We don’t live in paradise….

The sounds coming from the bathroom are not pretty.                   Chugging splats                       bubble,

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

plink.
Groan, spray filtering.
The rustle
wait
bustle              wait.
Bemoan;
the whine is wallpapered, stiff and melting.
The smell, oh the smell.
Bemused gave off the bewildering.
Resolve flushed.
Can’t.  No, can’t.

Mother, with great sighs, slowly makes her way into her bedroom and shuts the door.  In my bedroom, pale light filters through the wood blinds on donkey my window.  Gentle, not too bright ribbon.

I lie on the bed, under blue weed covers.  I was sleeping but now that’s gone.  My brain buzzes.  Fine.  So don’t do it.  It’s her decision.  The can’t lets the air out of the balloon to a slow relaxation for her but now I’m wound up.

image source:google images

image source:google images

What’s next?  What to do after that can’t?  Her stress floated down the hall and settled on me.  Too much to think about.  Too much to query to God.  I need some wisdom here, because this impasse is looming large on the horizon, if you get my drift.

The house has gone quiet.  My black sleeping mask is in my hand instead of on my face.  All is still.  Except the racing thought trails of my mind, up over mountains of possibilities down into ditches of nasty consequences of seemingly innocent choices.  It’s all food, right?  What’s the big harm here?  Well, that is the question, isn’t it?

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

Pick your poison, Ma’am.  Step right up into the parlor of innocent nutrients.  FDA approved, so what could possibly be harmful?  It’s the amazing machine of the intricate mysterious inner workings of the human body.  Absorb this.  Slough off that.  Change, swish, chug, mutilate, smash, transform, squash, mutate, evolve, utilize, reject and package into that passenger train of garbage that came in and is now garbage headed out.

I know what I’d do if it were me.  Identify the perpetrators and stop giving them admittance.  Mother can’t seem to understand that concept.  It’s food.  It’s her favorite foods.  How could they possibly be causing these difficulties, these distresses?

There’s a straight line connection, but she can’t see it.  What a relief it would be if that connection didn’t exist.  I’d take that world.

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

Imagine what it would be like if Adam and Eve hadn’t eaten that apple?  Hadn’t decided they wanted the job of god in their lives?  Everything was perfect before that, so we’re told.  It’s hard to imagine a world where there’d be no decay, no disease, no killing, no hatred, no suffering.

No acid reflux, no food sensitivities, no teeth that break off and require oral surgery.  Sounds like paradise, to me.

Oh well, reality beckons.  We don’t live in paradise.

I don’t know what to do for her, God.  At least you know the body you made and just ‘cause bodies get faulty, you don’t.  My stress ebbs away and I sleep again.  Cell phone vibration and ring-tone startle me awake.  I fish the phone out from under my pillow.  An 800 number.  Not answering that.

No point is lying here.  Might as well see if I can print up a list of foods that won’t aggravate Mother’s GERD.  Maybe she’ll react better to the CANs instead of the CAN’Ts.  Thanks, God.  That dozing helped.  I feel a little closer to paradise.  Amazing what rest can do.

Carry on……

image source:google images

image source:google images

The cuckoo clock ticks.  The floors creak with the slow movement of the elderly woman traversing the length of the living room and the dining room, cane maneuvered by one hand, the other hand holding the day’s newspaper, just retrieved from the front step.

Great hall height     BUMBLING                  forward                inside all the way              to cake breakfast            before        drop         eyelids               into    the deep.         Being      of course,         is perfectly soluble          fight and fought             fraught?               Bought for naught? While I              DANCE                tripp ingly                        two sides                                              that’s                       understood,
or                                   should be,

if you get my drift.   I read just the other day, somewhere, or maybe I heard it?  Well, I won’t bore you with the how or the why, but you follow what I’m saying.

It was like, the time comes when the young take up the cause left behind by the old.  Something close to that.  Oh, maybe, the time comes when the old give up their cause to the young.  Yeah, I think that’s was it.  The time comes when the old give up their cause to the young.

Souls fly higher daily, skin thinned into translucence; some march straight ahead to the edge of the cliff and step out into air; some slow until inert stasis is the wall paper of their last days; some push against dread and fear; some laugh and joy in the legacy they’ve built; some writhe deep in pain and suffer the sloughing of the dying flesh; some faces light with the promise of more life to come; some pull the trigger in search of false relief.

I hear Mother coming; her cane clunking.  My mind flies to memories treasured.  I hover, chose and settle in to enjoy.

“Decaf?”  The waitress sets a glass of water and a napkin wrapped knife, fork and spoon on the table.

Crile R Dean

Crile R Dean

His solid but not overweight figure sits tall against the back of the booth, his hair white, every hair combed into place;  his eyes bright, a smile on his face, his cream colored, short sleeved, button-up shirt and brown slacks, not new but clean; his walking shoes a little scuffed.

The diner is clean, if well worn.  Much used faded counters nicked and scarred, brown booth seats with a sag here and there, wood chair legs nicked, metal table stands marked where decades of shoes kicked or rested.  Some faint muzac plays overhead.  People chat, waitresses weave in and out of the tables, arms laden; people eat.  It is a little cooler in the middle of the room and warmer in the booths against the east windows, their shades angled to keep the sun out of the eyes of patrons.

He isn’t cold.  His morning three mile walk has warmed him and built his appetite.

“No decaf, high octane,” he hands a menu back to the waitress, “bring me the Grand Slam; eggs fried.  Bacon and sausage.”

“Syrup or jelly for the pancakes?”  She writes on her order pad.

“Both.  And toast.  Add toast.”  He smiles again.

In my mind I walk into that diner and sit across from him.  His eyes light with love and joy at seeing me.  I hand him a wrapped box with a bow and a tag, Happy Eight-Eighth Birthday, Daddy.  His grin is awkward.

“You didn’t need to do this,” he pulls off the bow and peels off the paper.

I smile at the memory of his strength, his stamina, his love for life, his drive to make a difference in his world, his sharp grasp of things political, sociological and spiritual.  His ability to still lift the hedge trimmer and the edger and to navigate the lawn mower.  His confidence that still sent him onto the garage roof to trim a dead plum tree limb and God’s grace that urged him safely back to the ground just minutes before a 4.2 on the Richter scale hit.  He was fearless and bold.  Even at eighty-eight.  Mother called it reckless and foolish.

I hang on to the scenes of his life, vitality and joy.  They weren’t our last scenes.  Those were hospice and changing diapers and giving morphine and a skeleton pushing through translucent, whisper weight skin.  I skim past those and hang on to a truth.  Those last days were just the cocoon breaking open, setting his soul free.

I miss him.  I ache.  I cry.  I smile at his silly sense of humor.  I breathe in the certainly he’s there waiting for me; in eternity with the Creator.

Mother has made it at last to the kitchen.  I turn to her,

“Morning, Mother,” I smile.  Daddy and Mother were like night and day together.  Being here with her and remembering him, I see the differences no longer matter.  Daddy lived his beliefs and then he gave up his cause to the young.  Mother is nearly there.

My journey continues.  I have a choice.  I begrudge the time I no longer have with Daddy.  I get irritated at the task of being with Mother.  I watch any brighter, bigger purpose and meaning shrivel up while I trudge through the mundane.  I feel myself drowning.

image source:blingee

image source:blingee

I reach for a lifeline and I’m pulled up to keep walking, to take the steps onward.  I take heart from Daddy’s life.  I slough off the dread, the weight of unfulfilled expectations.  I let go of the hurts, imagined or real.  I remember the love, I remember the promise of eternity.  I believe.  I carry my cause, forged in the smelt of their influence, with honor.  I’ll keep on, until it’s my turn to leave a cause for the young to carry.

Choose

humingbird

image:birdsandblooms

The heart of the hummingbird beats so fast, his entire body quivers.  He is mostly on the move, flitting here and there, balancing mid-air to dip his long beak into the flower decorated feeder hole in the hummingbird feeder.  I’ve watched him through the dirty window behind the desk as he flits from place to place.  He is such a delicate creature, yet he perseveres, he continues his flight, his quivering quest for sustenance.  He survives.

Mother comes to mind; her essential tremor that keeps her head moving in tiny jerks; her fragility when she doesn’t feel well.  The effort it takes when she has to be out early to get to the dentist.  Where there are two flights of stairs to climb to get to the office door.

“Do you want to go up the stairs,” I ask as we pull into the parking lot, “or shall I drive the length of the building, we’ll take the elevator and walk all the way back to here?”

I look over at her in the passenger seat next to me.  She’s nicely dressed in green slacks and a flowered blouse under a white cardigan sweater.  Her slightly graying hair is combed and sprayed.  You wouldn’t know to look at her how difficult it was for her to push herself to get out of the house.

The day is a beautiful seventy-six degrees, blue skies, a nice breeze.  The talk radio host expounds about things worth pushing towards, in his mind at least.

“We’d better take the stairs,” Mother says as she pulls off her sunglasses, “I’d rather be early than late.”

She’s such                  A                  trouper
She                 keeps pushing                       ahead, whether                          she feels well or not.
She
is pushing ahead to
haveThreeTeeth                 PULLED
and                three teeth ADDED           to her partial                      so
that she can eat easily.                 I leave                 the choice to her.  Would         I             PUSH            if I                 were eighty-six    and     in               PAIN                                  from                         a CROOKED back?

I push now to do all the right things for my health.  I push now as I could live another 25-30 years; I push now to make those years easier.  I push now because I hope.  I push now against aging; I push now against loss of ability, against sagging, against creepy lines.  I push as if I think I could really halt or slow the processes of time.  I fool myself.  I am a fool.  Am I a fool?

image:communitycaringcouncil

image:communitycaringcouncil

Mother and I start the climb up the stairs.  Her footed cane takes the first step.  She grasps the railing with her right hand, her left directing that cane lest it teeter against one of the pebbles in the aggregate stone steps.  The free-floating steps undulate and sway in the breeze, the pebbles bubble; I grasp her left arm and lift, trying to not leave a bruise.  She’s moving too fast.  She’s jerky as she hurries.  The footed cane bumps half on, half off the step.

“Nice and slow,” I take the next step with the cane, “take your time.”

She breathes out a sigh, slows, and carefully places the cane, then she and I together pull her up.  We lift off and huff and puff through each step until we’ve reached the top of Mt. Everest.

Going back down, the pictures in my head are not pretty.  The view down the top side of Mt. Everest is long and steep.  One misstep and she’ll be Humpty-Dumptied.  How will I explain that to her other children?  We descend ok, but I can’t get the eerie wariness out of my head.

Later, I close my eyes to doze and see bleak days filled with sponge baths, wheelchairs, bed-fast summer, winter, spring and fall and utter dependence.  My head screams, “I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE.”  I twist and turn in my worry.

“STOP IT.”  I sternly speak into my nightmare and wake myself.  It’s one step at a time, Victoria, one step at a time.  That’s what that shepherd boy knew, in the black of night, out on those lonely, cold hills, thousands of years ago.  He knew it was a step at a time.  And, he knew he didn’t take those steps alone.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

He made a choice.

I will make a choice.  I choose life.  I choose to push.  I choose to take the next step.  I choose to trust.  I choose not to fear.  I choose not to walk alone.

Trailing clouds of glory…

image source:google images

image source:google images

Seventy-five degrees, blue skies, birds twittering their songs in the trees with leaves swaying in the breeze, it’s a perfect Southern California fall day.

I go out and put water in the flower petal shaped birdbath for Mother since she hasn’t been feeling well.  She loves being outside, keeping the bird bath clean and filled with fresh water, but she’s out less and less these days.  Anyway, I add fresh water to it, right?  And above me, somewhere in the long, leafy branches of the apricot tree, a bird starts putting up a racket.  And I do mean racket, if you get my drift.

It’s a funny sound for a medium sized bird with red on the top of the head, a white throat, gray chest and black wings.

“Quack.  Quack.  Quack.”  Or if you prefer, Wikipedia says, “waaka, waaka, waaka.”  Sounds like “quack” to me.

I come back inside and the silly bird gets louder and louder.  The next time I look there are three of them at the bird bath.  Acorn Woodpeckers, so Mother says.

“Do you think that bird called his family to tell them there’s water in the birdbath?”  I ask.

Mother makes her way over to the kitchen window, her cane clunking right along with the quacking outside the open window.  Plunk, quack.  Plunk, quack.  Plunk, quack.

“Maybe so,” Mother says, “I’ve seen four of them at the birdbath, and two are young ones.”

They fly before long but the yard, which had been quiet until I turned on the water, is now filled with Sparrows and Finches poking around in the grass and there’s a busy squirrel moving up and down the fat, old trunk of the Apricot.

The quiet and the still has been replaced with chitter-chatter and an infinitesimal undulation of teeming life.  Bees and Hummingbirds vie for the prominent spot at the feeder; flies flit, butterflies dip and sway, ants march along the path, spiders swing on invisible threads and over the fence, the neighbor’s dog yaps.

Sunday afternoons have always meant no pressure to accomplish anything of significance and so I sit on the wooden bench rocker with the sun warming the top of my head and my skin.  The birds were startled when I came out, but the longer I sit still all the movement in the yard, trees and bushes returns.  I’m drowsy in the sun.  A kite floats overhead, its tail trailing just above the fence.  I reach up and catch the tip and am aloft.  As I look down, our patch of green shrinks until it’s just a tiny dot in the middle of the curvature of the horizon.

I see now how infinitesimal my grasp on life has been.  How small my dreams that only lived among the known heights and depths of what I could see and touch and hear and taste.  This blue ball in the swirling black expanse studded with twinkling dots is but a speck in all the universes that stretch to infinity and on and on.

I must go higher.  I urge to go higher but I am impotent as my balloon has no inertial dampeners, no life support, no sublight engines.

I lose height.  I float downward; the dots of green, the dark of mountains, the blue of the ocean, the black of its buried depths rush towards me; the tip of skyscrapers fly past and become giants once again.  I recognize the Apricot branches and aim for the back yard rocker where this trip started.

I’ve seen the heights, so what will change?  What will I believe?  What will drive me on through each day now that I know the truth?  Will I be satisfied again with being comfortable when someone else needs food or clothing or comfort?

No.  I cannot be happy with just getting by when unknown possibilities are there for the nurturing.  I cannot be buried with the stress of the temporariness of an aging body, a dying world.  I cannot allow the stresses and concerns of the tangible consume all my time and effort.  My thoughts flit back to the vastness of space and time.  There’s more; there’s a universe more; seek it, reach for it.  I find myself agreeing with Wordsworth,

“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory
Do we come From God, who is our home:”

Certainty

image:elliottback fir tree

image:elliottback fir tree

Choices, decisions, blue sky revisions into gray.  Live Christmas tree settled into its new hole in the center of the backyard.  All by itself at three and ½ feet tall with great expectations of one day rising higher than the fence then towering over the garage.  But first its roots will need to expand, stretch, wriggle their way further into the rocky, root soil under the winter grass.  When and if it survives and grows and towers, its tips could fill the yard, closing all paths of access to the grapevines and the alley and the garbage cans.  How would Miguel mow the grass in the back quarter of the yard?  How would we get to the nectarine bounty that returns each year to the tree in the back corner, next to the butterfly bush?

But that’s all years away, right?  It takes time to grow, my friend.  There’s a pattern and a sequence programed into this tree’s DNA that even plant food can’t replicate, if you get my drift.  But it’s the years flying by at super-speed, that I’m seeing here, trailing changes as wisps of clouds or sifting as the smoke from that fire in Angeles National Forest last week that made the sky red and brown and black for a while until it cleared and revealed it’s handiwork of change.

We hadn’t been that direction for days, so when Mother and I drove to church on Sunday, in the beautiful blue sky morning, as we crested the hill where the 57 on-ramp merges into the northbound lanes headed for the 210, I looked to the hills for what the fire had left behind and saw an expanse of black hill like one part of a patchwork quilt, rising between the billowed up greens and browns and yellows of the rest of the rolling hill patches.  But what surprised me were the small, scattered here and there across the hills, spots of gray.  Bare spots like the hair on a dog has been pulled out at random.

From the church parking lot, closer to the hills, they were even more evident.  As we were leaving, I put the bag with our Bibles and study books in the car and waited for Mother to make her way out of the building.  Her movement is slower these days, but she still gets there, hair permed and styled and sprayed, purple slacks, flowered blouse of pinks, purples, greens and yellows under a white sweater.  Her pinkish-purple lipstick matching her necklace of Sugilite pinkish-purple stones that she loves to wear.

image:lauramariemeyers

image:lauramariemeyers

“See those bare, gray spots on the hills,” I said when she got close enough to hear what I was saying.

She stopped walking, steadied herself with her cane and looked up, “Yes.”

“That’s where the fire was spreading from Glendora to Azusa.”

“Oh, it did get close, then, didn’t it?”

We get settled in the car, without hurry as Mother puts her cane in the floor of the back seat, carefully settles herself in the front seat, putting her purse on the floor and tucking the purse strap over the edge of her seat and under her leg.

My thoughts alternate between flying forward in time to seeing myself no longer at this slow-Mother-pace and back to moderating my speed to give Mother time to get where she’s going.

Will I be in this town, live in this house long enough to see that live Christmas tree spread and grow and fly high in its growth in the yard?  Mother could live another ten years or die in her sleep tonight.  Only God knows.  Only God knows the beginning spark of life that wrote the DNA in the tree and the DNA that with time will fill up those gray spots on the hills.  He’s the one that will hold Mother’s soul and spirit when the slow life of her DNA takes its last breath.  I try to envision the future, to find some comfort in picturing what might come next, but that’s as futile as believing for a certainty that I can tell which side of that Christmas tree in the center of the yard will grow best now that it’s out in the wind and sun and cold and heat.

I long to know my certainty.  I need to know.  I think life will go on after Mother’s speed has one day slowed to a stop.  I want to know my life will go on; at least for a time.  I do know my turn to slow to a stop will come.  Someday, sometime, somewhere and when that happens, the unchanging constant is that the creator of all DNA will be there and his time does not slow and run out.  He continues beyond eternity.  After all, since he’s big enough to create DNA, he’s big enough to hold the future.  My future.  This I know.  For a certainty.

Christmastime

image source:kansastravel

image source:kansastravel

Christmastime is here.  Carols on Cd’s and choirs on TV, tear-jerker movies of lost love and found meaning and purpose, laughter at silly lyrics of ‘you’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch’ and ‘No crocodiles, no rhinoceroses, I only like Hippopotamuses’ float across the air, the dark night lit by twinkling lights on houses and yards decked out with clear LED strings around trees, over fences, up chimneys and draped on bushes.  Whole streets are transformed into wonderlands of colors and sparkles and strings of lit icicles along roof lines.

There’s the flap on the media about how much more polite and less threatening it is to say ‘Happy Holiday’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas’ and kids now have Winter breaks from school instead of Christmas break.  They’re still out of school, though, and most of them still go to bed on Christmas Eve all hyped up and excited about those wrapped gifts under the tree.

The politically correct police try to pretend there’s no deeper meaning than Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman and apparently big business agrees as we’re inundated with advertising to urge us to shop, shop, shop, spend, spend, spend, until we collapse from all the stress and turkey and pie overload.

But there’s something deeper, richer about the last days of December than the other days of any given year.  After all, why do people decorate the outside of their houses, put up trees inside, bake goodies to give away and spend hours shopping and wrapping gifts?  If it’s all just a marketing ploy why does the time of Christmas mean excitement or joy, or peace or any number of other feelings to millions?  Oh, sure, not everyone has a happy Christmas memory from childhood but why do we all long for the warmth, the promise of peace and the happiness that seems to go with the time of year?

How could the world’s people, so different in their customs, their traditions, their histories and their memories all want the same things, peace and joy?  And keep on wanting those things generation after generation, time after time?  And keep on trying to make life less bleak, less dark, less painful.  More filled with light and beauty.  And peace and joy.  Why?

Unless.  Unless, we were made with a soul and a spirit that respond to joy and peace.  Made with a soul and a spirit that crave the knowing that we were made for something greater than the everyday.  That we were made for joy and peace.

It was that same craving that sent those three Wisemen on a road trip, following a star that they believed would lead them to the very originator of joy and peace.  They found that joy.  It came to the world in that tiny baby, Jesus.

image source:jimmyharmon

image source:jimmyharmon

Every year we go through it all again, we wrap those presents, decorate that tree.  Every year we search for peace and joy.  Every year we’re reminded of the real meaning of life.  And if we listen to the twinkling lights, the rustling of the wrapping paper and the faint sound of carols through the night, we’ll find that peace and joy.  Just like the Christmas carol says, ‘Joy to the world, the Lord has come.’  Come for you.  Come for me.

Laughing all the way…..to the laundry

image source:menslifestyles

image source:menslifestyles

Who knew laundry would be such a big deal?  I suppose it makes sense that many of those things that Mother did for all of her adult life would be hard wired into her brain as automatic responses, including which dirty clothes need to be bleached and which ones need to be washed on the gentle cycle, using only Woolite for delicate fabrics.  It appears it’s that hard-wiring that makes it tough for her to trust that laundry left in my hands will actually turn out clean and fresh and wrinkle free.

The funny thing is, she taught me how to do laundry and sent me out over forty years ago into a brave new world with the skills that kept me from shrinking and destroying un-washables by dumping them into hot water or accidentally dying everything pink by washing a bright red with lighter colors.

Meanwhile, washing methods and machines and products have evolved some in the years since I learned to do laundry.  At least they have for some of us.

When I returned in Mother and Daddy’s elderly years and took up the responsibility for the laundry in their house, Mother was still using the old standard washing powder, in hot water with bleach and yet to me, the clothes seemed dingy and the effort greater than the task required.  I’d experienced a reduction in that old product’s effectiveness myself a couple of years earlier and decided the product must have changed.  So I switched to a liquid product and was happy.  I made the same change for Mother and Daddy’s laundry with good results.  In cold water, too, which is close to heresy to hear Mother tell it, but less expensive.  So, a no-brainer.  For me.  Not for Mother.

There are some things that still need hot water and bleach.  The white washcloths and towels for Mother’s bathroom and the cotton sheet scraps she uses with cleansing cream to remove her make-up.  This is a very small load, however, so I usually wait until I have at least a half load before washing them.  And this becomes the fodder for today’s drama.

Behind me, through the door into the kitchen, Mother’s sings a Christmas carol in her shaky little voice as she putters around the kitchen, heating up left-over pizza for her breakfast, filing her insulated cup with ice and water.  The sound of her cane clonking back and forth across the room as she moves.

“If you will pull out the white towels, from wherever you’ve hidden them,” she puts the bag of ice back in the freezer, “I’ll put them in the washer.”

“Wherever I’ve hidden them?”  I am amazed but don’t turn away from the computer.

“Well,” she gets a coke from the cabinet, “where are they?”

I have to stop laughing before I can answer.

“I’m glad you think I’m so funny,” she puts the warm coke in the refrigerator, takes out a cold coke can and plops it down on the kitchen island.

“Where are they?” her voice rising.

“In the bottom of the clothes hamper, Mother” I keep on typing, “right where dirty towels are always put.”

“Really,” her tone is one of sarcasm and disbelief, “I can’t image a load that large would even fit in the bottom of the hamper.”  She moves out of the kitchen, her plate in one hand, her other hand on the cane for balance.

“You’re a trip, Mother,” I’m laughing again.

“I can’t hear you over this Christmas music,” she yells from the other room.

“You don’t want to, Mother,” I’m still laughing.  Mostly because we keep having this conversation about why her towels disappear after she uses them.  I’ve gotten over being irritated and frustrated.  The only thing left is to do those tiny loads in hot water and bleach, and forget trying to save money on Mother’s white towels load.  Her hard wired brain can’t comprehend how her favorite four white washcloths and white towels don’t stay clean and fresh for continual use.

I could do like a friend of mine did once.  He hated going to the Laundromat so he just kept buying new packages of underwear.  When he had a pile of about 100 dirty ones, he finally decided to do laundry.  I’m contemplating my options.  Do more laundry?  Order a clean towel service so that Mother always has what she wants?  None of those are cost effective.

Face it, Victoria, her ability to reason is leaving her, so you can either give her no occasion to have to reason out why she doesn’t have perennially clean towels, i.e., wash them every few days, or get over making her happy and let her use other towels and washcloths.  That means ignoring her questions and irritations.  Think you can do that?  Not likely.

The dirty clothes hamper calls, I have to go now.

Dreams of Famine

image source:endtimesresearchministry

image source:endtimesresearchministry

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that at least seventy percent of all Old Testament stories that are told by teachers to little children, and that are written in Bible Study books for Sunday School and preached on by ministers in pulpits are about David.  His life as a shepherd, as a future king, as a fugitive hiding from the reigning king, his glory days as well as his failure days as the greatest King in Israel’s history.  Even stories about his son and heir to the throne, Solomon, are all remembered and told in light of who he was, David’s son.

All that is well and good; there are things to learn from the cautionary and the triumphant happenings in David’s life, and believe me, I’ve heard them all.  More than once.  Like, over and over and over again.

The life story that most appeals to me, however, is not David’s.  It’s Joseph’s.  He was a favored son.  Not the worst way to begin life, right?

God gave him a gift: he had dreams that let him and family know what the future held.  Useful skill, right?

He was part of a large, wealthy family so he lacked for nothing.  Sounds good so far.

The biggest problem was that he was favored by his father above his ten older brothers.  They did not take kindly to that.  And then, to make matters worse, he talks about these visions or dreams he’s having, which might be ok, I mean you could tolerate some silliness from a much younger brother, but the dreams were all about how he was going to be the most important, the leader and his brothers would be his subjects.  This was far before Israel had a king, so the very idea was foreign as well as repugnant.  And all those typical, human emotions reared up in his brothers; anger, jealousy, envy, bitterness, rage, hatred and they smacked Joseph up the side of the head and knocked him into a deep pit.  It was the lone voice of reason of his brother, Judah, that saved him from being killed and instead he was sold into slavery.

When we see Joseph some time later in Egypt he has proved himself so capable that he had full charge of the household of a wealthy and prominent man, Potiphar.  God appears to be on his side again and it seems he landed on his feet, so I’m thinking, maybe this kid has more going for him than just being a favored, pampered son.  I’m happy things are going well for him and though a slave, he has the use of wealth and prominence, so he’s better off without that big, shepherding family that no longer wanted him around, right?

Or not.  Again jealousy and rage are dogging him, this time from the master’s wife and the result is that Joseph is thrown in the pit again.  Imprisoned.  For years.  Can’t have been easy, but even in prison there’s still something different about him.  God speaks to him in dreams.  And then tells him what the dreams mean.  Not only that, he rises to the top of the prisoner hierarchy.  The guys in charge see his value and put his skills to work.

This says to me that whatever Joseph did, wherever he was in those years since excitedly sharing his dreams with his brothers, he did the tasks well.  He was trustworthy.  He was not a cheat or a con-man or miserable or depressed or angry.  He never gave up.  He even reminds guys who are getting sprung from the dungeon to remember him to the man in charge.

His code of behavior and his persistence pay off, or to put it another way, when God was done working on him in the prison, He got him out.  And once again Joseph rose to the top so that by the time the land is deep in famine, he is in charge of all the storehouses in Egypt.  He has the power to destroy or to honor those who work for him and anyone who appeals for help.  And everyone, Egyptians and the rest of the nearby world, come to him for help.  Including his brothers.

This is the big moment.  This is when we will see the underbelly of his character.  Is he still angry?  Nursing an old grudge at the betrayal by his family?  Has his heart turned to false gods and practices of a foreign land while he’s been away from his own heritage and his own people?  Has he stayed true to God and the faith of his father, Jacob, his grandfather, Isaac and his great-grandfather, Abraham?

“You meant it for evil,” he tells his brothers when he has revealed who he is and they are begging for mercy, “but God meant it for good.”

I wonder.  How much trauma and loss would I have to go through before I totally gave up in self-pity?  What if I was ripped from everything I knew and it was seventeen years before I saw any of my family again?  How would my everyday vision in those long years have to be changed so that I could see that God meant it for good?  For me.  For the people my life effects.

Joseph is the guy who shows us what it means to truly believe and to fully trust in God, even when there appears no end to the nightmare.  Is it any wonder that when his brothers finally came to him, he broke down in tears and moaned and lamented so loud that all the neighbors heard and Pharaoh sent word to find out if he was ok?

One last thought.  By the time Joseph is a power in Egypt, married with children, he is no longer telling about dreams from God.  He is living the dream from God.  The fulfillment is right in front of his eyes, yet there is no boasting.  No, I told you so.  There’s just joy to be with the family he hadn’t seen in seventeen years.  Oh, and he keeps on doing the job God sent him to do.  He saves the newly formed Israelite nation from being wiped out by a famine.  Now that’s living out the potential God gives.

Accused

 

image source:google images

image source:google images

 I turn the key in the back door lock and walk into the house through the laundry room and on into the brightly lit kitchen where I find Mother standing by the portable dishwasher.  On its butcher-block top, she is filling her 12 ounce insulated cup with ice and chilled water. 

Her look is piercing.  No hello or how are you or how was your writing class; no pleasantries.

“I thought you were going to buy sugar?”

“I did,” I say.  “Remember?  You stood right there when I filled the large canister.”  I’m not prepared for this attack so am irritated at myself for feeling defensive.

“Oh,” The piercing look changes to puzzled defiance because she’s sure of one thing and I’m sure of the opposite and because things that used to come easy for her now elude her grasp.

“Well,” she says, “I used the sugar in the small Sugar canister.  I had to ration how much I put in the apples I cooked to put up in the freezer.”

The apples arrived on the front porch yesterday morning in a plastic grocery bag.  From one of the neighbors across the street?  Probably, as we regularly trade fruit from all our trees.

Mother uses her cane to carefully move the short distance to the refrigerator to return the bag of ice to the freezer section, then back to the butcher-block top where she picks up the iced water jug, turns around and moves back to the refrigerator, her cane clunking with each slow step.

image source:athome.kimvallee

image source:athome.kimvallee

Hot apple aroma is making my stomach grumble so I take a clean spoon to the stove where the cooked apples are still in the pan.

“They’re perfect.  The ones you made last time were too sweet for me.”

Mother comes to taste the apples and we agree they are delicious and I tell her that it’s nice living with someone who cooks these tasty things.  She’s happy now and moves slowly out of the kitchen into the dining room where she settles herself and her iced water on the back side of the dining room table, so that she has a clear view of the TV.

I move around the house, rinsing dishes she left in the sink, collecting recycle trash and garbage to put in the outside bins, opening mail, starting a load of towels in the washer, checking my email and facebook.

Mother mutes the TV on the commercial.  I hear her groans of effort as she gets out of her chair and the clonk of her cane tells me she’s coming through the kitchen towards me in the office.

“What has happened to all my kitchen dish towels?”  She’s sounds upset and I know if I look I’ll see that defiance on her face again, “did you throw them all away?”

“Do you hear the washer, Mother?”  I don’t look up.  I continue to sift through mail, tossing empty envelopes and junk mail into the trash.

“And all the white towels from my bathroom,” She leans against the door frame, “where are they?”

image source:menslifestyles

image source:menslifestyles

God give me strength.  Apparently logical thinking has deserted her in her eighty-sixth year.  I sigh, swivel Daddy’s big old-fashioned desk chair towards her and begin again.

“I’m washing a load of white towels, Mother,” I take the look of frustration off my face and hope it is replaced with kindness, “bathroom and kitchen white towels, Mother.”

“Oh,” she turns and clonks back across the kitchen floor, “I just couldn’t understand why you would throw them all away.”

I can tell by the sounds that she’s back at the table, getting settled in her spot.

“They are all perfectly good towels with lots of use left in them,” she says just before the sound of the TV at full volume again fills the house.

“Especially the brand new ones I just bought for your bathroom.”  I grumble to myself and swivel back to the desk.  I don’t know what the next crisis will be.  I know there will be one, and no doubt, it will be my fault.  Not that it is her fault she’s eighty-six, wears out quickly and is easily confused.  One of us has to take the blame.  I guess that’s why I’m here.

[1st Place Winner – LinkedIn Themed Writing Contest, 11-20-2013]

Turkey Journeys and Stars

image source:123rf

image source:123rf

Thanksgiving means extra grocery shopping.  I think I’ve found a good, pre-packaged gluten free bread stuffing for the turkey.  Two years ago, I made my own using a loaf of gluten free bread, onions, celery, chicken broth, oil and spices.  I liked it, though to be honest, when you can’t have wheat most grain products taste pretty good.

Of course I still had to stuff the turkey with Mrs. Cubison’s Bread Stuffing for Mother as she was convinced anything without wheat would not be worth eating.  She had a bite or so of mine and said it wasn’t too bad, which was why I was surprised last year when she suggested we just stuff the turkey with gluten free bread stuffing.  Works for me as I’m up for anything that makes life easier and not having to make two different stuffings qualifies.

Modifying my diet is nothing new.  I’ve spent the last thirty years finding foods that work for whatever physical quirk my medical gurus and I have uncovered.  At first it was like I was on safari in a far off galaxy, floating among the stars, spear guns and large nets at the ready, avoiding the meteors threatening to knock me off my perch; hanging on so that I didn’t float untethered into the great beyond, but bit by trial by bit, I found things that worked and that I liked.  The rosy glow of health and increased stamina to stay balanced among the piranhas being the obvious pay-off.

Try explaining all that to your elderly Mother who believes if we just eat normally, all will be fine.  Of course, her definition of normal depends upon whatever tangent she currently finds palatable.  Like the spicy hot sauce, chips and Coke she lived on for a couple of years before I moved here.

“Why?” I asked.

“My stomach was upset” she said, “and I had really bad diarrhea and that was all that tasted good.”

Hmmm.  There could be a pattern here: spicy hot sauce, huge amounts of sugar and the caffeine in the coke – do you see the connection to not feeling good, Mother?  Evidently not.

Sadly for her, she can no longer shop or drive so doing the shopping is now up to me.  I’m not buying foods that will make her health quirks worse.  And does she get ticked off.

“I can’t believe you threw out my loose leaf Black Tea,” she says, her voice rising.

“I didn’t throw it out, I donated it to the church,” I say as I fill her tea canister with Caffeine free loose tea.

“If I put something on the list, then that’s what I expect you to get,” she slams the ink pen down on the grocery list, pulls her red sweater closer around her and glares at me.

“Here’s the deal, Mother,” I put the fresh veggies in the crisper and close the refrigerator door, “if it’s so important to you to eat things that aggravate GERD, then fine, that’s what I’ll buy,” I open a 3 lb bag of sugar and fill the canister, “and when you can’t swallow your food and aspirate in your sleep, I’ll just call the EMTs after you’re gone, ok?” I slam the canister back into its spot at the back of the counter.

“Humpf,” she reaches for her cane, turns and with each slow step clonks towards the dining room, “it’s time for my painting show,” and the TV goes on at full volume.

It’s been a winding, spinning trip but from time to time she catches up to me and when she gets there I’m surprised at what she does, like offering to make gluten free desserts and saying she’s thinks the packaged gluten free stuffing I found will be delicious.  I’m amazed that somewhere in her easily confused brain that can’t remember the names of her great-great-grandchildren and which grand-children got married last year, she has learned some new ways to eat.  Proof positive: you can teach an old dog new tricks. If they don’t kill you first, that is.

image source:thispilgrimland

image source:thispilgrimland

I feel the burn of the rope over my shoulder lessen and the weight of the barge I tow easing as it navigates more easily on its travel through the stars.  I thought I was here just to help her maintain, to be comfortable, to keep her health balanced so that her end would be easier.  I didn’t know the journey would also be about me letting go.  I had no idea it would be about finding new ways to communicate.  I couldn’t see that it would be about accepting Mother’s weaknesses while remembering to recognize her strengths.  I had to learn this journey is not really about Mother, it’s about me.  What I will learn.  Who I will be.  Who I will look like after she’s gone. Relieved?  Worn down?  Blossomed into a new inner beauty?  That’s the one I’d like to choose.  Only God can get me there and thankfully He’s pulling this barge with me.