Thursday, March 12, 2015

100 Things I Learned From My Dad

I don't or can't necessarily DO all these, but they are things I learned from the first greatest man in my life.
  1. Work hard.
  2. Rest when your knees hurt.
  3. Say Thank You.
  4. Take care of your family.
  5. Love God.
  6. Ask for help.
  7. Pray.
  8. Animals deserve our compassion.
  9. Serve your wife.
  10. Make gifts for your loved ones with your own hands.
  11. Be on time.
  12. Say “I love you” often.
  13. Pay your bills.
  14. Don’t eat too much.
  15. Discipline your children.
  16. Use the same old, used up line because it makes you laugh.
  17. Watch “Mash.”
  18. Study the map before you get there.
  19. Eat ice cream and cookies.
  20. Encourage others to eat ice cream and cookies.
  21. Tithe.
  22. Respect your elders.
  23. Plan for the future, but don’t let it worry you.
  24. Help your kids with the daunting task of moving.
  25. Listen to one another at the dinner table.
  26. Go camping.
  27. Go fishing, even if you can’t eat the stuff.
  28. Give generously and with no strings.
  29. Pepperoni pizza is the best.
  30. Watch the news, but don’t believe everything you hear.
  31. Make up nicknames for children.
  32. Eat the green beans, even if you don’t like them.
  33. A lot of pain right now is better than a little pain over a long time.
  34. No one is above the law.
  35. Don’t be so self-conscious. No one’s thinking about you as much as you are.
  36. Buy your wife the car she loves, except if it’s literally a Sherman tank.
  37. Drink coffee every morning.
  38. Pancakes for dinner is fun.
  39. Bacon and eggs every morning for a week is fun too.
  40. Mow the lawn.
  41. Clear snow from the driveway.
  42. Get the mail.
  43. Don’t waste unused stamps.
  44. Vote.
  45. You can’t have too many hammers, magnets, flashlights, or ice cream buckets.
  46. See your doctor if your wife insists.
  47. Get up early.
  48. You only need two sets of sheets.
  49. If the soles of your slippers blow out, use duct tape.
  50. Make letter openers and marshmallow sticks out of car antennas.
  51. Pass out gobs of pens with your name on them.
  52. Clean under your nails with a pocket knife.
  53. Stay sweet when you’re old.
  54. Use super glue as a liquid bandage.
  55. Appreciate Christmas carolers.
  56. Keep emergency cash in your glove box.
  57. Honor this country.
  58. Silence can be golden.
  59. Actions speak louder than words.
  60. Buy your daughter a horse when she cries herself to sleep for want of one.
  61. Err on the side of compliance when you’re not sure you’re right.
  62. Have picnics with your pardnur and his mom in the back of your pickup at work.
  63. Keep several pairs of gloves in at least two places.
  64. Get around stupid city laws as often as you can.
  65. A toothpick can be used as a tiny shim.
  66. Do the upright thing, even if it costs you.
  67. Record your children's voices when they're little.
  68. Bag balm cures skin cancer.
  69. Passing the phone to your wife when your daughter is crying is a good idea.
  70. Coffee and root beer are the only liquids you need to drink.
  71. When you retire, be prepared to be busier than ever.
  72. Stick to your guns, even if he’s wearing a badge.
  73. Tell your daughter often how beautiful she is.
  74. Brag on your sons in front of them.
  75. Have your mother-in-law live with you if that’s what your wife desperately wants.
  76. Send your female loved ones home with a freshly cut rose.
  77. Press cider with your family.
  78. When you make a mistake, don’t make excuses.
  79. Send care packages.
  80. Laugh at yourself.
  81. Know your strengths.
  82. Work on  your weaknesses.
  83. Cheese is a food group.
  84. Fly the American flag.
  85. Forgive, and don’t bring it up again.
  86. Carry a hanky and an extra one for someone else.
  87. Save your coins, then give them away.
  88. Manners are about respect.
  89. If you make a mess, clean it up.
  90. Tend a garden.
  91. Send Christmas and birthday cards.
  92. Make a list of all the most important phone numbers.
  93. Stay up on technology.
  94. Keep up the maintenance on your cars.
  95. Make your words mean something.
  96. Don't go on about yourself.
  97. Allow your wife her piles and just keep your own space orderly.
  98. Be a good steward.
  99. Most things can be fixed before they have to be thrown out, including people.
  100. Listen to a good preacher on the radio if you can’t make it to church. 

Some of these are cliches, but cliches stick around because of their truth. Many are specific to him, and the blend of both make this a personal and meaningful tribute to him in my heart and life.

There is only one thing on this list I learned to do because Dad did not, and that's to ask for help. His generation is one of privacy and independence. It was Mom who would call us to explain the problem or project Dad was working on all by himself, which usually ended up taking two or more of us to help him complete. He was always so thankful.

My dad was a good man. I will miss him everyday for the rest of my life. My gratitude for him being my father goes magma deep. I will always treasure that the last conversation I ever had with him was our regular greeting and benediction:

Dad:  I love you much.
Me:  I love you mucher.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Some Stuff I've Learned

My mom passed away in one sudden moment. My dad's passing was a more gradual, lingering journey. It may sound odd, but I have the privilege of having experienced both ways to lose a parent. Fortunately, my dad's lingering was really short compared to some--only a month. Through their deaths, I have experienced a few new things.

1.  There is a beauty in fragility. Pain brought out the sweetest trust in Jesus in my mom. She wrote this on a tablet by her chair, "Please Lord heal me. But if that is not Your will, then please Lord grant me the strength to accept it. Amen." With my dad, not eating caused him to lose a lot of weight. He was never a large man to begin with, and he'd already started to thin way down when he was still at home. His malnourished body and loss of teeth caused his cheeks to shrink. His vulnerability was exactly like that of an infant. Unable to speak or to even make minor body adjustments as he lay there, everything had to be done for him. That helplessness evokes compassion and the desire to comfort--both beautiful Christlike traits.

2.  There is no uniform way to grieve. The news of my mom's condition as my dad informed me by phone landed on numb ears. Even after I hung up and said the words out loud to Kev, I felt nothing. Can tragedy have an anesthetic effect? We all left her room when attendants came to disconnect the respirator. Afterward, I asked Dad if he wanted to keep waiting in that room or go back to Mom's room. I'll never forget the depth of despair on his face when he answered, "It doesn't matter. Nothing does anymore." I walked in and saw her still body and Wayneen's tears. I ran to her side and kept repeating, "My mom! Oh, my mom!" as I ran my hands over her arms and face, tears raining down. We were all crying silently as we left the hospital en masse. Grief would ambush me after that. I never knew when it would overpower me like a flash flood--no warning, no mercy. I still don't know how I completed her obituary or arranged for her memorial service. A picture, a note, a memory, or a fragrance could pull the trigger. It was the hijacking of grief. It was the hammer of loss. It was my way to mourn.

Grief over the loss of my dad came like a tsunami--crushing, devastating, and pounding. My cries were primal, and I was unable to do anything but cling to the kind, comforting soul holding me as I grasped for something solid to land on. My body tensed with the force of a seizure, and all I could do was ride it out and hope for dry ground soon. I spent the month after my dad's death exhausted, nauseous, and asleep. It was the sleep of sorrow. It was the fog of grief. It was how I mourned the last four years of investing in my dad's well-being and living with no regrets. It was my way to grieve.

3.  God's Presence is never nearer to me than when I am helpless. There was never one moment during these two experiences that I did not feel His Presence, save those blinding, deafening minutes I just described. Even then though, I never felt alone. I know I was cocooned by Love, enveloped in Tenderness, and cared for by Mercy, safe in the Rock.

4.  God's timing is flawless. I was able to ride into town with Kev or one of the kids the first week Dad was at Regency. It worked out that well. We had such a mild winter with fog instead of snow, so the roads were always good, not the norm for our January. Friends visited or wrote something encouraging just when I needed it. A song would play on the radio with lyrics written specifically for me. Kev received some really uplifting remarks from students who wanted him to come back. That was a 2-for-1 blessing for us both. Brett and Lydia were living with us at the time of my dad's stroke and decline. They took care of everything and everyone when we couldn't. Lydia had breakfast and dinner for us nearly everyday. They made three offers on three different homes, and they all fell through. That was the limit they set before deciding to rent, but Kev encouraged them to keep looking. As my fog began to lift and I began to feel human again, the fourth house became their new home. Lydia had been praying that I would be functional by the time they left, and indeed I was.

5.  There is a chance to encounter Jesus in every moment. When Dad started going downhill, I asked Him to "please help me eat and drink at this table He set before me, just as He has helped me with every other table in my life. There is food and drink and His heart to take up in this, no matter what my eyes and ears tell me." I saw Him caring for my dad in the hands of the nurses and aides. I heard Him in the warm words people offered. I felt Him in the many reassurances of love from friends and family. I smelled Him in our fresh country air, in the dryer vent with its clean clothes, in the sweetness of the hugs from my friends who all bear His fragrance. I even tasted Him--in the scores of meals Lydia made with such love, the ginger ale from Tina, and the coffees, gifts, treats, and sandwiches from loving souls. I wish I was always aware of encountering Him, but I forget. Thankfully, He never does, and the opportunities are always there.

6.  When people offer their help, they really mean it. We're so used to either going without or cramming it into our schedules, so most of the offers of help go unused. I decided to start saying Yes. The first things I asked for were lip balm and mints. (Thank you, Cheryl!) The second thing I hinted at was another necklace with beads and doodads. (Thank you again, Cheryl!) The next thing was ginger ale. (Thank you for both those times, Tina!) The next thing was offered to me so I didn't have to ask, but I did have to accept, and it was my first Jimmy John's sammie. (Thank you, Betty!) The next thing was also offered--a Ya-Ya visit at Regency complete with British fascinators (although I forgot mine... Thank you, Glenice!). They indeed fascinated wherever they went! Rosie visited my father twice, and both times I missed her. She read to him and left me the sweetest note. I couldn't have asked for a more thoughtful gift. Lydia and Barb both brought me coffee.

These weren't humongous things, but I wanted to start somewhere, and I will treasure every remembrance of them. (What I actually need is help cleaning my house! A month of sleep and five dogs have left it in desperate shape.) We truly do want to help someone going through difficulty, but most of the time we don't know what to do. Experiencing the other side of the fence opened my eyes to the opportunity that asking or saying Yes gives to people. We both win.

I'll learn more stuff as time goes on, but I wanted to list these while they're still fresh on my mind. I'm grateful for the insights and the garden of truth they are in this potential time of drought. How kind He is. Always.

Monday, March 09, 2015

To Strangle

Worry:  Old English wyrgan ‘strangle.’ In Middle English the original sense of the verb gave rise to the meaning ‘seize by the throat and tear,’ later figuratively ‘harass,’ whence ‘cause anxiety to’.

I did something foolish, something I know better than to do. A dear friend unburdened herself and shocked me with a terrible secret. I promised not to tell anyone, not even my Kevin. Instead of leaving it at lifting her up in prayer, however, I slung her on my back and started carrying her around. By the next night, I was a basket case. I couldn't stop crying. I was so bone weary that when I stood to get out of bed, I fell.  I have a bruise the size of a grapefruit on my hip with every color in it. I bruise easily anyway, so this is a doozy.

Kev reminded me of something I learned and practiced years ago--not to take on other people's burdens, no matter how dear they are to me. We were never designed to play God.  Only He can help her.  I can take up up His heart for her and commit to pray, and that's enough.   I did no one any good by worrying myself sick. I didn't make her feel better. I didn't solve her problem. I caused my husband stress. In fact, it ruined our evening and what could have been a really sweet time.

Okay, lesson learned.  Again.  I have an owie now to remind me.  Help it stick.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

They're Just Things

We were cleaning out some stuff from my dad's garage the other day when my sister-in-law said, "This is exactly what you don't want to do to your kids."  My dad was the most resourceful person I've ever known, but part of that superpower came from never throwing anything away. Pieces of pipe, drawer handles, string, rug scraps, dowels of every shape and length, buckets, jugs, cartons, plastic edging, eroding lawn chairs, and don't get me started on nails and screws. They're all there in living color. We took three truckloads to the incinerator, but there's still a whole lot more to go. At least we cleared out most of the stuff in the camper over the last few years. At one point, Mom had it filled literally full of blankets, gallon milk jugs, stuffed animals, toys, and coolers. It's only one little corner, but at this point, even small dents count.

There have been fun moments though, like when Alan handed me a wee oil can to go with my rusty tinman.

Finding our baby books was especially sweet, although I've since misplaced them, so I hope to find them a second sweet time. Going through vinyl LP's with Terry was a hoot. Trudy volunteered to go through the pictures and organize them by family. I don't think she expected that we'd keep finding album after album.

The business of disbursing Dad's belongings has gone really well so far. If there's been something both Alan and Kev wanted, Kev always defers to Alan. As far as I know, everyone has gotten whatever was requested and there have been no hurt feelings. The kids haven't asked for much. Ryan wanted a tool, Jylle some kitchenware, and Brett has a brief list. Only two of Alan's girls wanted things, and everyone was in agreement. I know it's not always as great as this, so I am thrilled. Both Brett and Jylle said they were able to have a relationship with my folks like Alan's girls couldn't, and they count that as absolutely priceless. If my kids got nothing, they wouldn't bat an eye. In the end, they're just things.

In processing the loss of my parents, I can rejoice in the fact that nothing went unsaid. Saying "I love you" with hugs and smiles galore happened every time we were together. It was a running joke that we had to start leaving at least 30 minutes before we actually needed to in order to leave on time because of all the last minute gifts and affection. We encountered it every single time. The hospice pastor told us what an extraordinary treasure we have in having heard those three little words from both our mother and father. It can leave such a raw, gaping hole in someone's heart when that was never experienced. A miracle in itself, given that neither of my folks ever heard them from their own parents. It was my dad who taught me to say "I love you." I would say it to my mom, but not to him. I was about nine when he said those words to me one time. He hugged me, and he said, "Now you say it to me." I have no idea what my problem was, but I felt so uncomfortable. He urged me again, so I finally said it. He hugged me again and said, "I love you too." I still remember thinking That wasn't so bad!  Odd child.

We do have a lot of stuff to sort through, but how blessed to know it's the unimportant, tangible stuff. The "things". The gold and precious gems stored up in my heart would make a dragon jealous. They are the legacy my parents left me. Two hearts that were totally for me, who knew in their untaught deeps what the true treasures of life really are. The "realest" things.