Friday, June 30, 2006

Two Days 'til Home

In a way, being with my parents is as much home as any home I've created on my own. The familiarity of walls lined with shelves crammed with books, post-it notes hanging off of everything, a 2 lb. block of cheddar cheese in the fridge, an over-sized, over-stuffed, ugly recliner in the living room and the smell of Rain Bath hanging in the bathroom after a shower. These are familiar. Stacks of papers printed out on any variety of topics on the edges of tabletops, and stacked on top of books, notebooks filled with Greek, Hebrew, sermon notes, radar information, mathematical texts of all descriptions, and a preacher's library fit for a small seminary.

Bottles of pills, both prescription and vitamins crowd the counters, all the things that try to keep my dad alive and comfortable, along with the pills that try to counter the effects of some other pills. Eye drops, insulin, alcohol swabs. Nasal canulas (is canulii the plural?), hand sanitizer, blood glucose meters. Such are the accoutrements of diabetes, apnea and renal failure. All the wonderful things that happen to a body that cannot regulate it's own blood sugar levels.

In my parents' home, you can find pens, pencils, markers, highlighters, scissors, fingernail files, nail clippers, magnifying glasses, rubber bands, paper clips, combs, and other wonders beside every chair, on every desk, and in every nightstand or bookshelf. Most locations will also have rubber cement, tape, a screwdriver or a pair of pliers as well. It's quite a change from my house, where I often cannot locate any of the 6 or 7 pairs of scissors, dozens of clippers, pens, markers, etc. that I replace fairly often. Where they go is a mystery. Perhaps they somehow wind up in my parents house through an unseen portal.

Here I can find the answers to all my quantum mechanics, physics, chemistry, calculus, statistics and algebra questions in easily accessible textbooks. I can also find reference books on any number of physical conditions, look up medications and their side effects and study anatomy. Sitting in their living room I can see six 6 ft. bookcases. These are not the bookcases of an HGTV designer show, with selected books displayed with carefully selected pottery and artwork. No, these are stuffed stem to stern with books, baskets, papers, clocks, cd-roms, and record albums. One of the bedrooms has another 7 or 8 bookshelves as well as tables and desks for more books, office supplies and computer equipment. While this means that the guest bed is an air mattress laid out under the table each night, surrounded by the blue, red, and green lights of various computers, printers and such, it still feels like home.

Mom reads her library books and various magazines, while Dad's computer screen is invariably displaying Greek text from whatever Bible passage he is studying at the moment. The daily language lesson makes my head spin. I was a straight A student in Honors English in college and have never before heard of some of these parts of speech and their tenses.

Mom enjoys a trip to the local thrift store searching for treasures among other people's cast offs. The beautiful Chico's jacket I am bringing home probably came from one of those perfect homes, where everything has it's place and the moment it is unneeded it is discarded. We have never been such people, though I admire them greatly. How do they know when they are through with something? One of the traits that drove my previous employer batty is my filing system. I always have a basket or tray with papers I just can't decide what to do with. There they lie until either I need them (and thus know I must keep them and where to put the paper) or it has been about three months or so. After the paper has been in the tray for 3 months, I can then sort the stack and fairly easily see that I do or do not need the paper in question and probably 90% can go straight in the shredder. The remainder is then easy for me to file away, and their classification becomes clear to me. works for me.

For years I carried around a pink rabbit, handcrafted by a friend of mine. Covered in polyester lace and adorned with blue ribbon, it was cleverly designed to sit on a shelf. At the same time, she gave me one of those 5 or 6 inch straw hats adorned with fake flowers, more polyester lace and pastel ribbons. For a brief period of time I attempted to decorate around these pastel pink and blue gifts, but afterwards kept moving them with me and displaying them everywhere I went. The problem is that I dislike pastels, particularly pink (to decorate, that is), hate cutesy, and really abhor polyester lace. What I loved is my friend. What I loved is her thoughtfulness, her cleverness, her handiwork. But it took me years to understand that the things were not her. I was not treating her with disdain if I didn't keep the things she gave me. My friend Jana helped me with this, unknowingly. Jana is one of those people who discards things easily. She has culled her possessions into the few things she really loves, and anything broken or having outlived it's usefulness is gone. We have a "no guilt" agreement between us. Whatever I give her she is perfectly free to like or dislike, keep or give away without any hard feelings, and the reverse is true. In fact, when a bowl she had given me broke, and I was staring at it trying to figure out if I could glue it back together, I knew how proud she would be if I were to simply put the pieces in the trash. So I did. It was freeing!

I was checking my camera to see what pictures I have taken while here. I was surprised to discover no pictures of Beverly Beach, and almost none of the mountains. No pictures of the Willamette River either (pronounced will a' meht, the a is a long flat a sound like in apple). But I have better. I can't show you, but in my head I have recorded the sights, sounds, smells and feel of those places. I have bird song, surf, the feel of sand under my feet, the sight of little crabs scurrying away and of creatures burying themselves in the sand. I have mountain vistas, Boiling Bay, Cape Foulweather, and Yaquina Point Lighthouse stored away. There are the smells of saltwater, seaweed, lush undergrowth, cedar, drops of oil burning on the catalytic converter, masses of petunias in a roadside produce and flower market, and of the rosemary bush I bought and planted outside their front door. Hopefully I have enough mental recordings of my Dad's voice to keep with me once the man himself is gone.

Of Dad's things, yes, Kris and I will probably have discussions about various portions of his library, but I most want his walking stick and whichever of his Bibles has the most handwritten notes inside.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Laugh, or Cry.

It's a lesson my mother taught me a long time ago. If you don't learn to see humor in the midst of pain, trials and disappointments you will be miserable. Laughter is a wonderful gift, and in times of stress is much needed.

I have laughed more during this visit with my parents than I have for a long time. I am choosing to see the humor in this situation. I'm not really laughing at my dad's expense, but I must laugh or cry. So I find his directives (mostly) humerous. He tries to explain to me how to fix his networking issues. He has never built a network. He has written Greek grammar textbooks, taught hermenutics, homiletics, textual criticism, can read Hebrew, wrote programming for the radar systems that kept our nation safe and free for a long time. He averted a nuclear war by correctly interpreting data that appeared to be, but was not, a nuclear attack. He is a BMEWS expert, a PAVE PAWS guy, understands math in ways I will never grasp, but he has not ever built a network. I have. I know enough to understand that there is something in the setup that is not apparent to me, something either set up by someone else that I don't see, or something about the particular laptop he has that is not conforming to standard networking. So when he tells me to rename everything and that should fix it, I run the network setups, and system configurations for the 17th time. I don't run and scream. (I was caught with my head on the desk, but that's not the same thing.) Instead I laugh.

When his talking begins when the key turns in the ignition and stops only when the key is removed from the ignition, I laugh. It is not unkind laughter. It is actually laughter that says, "I love you, Dad, in all your eccentricities, and I refuse to let myself get upset by these new and puzzling things that you do." I am choosing to be amused and not irritated by him.

When he discusses medical issues that he would never have mentioned in previous years, I laugh. Catheters aren't funny...well, yeah, they kind of are. Pain isn't funny, but the funny walk I have when my arthritis acts up makes me laugh. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror out of the corner of my eye, hair pulled back into a barrette and hanging more than half way down my back, and thought, I recognize this look! My mother wore her hair in a long ponytail. I though I was being so original. Ah, well. I laugh at myself a lot.

When financial stresses come, as another one did today, and threaten to make me panic, cry, hyperventilate and lose faith, I chose to pray (eventually) and to remember that I trust in the God of Abraham and of Isaac, of Jacob, of Joseph, rescued from a pit and in time made second in command over Egypt, saving his family in the process. I trust in the God of Esther, who rescued her and her people from annihilation. I trust in the God who did not let the widow's oil run out, in the God of Job, who said "Though he slay me, yet will I trust him." I trust the God who put Noah and his family into the ark and brought them out onto dry ground. I trust the God who led the children of Isreal for 40 years in the desert and then led their children into the promised land. I trust in the God of my father, my mother, my brother. I trust in the God who made dry land in the midst of the sea, then caused the sea to close up over Pharoah's army. I trust in the God who made man from the dust of the ground, from his own spit and breathed life into him with his own breath. I will trust in the God who loves me more than anyone else, and who has my very best interests at heart. I will trust that he will bring good out of this.

In the midst of a distressing trip, and on a day of distressing news, I am very glad to have met a lady named Jeannie. Jeannie made me feel welcome in her home and in her very special tea shop. Jeannie is one of the neatest people I have met in a long time. And today, of all days, when I needed a bit of encouragement, her warm smile, her gracious welcome and her lovely cup of tea were just what I needed. Thank you Jeannie.

This is somewhat disjointed tonight. I apologize, but that's me today. Disjointed. I'm 42 years old and my joints are aching with arthritis from a short walk through the mall. Not a reason not to walk, just the effect. Still, move it or lose it. I am happy to be moving at all.

Just a few more days 'til I go home. I'll be glad to get home, though I would love to live near the ocean and someplace green at some point. (Amalfi Coast?) ;-) Steve was great making this happen, and I'm really grateful, but aside from a bit of nagging and a lift of their spirits, I'm not sure I've accomplished much. What I really wish is that I could get Dad to really look at Mom and see what this is doing to her. Sometimes I think he feels like his purpose is gone, but right now, his purpose should be to be really good to my mom. "Be ye KIND one to another..." At least that's how I see it. It's a lesson for me, too. A big part of my purpose is to be good to those around me, to my family, to my husband. This is tough, cause I really am rather self-absorbed. Ugly, but true.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Fun Stuff I can't explain why this amuses me. This always puts a smile on my face and has the added benefit of annoying others. It's a two-fer! Again, this makes me laugh but is highly irritating to others. More irritating than just about anything, which only increases my own amusement. Try to fly this baby further each time. I warn you, it's addictive! Ouch! Fun!

How did we ever get along?

  • the Internet
  • wireless connectivity
  • microwave ovens
  • fast food
  • frozen dinners
  • air conditioning
  • satellite tv
  • remote control
  • Ebay
  • dexonline
  • frappuchino
  • online shopping
  • online legal forms
  • online research
  • email
  • instant messenger
  • video
  • digital cameras
  • cell phones

I guess people cooked their own food, took sack lunches, went to the library, wrote letters, drank Folgers, talked to their friends, and waited. Waited in restaurants while their food was prepared, waited while film was developed, made appointments with their attorney, used pay phones, took 8mm films, read books, used a phone book, walked if the car broke down, talked to their neighbors, planned meals ahead of time, went to auctions...

Imagine a world where cell phones didn't ring. Imagine going on a trip and taking all the cash you need with you. Imagine getting your car serviced ahead of time to make sure you didn't break down. Imagine visiting friends rather than emailing them, doing research at the library rather than on the net...

Oh...I guess I don't have to imagine. If I think hard enough I can remember. Remember velvet ropes between lines at the banks? Remember walking around town all day without having to answer a phone? Remember driving without worrying about breaking down, vacations without the internet? Remember time to think and dream and be? Most of those I still have, but I'll take mine with a venti mocha lite frappuccino. I'll take walks on the beach without cell service. (Hooray!) But the library? Stacks of books with a return date? (A return date I nearly always miss, costing me so much in fines that I might as well have gone to Borders to begin with.)

For a night, take the kids, a blanket or several, flashlights, sleeping bags, go out in the back yard and spend a night showing the kids the stars. If your yard is in the city, you might need to drive out in the country a bit first, but it'll be worth it.