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.

Together

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.

Habitual

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.