Sunday, June 27, 2010

Elder Care

I understand my dad’s unwillingness to go to a hospital. I would think this would motivate him to take his medicine. A handful of medicines correspond to alphabetized ailments-Alzheimer’s, blood pressure, congestion, diabetes…Possibly they make him feel tired or anesthetized, perhaps he doesn’t like the chemicals, maybe he likes control. Perchance he’s just plain paranoid.

My daughter Hailey and I went to visit dad on Father’s Day. He was very weak and every breath was a struggle. When I spoke to him about using an inhaler he said, “I’m fine, I’m fine.” He will use expletives when he wants to be left alone. Vitriol and violence seethe beneath, leading to constant outbursts.

Straightforward and direct, Hailey lets me know her mind. Leaving my dad’s house we set out for dinner. Over sandwiches at Jersey Mikes we discussed my sunset years. The thirteen year olds’ bottom line: If I’m as cantankerous as “Grandpa” I won’t have Hailey’s support.

The way we react to the trials of old age are a response to the person we’ve become on the way there. I will respond differently to old age than my father. Albeit Alzheimer’s comes knocking my actions will be poles apart from papa. Primarily because Christ is at work in me to kill pride and promote humility. From that point of grace a thousand other decisions have led me down a different road than that travelled by my dad.

A friend’s mother, a godly woman and gentle spirit, wrestles with senility. After returning from visiting a long-time friend she commented, “I’d like to go and visit Ann.” My friend replied, “Mom, you just saw her yesterday.” To which she replied, “Oh! Did I have a good time?”

The weekend was a good reminder that my actions don’t occur inside a vacuum. Character qualities that I practice will, by God’s grace, flow out naturally in action.

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps…”

Photo appears courtesy of: Collection: A. D. White Architectural Photographs, Cornell University Library Accession Number: 15/5/3090.00176b

Monday, June 21, 2010

Riptides and Wilderness

"God would never make it in the travel industry because He’s always leading his best clients into the wilderness. He even led His own son into the wilderness first….So there must be something good for us in it."--John Piper

I am consistently amazed at people that visit a National Park and think that they’re just visiting a bigger Disneyland. “Hey Marge, go pet that Buffalo!” Dead Men Walking, a report by the Wilderness Medical Society reports that in National Parks for the period from 1992 to 2007 there were 78,488 people involved in 65,439 SAR (Search and Rescue) incidents. These included 2,659 fatalities, 24,288 injured or sick people, and 13,212 "saves," or saved lives. The wilderness is a dangerous place.

Wilderness humbles. As a teenager I would drive thirty miles through winding canyons to get to the beach. Watching waves crash on shore solidified my faith in a God that “sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.” One summer, caught in a riptide, inhaling salt water, the waves brought only terror.

I was caught up in a financial riptide once. Ten years ago my debt was overwhelming. Each month I borrowed from one creditor to pay another. I’d see land and another wave would roll in and slam me under the water. Air-gasp-wave-slam. I made it to shore gasping and heaving.

I alternate between fear and excitement. I look back in fear. I press forward in anticipation. My manager post, my current apartment, phone calls from friends, all appeared when I was certain the next wave would drown me.

There is one other thing I realized-between breaths, before dying, during the gasping and heaving. I wasn’t bored. I was fully alive.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Technological Slaughter of Suburbia

In the early 1900’s radio was blamed for the disintegration of neighborly community. A ridiculous concept, of course, as everyone knows television slaughtered suburbia. These theories are now all passé—current thought is that keyboards are doing the killing. Charles Blow states, “I increasingly believe that less neighborliness is becoming intrinsic to the modern American experience — a most unfortunate development,” and, “I am very much aware that social networks are rewiring our relationships and that our keyboard communities are affecting the attachments in our actual ones.” I see Mr. Blows’ smoke, um, point here while at the same time wondering what world Mr. Blow lives in.

While visiting the orthodontist this week my daughter, Hailey, ran into one of her friends. The girls eagerly chatted while both I and the other dad sought to exit the office with girls in tow---with no success. We, the fathers, introduced ourselves and spent the next five minutes discussing work, his daughters’ adoption, the local junior high school and retirement. Pulling out of the parking lot I made comment to Hailey that he’d had his daughter since she was three. “Boy, he shared a lot with you,” she said. In five minutes we’d established a delightful neighborly bond.

Satisfying my desire and keeping an earlier commitment I purchased a rose bush this week; an Ingrid Bergman, mildly scented and burgundy red. While out in front of my house (and perhaps that is key) watering, two of my neighbors stopped by and commented. One told me that she’d moved into her house last year with thirty plants but only three had survived. She loves roses and was now planning on visiting the local nursery to buy one. Cindy’s tree shares its shade with my yard. Cindy’s flower-bed inspired me to add color to the front of my house; and we had a short conversation regarding the beautification of the neighborhood.

I sit in front of my computer as much as the next guy (though maybe not as much as the girl I work with who is addicted to “World of Warcraft.”) Walking out of my front door life presented opportunity for “tangible, meaningful engagement” with a network of neighbors. I even asked Cindy to water “Ingrid” while I was on vacation. Perhaps all it takes is being approachable and a willingness to say, “Hi.” Reaching out with hands wide open makes us better ourselves and leads to stronger community---there Charles Blow and I fully agree.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Spandex and Cotton

Past the junkyard,
I bicycle,
Empty shells and cars in disarray.
In the open space,
Two men trade money,
For contraband.

Beyond the dump,
Black Ravens,
Swirling in and out of the refuse.
Near the dark water,
Penguins of trash bags,
Flutter and fly.

A verdant pathway,
I dismount,
From the table, you rise to greet me.
Around the courtyard,
Lavender, Iris, Summer Phlox,
Perfume the air.

At the table,
We converse.
Form tight spandex and flowing cotton.
Amidst the flowers,
Talk of the Father,
Traversing lives.

Path gives way,
To blacktop,
Tangle of jungle gyms and homeless.
Next to the park bench,
Rucksacks and cardboard,
Obscure the grass.

Back towards home,
I race,
An old man totters in jogging shorts.
Back onto cement,
Salty silt and sweat,
I wipe my eyes.