free in the full void

Discordant beauty stems swiftly buying trails Feathers brush hard knocks inside                                                                           lulling tiny feet closer to their sort of original disarray re minding lost hearts                                    lost souls                             lost grips Swinging once ethereal sank      drank    stank Oh, to be free Oh, to be me No, to be thee       […]

Rate this:

A Sound, a Thin Silence

image:pickthebrain

image:pickthebrain

The kangaroos and their Joeys run free in the cities of Australia.  The people multiply and the grasslands decrease and the kangaroos and their joeys run free in the cities of Australia.  The dingoes used to chase the kangaroos and their joeys, but the people multiply and the grasslands decrease and the dingo is no more.  The kangaroos and their joeys run free in the cities of Australia.

The government tries to protect the kangaroos and their joeys, but hey, don’t sweat it, cause, you know, big brother does its best, know what I mean?  And that’s not all, government tries to protect the dingo and the people and the grassland, too, catch my drift?  But it’s all cool, man, even if easy answers don’t come.  Like, I’m telling you, it’s weird though, a sound, a thin silence.  It comes, know what I mean?

The drought in Kenya eats away at the lake and the plant life dies.  The drought in Kenya kills its people and the Ethiopians leave their own drought for the Kenyan lake but the drought in Kenya kills the people and the people say this is not our fault, this is not God’s fault, this is the fault of big business; this is the fault of the West.  They have too much; their much has stolen the water of our lake and we die, cry the beleaguered Kenyans, swirling to heaven on cloudless skies, wrapped in dry shrouds, their burials parched and barren, their angst a lingering memorial to their belief that the largess that invades the West has left a dusty residue of want in third world countries.  Hear us, great cities of the West, they moan, don’t let the embers of our passing be merely grist for your mill of big business.

What nags at me is that sound, that thin silence that says there is something that can be done.  I’m just one person, but does being just one person negate what can happen if that one person gets involved?  It’s easier to leave it all up to government to find a cure, come up with a fix and I’ve tried that, but that sound, that thin silence, it’s still there pulling, saying I won’t be satisfied until I do my part.

There’s a boy I know from a small American town who grew into a tough Marine.  He fought the battle of four tours in Afghanistan and now he’s in Boston working as an EMT.  He was one of the first responders at the bombings.  He heard that sound, that thin silence.  Also, I know a Real Estate tycoon who hired workers and built houses and the salaries he paid meant people had hope they could reach their own dreams.  But, that sound, that thin silence penetrated his slumbers, propelling him on to great joy wrapped in the gossamer sound of laughter of the children of the garbage dumps who escape their prison for an sunny afternoon and feel their souls fly like the wings of the baseball tossed to them by the tycoon and they will sleep that night, bellies full, on cushions of love and care because he listened.

Then there’s this attorney, can you dig it?  The guy takes vacations to hammer nails to rebuild houses in New Orleans, can you beat that?  And one year, he delivered water purifiers to Haiti.  Oh yeah, he heard that sound, that thin silence, but don’t think that lets him off, ‘cause the government says, you have too much, rich guy, you need to pay more taxes.  It’s your duty to pay for those who haven’t had your success.  Right?

A wannabe actress waits tables in Hollywood, and a Pasadena fireman sees the wannabe actress on the stage and the Pasadena fireman and the wannabe actress fall in love.  And, the Pasadena fireman and the wannabe actress set up life in a Pasadena house.  But their dreams are disturbed by that sound, the thin silence, so the fireman and the wannabe actress sell the Pasadena house and travel to India where they slog through red tape and muddy powers that be until six months later, 7 Sisters Rescue Home opens and girls sold into sex trafficking find a refuge.  The US government says, you sold your house; you owe us for that profit.  The government thinks it has heard that sound, a thin silence, but what it hears is spend, spend, spend and we’ll pay for it by raising taxes.

In the muggy South, the young computer guru labors long into the night while his young wife and five small children struggle without enough food; and the car sits on blocks and the children play in a house that is too small and wear hand me down clothes and the young wife believes.  The young computer guru creates coding for the first online shopping cart and the fledgling online book seller pays the young computer guru with stock options, and it’s cool dude, ‘cause ten years later everyone’s older, right?  They’re like in a huge house and the clothes are new, but the computer guy and his wife, they can’t sleep, know what I mean?  They keep hearing that sound, that thin silence and some dude tells them about Eastern European children too old to stay orphans, their government’s about to dump the orphans on the street, so the computer guru’s family takes a flight of fancy, aloft in the skies to an ancient land on the other side of this spinning blue ball where they alight in a world of old stones, stained with a millenium of cries and struggles and battles of its people and there the computer guru’s family slogs through the red tape river, their green retirement dollars flung out before them to light their way and when they emerge they get to come back home to America and bring with them a teen-aged brother and sister who went from about to be homeless to still being able to be kids who play soccer and run marathons and learn English and the computer guru’s family just grew to seven kids, just like that.

I think that’s pretty amazing, but of course, the government says it needs the revenue more than the computer guru and his wife need the adoption deduction, so sorry but the tax code is changed.  Thin silence?  What’s this sound you talk about, says the IRS, your government is hurting, citizen, pay up.  It’s your job, Mr. Computer Guru to meet the financial burden of your government.  It’s not our fault you decided to spend your money in a foreign country to make a couple of kids American citizens.

And in the West the beauty queen and the musician conquer the entrepreneurial world and talented singers, dancers and musicians are employed to entertain the famous.  And in their house in the hills with the plate glass views of the city, the beauty queen and the musician encourage the lonely and the lost and the needy that hide beneath the pretty veneer of the talented singers, dancers and musicians.  They keep hearing that sound, a thin silence, so they keep giving their lives to help others.   Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Entrepreneur, says the US government, you’ve earned enough to be in the rich category, so your tax bracket just increased, aren’t you lucky.

I look at all of this and think, can I hear that thin silence?  What happens if I open my ears and let it change me, too?  Am I ready for the adventure, for what it might cost me?  Am I ready to give up my dependence on tax breaks and social security retirement to do the right thing?  I have to open my ears and hear, I have to, because nothing else will satisfy.  A sound, a thin silence.

Vacation! Pack the headstone and burial plots

image:practicalmoneymastery

image:practicalmoney mastery

We’re planning a vacation!  Exciting, even if it does involves headstones and burial plots.  And, arrangements to make for travel to New Mexico to the cemetery.

It all takes me back to that night three years and eleven months ago.

Did I hear Daddy’s last breath?  I’d walked into the living room to close the front door against the evening air that had cooled down the stuffiness of the day’s warmth inside the house and realized that for the first time in nearly three days, Daddy’s loud, raspy breathing had calmed.

Was he breathing?  I concentrated to tune out the sounds of Mother clattering dishes in the kitchen as well as the sound of the TV in the dining room and tried to focus on the sounds right where I stood.

The lamps on the sofa end table and on the old sewing machine cabinet next to Daddy’s recliner usually cast a soft, warm glow across the red carpeting and made the brown of the room’s wood trim, the brown of the recliner and the gold, beige and brown of the sofa look comfortable and cozy.  Tonight the room they lit was changed as Daddy’s hospital bed, squeezed into the space between the recliner and the sofa, sucked all normality from the room.  He lay there just as he had for the last four days.  He looked unchanged, his withered, translucent skin pulled tight against shrunken bones, covered by a sheet, he was mostly unmoving, either sleeping or out of it due to the morphine and Ativan that hospice provided for comfort in his last days.  The nose plugs of the oxygen tubing were still in place, his mouth open slightly, his eyes closed, his skin color still the slightly yellow pallor it had been for weeks.  One thin, stick of an arm was outside the sheet, propped up on one of the pillows that had been placed along his side to keep him from wounding himself on the bed rails.  His skin was so fragile, it didn’t take much pressure to cause bruising and bleeding.

It had been four days since he’d wanted any water or food.  The last time he tried, it just wouldn’t go down.  The only thing that had been easy about his care since then was using the medicine dropper to put the drugs in his mouth to keep him comfortable.

In the few weeks that he was failing and able to do less and less for himself, we’d talked about the future and how he’d always planned to be there for Mother to the very end and how he would have to leave her now, when he didn’t want to leave her alone.  We talked about the things I would need to do to keep the house running and Mother able to stay in her home.  We talked about when he needed medication, what I could do to help him get from the bed to the wheelchair to the recliner to the wheelchair to the table.  He was responsive and mostly clear headed.  One of the effects of liver cancer is its effect on the brain and every now and then he would seem confused but for the most part he was lucid and knew who he was and who we were and what the daily issues were.

He was six weeks away from his eighty-ninth birthday and I would be surprised if there was a time in all those years that he was unmotivated.  Even as he got weaker, he got up every morning with a purpose.  That habit was hard to break.  It had just been five days earlier that he woke and sat up in the hospital bed in the morning and tried to get up.  I helped him dress and then said,

“Daddy, this is all further you have to get up.  Why don’t you just lie back down?”

“Oh.”  He said.  “All right.”

That was the last morning he spoke clearly and the last time he tried to follow his normal morning routine.  There was no fear on his part that he was leaving, no anxious grasping on to life.  There was never any regret on his part for the life he’d lived, because he lived it honestly and fully, every day.  He had nothing to confess, nothing to make right.  He’d done that along the way.  He’d invested himself fully in serving the God that he knew loved him and there was no doubt that God was waiting for him, as soon as his last breath in this life was expended.

image: google images

image: google images

Was this his last breath?  His chest seemed to contract and there was a slight hissing sound from him mouth, then he was still.  I moved closer to the bed and laid my hand on his skin.  Warm.  His chest did not move again.  There was no sound of air moving.

In the couple of hours that followed, Mother and I sat down to eat the dinner she’d been preparing.  We knew we had to have food to get us through.  Then I called all the family and Hospice.  Hospice sent a nurse who verified he had died and she called Loma Linda University where he had donated his body to science.

It was a hard night and the next day was torture.  Mother and I were exhausted and emotionally spent, yet the phone didn’t stop ringing, one niece came over and people from the church came.  Mother and I have said since, that if we could have, we would have taken that day away from everyone and everything.  The next day, we were back to normal and able to go on with plans.

image:digginitinc

image:digginitinc

Plans were fairly simple because it would be about two years before Daddy’s cremated remains would be released from the teaching hospital.  It was Daddy’s idea to donate their bodies to science, both because it was such an inexpensive way to take care of remains and because he liked the idea that even after his soul was bounding across heaven in a new heavenly body, his old body here just might do someone, somewhere, some good.

His remains were released last year and they wait patiently on a shelf at the funeral home.  We know he is not there.  He has begun eternity with Jesus in heaven and is unbothered that a few ashes are yet to be buried.  Mother has not felt physically able to make the eight hundred mile trip, but now she says it’s time, so we will choose headstones and go to see his remains interred in the plot in the small country cemetery where so many other Deans and Jones remains lay.

Daddy’s children, my brothers and my sister, will come from Texas and Tennessee and northern California to join us there and we’ll reminisce and laugh and play together and have a vacation away from our daily lives and Mother will bask in the attention of being surrounded by her children.  And I’ll have a vacation from being her sole caregiver.

image: the3dstudio

image:the3dstudio

We’ll need each other as we stand by that cemetery plot and see the headstone set and are reminded again of our loss and finality of what life comes to in this world.  Ashes.  Buried in a plot of ground.  And we’ll joy at the thought that one day we will all be together again, our souls unfettered by any loss or pain.  We’ll go on from there to continue life, living out the legacy our loving, faithful, funny, intelligent, caring Daddy gave us:  love God, love each other and live life fully.

Superhero

My dad: Superhero.  Many little kids think their dad is a superhero.  They want to be like him and they copy what he does and what hesource: DeanFamilyPhotos says.  Then the kid grows up and often the flaws they see in their dad outweigh that early superhero status.

Not my dad.  Oh, he wasn’t perfect, but he loved me unconditionally, he was smart and funny and happy and caring and committed to his personal values and to telling other people that God was real and Jesus loves us all.  He was competent at so many things: he’d been a master plumber, airplane mechanic and tested rocket fuels.  I’d seen him repair cars, build church buildings, build a brick fence, fix plumbing problems, handle electrical breakdowns, repair the roof, transplant trees, maintain tomato plants and harvest fruit from all the fruit trees in the yard of the Pomona house and help Mother do the canning.  He was the one who got everything stored in the freezer.  In the garage there are four different type ladders and he used them all for various tasks.  There’s an entire network of shelving in the rafters of the garage and he knew what each box held and what was stored up there in the boxes we could and couldn’t see.  His handiwork is all over this old house.

This house ran so smoothly under his care that it seemed a simple thing to me to tell him that I would be here to see that Mother was ok and could stay in her home after he was gone.  In about three months’ time he’d gone from busy and capable, a sharp thinking and productive 88 year old, to thin and weak and desperately tired from the ravages of liver cancer.  He sat in his recliner watching me one day as I struggled to flip the queen size mattress on his and Mother’s bed and then put on fresh sheets.  I probably wouldn’t have even thought of flipping the mattress but Daddy had done that twice a month and kept it marked on the schedule of his Daytimer for at least the last twenty years.  That must explain why that mattress is still uniformly even.  I left the bedroom and walked across the living room to where he sat.

“How are you doing, Daddy?”  I laid my hand on his shoulder.

“I’m tired.”  He said.  “I want to go home to God.”

My eyes full of unshed tears, I said, “Then maybe you should go, Daddy.”

“Your Mother’s not ready.”  He spoke softly, his eyes closed, his head back on the headrest.

“I’ll be here Daddy.”  I said.  “She won’t be alone.”

He nodded, almost imperceptibly.

Easy promises made out of my need to reassure him.  He was the rock of our family and of my life but it was clear he wasn’t going to beat this.  He was going, and soon, to the place without pain, without suffering.  I wouldn’t let him down.  I’d pick up the load he’d carried here and he could go without concern.

In the nearly four years since that day, Mother and I have continued on.  This old house has needed a new breaker in the electrical box, new fuses (with regularity), the dishwasher died, the freezer died, the garage door got so bent out of shape it no longer worked, the garage was burgled and all Daddy’s tools were stolen, the shower stall and the toilet in Daddy’s bathroom both leaked and were starting to destroy the floor, the rain came in through the old roof, the lawn and gardens and trees needed care, much of which I wasn’t strong enough to provide, Daddy’s car had to be sold and mine was so old more money for repairs made no sense, the nearly thirty year old forced heat/air unit kept breaking down, the cooking range took a sabbatical then miraculously worked again, the ceiling heater in the back bathroom died, the kitchen desperately needed painting, the bedroom-cum-storage room where I sleep needed an overhaul and the thirty-plus-year old red carpeting in the main rooms had to go and the underlying hardwoods needed work.

I’ve kept the promise I made to him.  Through all the minutia of maintaining a house, through all the times Mother has driven me crazy and in the times of fun and laughter we’ve had together as I learn to accept that she will never have his optimism or his joy for life.  They say opposites attract and they were truly opposites.  Daddy loved her and I try to do the same.  She dreams of Daddy every night she says.  I look around me and see him in every detail of this old house and in the legacy of God’s love he passed on to his family.  He lived by God’s grace and by God’s grace I’ll be the best I can be, my heart looking forward to the day I’ll see my Daddy again.