my brain. With perfect orchestration I am typing in my mind and in the physical world. My young self was getting a feel for my body map in space and Mom was probably correct, that it happened because I was overly tired. To me it was and still is the ultimate problem. We are very big and we are very small. Don’t sweat the small stuff is a comforting slogan but truly it is all small stuff in a big world. It is 52 years of small stuff. It is an eternity of small stuff. It is the day in and day out of putting on the armor and shield and trusting that you have your hand in the hand and you will not fall into the depths of darkness but you will be led towards the light. I got through the latency years and my imagining were replaced with all that is adolescent. There have been zigs and zags, chaos and divine order. I am and will always be, a habitual planner. Planners plan in spite of the evidence of things unseen. I have some new ideas and I am working on the plan.

Reckoning and Other R Words

Reconciling comes pleasantly to mind. To be restored is probably universally experienced as wonderful. I reckon we are all wretched and wrecked in one way or another. We each search the world for our way home. Gods knows. How about rescue, rest or my favorite instructive threesome, repeat, relate, reframe. It goes on and on but let’s get to the point. Hungry, thirsty, and a stranger, naked, sick, and in prison, a homeless man on a Sunday morning hurried up the few steps to the wide front door and walked into church. This was a start-up church on the main drag through the fancier part of a big city. All around were majestic sky scrapers, restaurants, and stores. Church was being held in an office type building facing a grand sidewalk. Most of the other buildings were not open for business but this building was having church. My thoughtful oldest son was an usher that day. He got the word that there was a situation in the foyer, a man without pants. Thankfully church was about to begin and the foyer was mostly empty. My son led the complaining man to the restroom. The man was sick. His pants had no doubt needed to go. What to do about a homeless man in the restroom? For God’s sake, keep him in the restroom until you can clothe him. If I had been there I would have called the police but younger minds prevailed on this Sunday morning and my son went to a nearby Target to buy the guy some pants. The story has a plot line that goes over a two Sunday period and ends with my son telling the homeless man that he will not be able to get him a suit and tie for an event coming up and actually the initial purchase of pants is not going to include a round trip bus ticket to attend an event for which he needs a suit. With a big sigh I write this because it makes me smile that the obviously delusional man saw a friend in my son, who truly proves a great friend. He would give you the shirt off his own back. When my oldest son was 15 years old, I drove my 10-year-old daughter and him to Washington D.C.. This is an interesting memory to me because I remember justifying driving instead of flying with the fact that my son had his driver’s permit and he would do a lot of the driving as training. There’s more. I also had his summer reading list which was private school impressive. My plan was to knock off A Separate Peace by listening to the audiotape as we drove. (I really was the  A-type Mom.) The book was engrossing, so much that when the boy falls (or gets pushed) out of the tree, my son  almost drives off the freeway. I stayed sharp after that but did not give up on finishing. We did finish listening to that book together and it was amazing. But to my story. We are in Washington D.C. and I have gotten us to Georgetown, envisioning a look-see at the cool night life I remember my husband and I being so impressed with years earlier. I have picked a pizza parlor and I am sure I was imagining how good a glass of wine was going to taste after a full day hiking the mall. A homeless man is begging. I think I might have looked at him briefly and smiled.  A mistake that resulted in him following us, saying your Mom sure has a nice smile, and my son giving him money and my instructing my son to not look, talk, or give money to homeless men. The rest of the evening I felt inadequate and vulnerable. It was night and I wanted to get the two kids safely back to the Holiday Inn with the door secured. To sum up, the son did learn to drive. In fact, he proved invaluable when I got hopelessly lost trying to find the Marine’s statue of Imo Jima and in desperation gave him the wheel so I could study the map. My son is a compassionate man. The word alone brings emotion to my eyes. Why do some humans fail to feel it and others feel it easily. Is it a genetic thing to empathize? For a sick and delusional man, it was a pair of pants from Target. I reckon with that purchase of pants, my son has completed the clothing the naked requirement for heaven which really after visiting someone in prison has to be the hardest one. Way to go. Check.

Fairhope Stables

My college daughter went to a dinner party for the school’s board of trustees. This is satisfying to me. She is getting the college experience (and recognition) I want for her. She sat at a judge’s table between an elderly businessman, the namesake of a building on campus and an ex-governor who teaches at the law school. Anywho, the Lady Judge had pictures on the wall of American Saddlebred horses and my perceptive daughter brought them up as a conversation starter. (My daughter rode American Saddlebreds for a while.) This is satisfying to me. I want her to connect with good people and something she, thanks to me, did in middle school was being brought out to better network – all good. Then memories. What a weird time indeed was that period of Fairhope Stables. A time of adjustment and a time of hope. As we continue talking, perceptive daughter says sorry to me for how she behaved during that time and that she was in middle school so it was to be expected. Well, I assured her that I have absolutely no memory of us being out of sync at that time. If she was trying to disengage from me, I was in complete denial of it. There was a huge 18 wheeler horse trailer parked beside the stables that the Lady Judge said she has borrowed before. The Lady Judge knows all about Fairhope Stables and clever daughter now has to step back a bit when Lady Judge wants to know more. We did not leave Fairhope happily. Here’s the deal. The Fairhope Horse Lady did not allow helmets. Sarah and I were adjusting to living life after her recent tumor-on-the-retina trauma. So buying into the idea of that Fairhope could guarantee no falls, we plugged ahead (nice pun). I struggled. The horses were huge. I sat in the car a lot listening to NPR and reading the WSJ as the leaves on the trees changed color. I prayed or begged incessantly for Jesus to wrap His loving arms around my baby’s precious head, to protect her from all harm. Of course, she took a fall anyway. I think a barn cat startled the horse to veer and the daughter went straight. She was okay. But my brain said falls happen. To my shock and consternation, Horse Nazi Lady was angry at me for adding to my brave daughter’s fears. I gave her a tidbit to enlighten her that the situation was more unique than she knew. She demanded all the facts that I had so grievously failed to disclosed. I remember admiring how passionately right she felt and wishing I felt more sure about how to go forward. I wanted to be free of fear, too. My courageous daughter riding a huge beast in a uniform style was wonderful. It was deeply satisfying to me. I want my daughter to live without fear… in an uniformed world that guarantees no falling. Finally come the realization that I needed to get back to basics, make the decision, and assert my authority. Speaking of which, as a mother we try everything and anything to get the best possible outcome for our loved one but in the end it is not our call. Guiding principles do help and once the Horse Lady went on the attack, it was clear to me that this was not about fearlessness anymore. Love isn’t about proving or earning or deserving. Love is about submitting and letting and falling. The stables were called Fairhope. How appropriate for that season. Reminds me of Vanity Fair from Pilgrims Progress. Was my literature loving daughter reading that book at that time? She read and studied it in middle school. I was impressed by her enthusiasm. It was super satisfying to me. She was getting the classical education I wanted for her – more vanity, but fair. “All that comes is vanity.” Fair and Hope comes, too.

No Excuses

Somewhere I read something about a study showing the difference between feeling guilty and having regrets. It got me thinking about guilt and regret. The study said that humans can experience intense guilt and then move on. But feeling regret is a pervasive feeling that sticks. Recently I have been thinking about the difference between forgiveness and excuses. I think guilt and excuses go hand in hand with forgiveness and regret. There are terrible events that happen in life, accidents, death, disease, betrayals, loss of life and we grapple with guilt, regret, forgiveness, and excuses. I zigged when I should have zagged. I am innocent by standard. I had no idea. How was I to know. It is not my fault. I did everything I could. In May of 2004 my neighbor lost her little girl a week before her second birthday. The birthday invitations had been sent. The Mom had a wonderful party planned and we were all looking forward to it. Supposedly the same strep virus that killed Jim Henson, the muppet man, killed Caroline over one weekend. I was there. Her little body was on a heart lung bypass machine with a name I cannot remember. Witnessing parents being told that the hospital was going to (legally) turn off a machine and they were to make ready is buried inside me. The parents wanted us to see Caroline and brought us one by one back to her bed. The waiting room was a maze of personal guilt, forgiveness, regret, and excuses. In a corner was the ex-husband, father of the mother’s other child. Caroline’s regular pediatrician arrived with a fellow doctor. To our mortification, she stepped out of the elevator pushing a large stroller containing her beautifully healthy two-year-old who was also named Caroline. You can’t make this stuff up – the doctor’s name was Dr. Smart. As I remember, no one moved so I went up to Dr. Smart and offered to stay with her baby as she went back to see dying Caroline. In the weeks and months that followed, the parents would feel intense fury at this pediatrician for not sending Caroline immediately to the hospital in the first day of fever when they had taken her at the doctor’s office. There was never a discussion with the pediatrician about all the What Ifs but there was resentment and lawyers declaring no case. In the days that followed I saw a stack of photographs taken the weekend before when the Dad had taken the three kids, his, hers, and theirs on a hike in the woods. The pictures were beautiful. The grave represented a lot to the Mom and we went there on Caroline’s birthday. A misguided friend brought champagne. We all tried our best to say and do the right thing. The Mom told me how angry she got when people would say, “You look good. You are doing well. I don’t know how you do it.” Somehow that triggered an awareness that people thought falling apart was to be expected and was more appropriate. My friend said she wished there was a formal mourning structure like the old days. My neighbor bravely faced each day. And day in and day out she hung on to everything she knew about God. She told me all was well with her soul. It comforted me. She loved Caroline and she did not have regrets. There was a lot of intense guilt about big and small things. Guilt about having her hair done and wearing makeup instead of being at home in a heap facing the bedroom wall. In the end there were no lawsuits, no excuses. Caroline got sick and died. My fifteen year old son wrote a condolence letter to the Mom from the barbed wire fenced off rehabilitation camp that was his new home. She told me it was a beautiful letter. My 13-year-old daughter wrote out the bible verse suffer the little children to me – I had sadly not thought of that angle – Caroline had been called home – and I marvelled at the beauty of my daughter. One thing that turned like a page inside my heart was the thinking that my troubled son was a heartbreak. Heartbroken was the reserved term for permanent separation of death. Thankfully I had yet to know heartbreak. I knew I would not say or think I am heartbroken again for societal problems or personal betrayals. This brings me back around to forgiveness, making no excuses, having no regrets, forgiving the guilty and living with malice towards none.