Sunday, July 31, 2005

Worries Around the Family Table

"The body of Jesus Christ, broken for you, take and eat."

I said these words over and over as people walked to the Table to receive the Sacrament.

Some people take just a tiny crumb from the loaf of bread and dip it gently into the wine. It is as if they are afraid to come to close to the sacred. "We are unworthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table," will be the words of the prayer I will use at the end of the Sacrament, and it is as if these are people who know too well their unworthiness.

Others will come and take a large chunk of the bread and drench the bread with wine from the chalice. It is as if they are starving for spiritual food.

My son comes through the line. There are three elders with me serving the Sacrament, each holding one half of a broken loaf, or holding a chalice of wine.

He comes and takes the bread.

It is a tiny piece.

"The body of Jesus Christ, broken for you, take and eat."

He does not look at me as he takes the bread, and he moves onto the elder next to me to dip the bread into the wine.

He was in tears when we drove up to the church. I know it is a difficult thing for him to do, to cry in front of his father. being a teeanger is such a difficult time. And like many of the things that overwhelm him, it was such a small thing.

I had been waiting for almost two weeks to share some advice with him. On the way to church the opportunity finally presented itself. But the gulf between an adult and a teenage child is so vast. He has no idea how much I understand what he is going through. Soft words of counsel sound to him like harsh words of criticism. I know that he is not stupid, but I also know that he lacks wisdom and experience. These will come only with pain and suffering.

It would be a lot easier if he would listen.

But he won't.

Growing up takes time. No matter how much others around want to help, it is something one must do at one's own pace, and along one's own unique path.

My son attended the first service, and then disappeared for the day. His absence worries me throughout the other services.

Throughout the morning, people chat with me about their lives.

Anne says her daughter's pregnancy is not going well. She is dehydrated and ill, and eating poorly.

The Bakers have bought a new house and asked me to conduct a blessing on their home.

The Conners have brought their 14 year old nephew into their home. He was being used by his guardian as free labor in an abusive setting until the boy almost committed suicide. Now they are going to become the legal guardians.

Don is having some difficulties with Jessie as the family adjusts to Don's divorce.

The Eastwood family came and asked me to conduct a baptism for their child.

Fran tells me that her father will not be going to the Senior's feast, and he probably needs to go.

Grace is offering me and Ginny tickets to the opera later this month.

Hannah was not in church, but her mother tells me she is doing very poorly.

I conducted a new members class between services.

My son and wife and I watched a game on television during the afternoon.

I attended the the youth program in the evening.

In the evening, I sat at the dinner table with the family and ate more than I should have, wondering what my choice of food was doing to my diabetes.

So many concerns, but the one who concerns me most is the boy.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Screaming Against Injustice

There is a strange verse in the Bible.

Actually there are lots of strange verses in the Bible, but this one comes to mind today -- Deuteronomy 22:24. It is one of the many Old Testament laws Christians find it best to ignore. If a woman is raped in the country -- she's innocent. If the rape happens in the town, then you asume she did not scream -- so you kill them both.

Any of my colleagues in ministry preaching on that verse this week?

This year?

This lifetime?

I've often wondered about that text. It goes against everything we tell women about what to do in a rape situation.

What can this verse teach us?

It occurs to me that this verse has very little to with rape.

It has to do with injustice.

We should scream.

We should scream when injustice happens to other people -- and we should also scream when injustice happens to us.

Perhaps I should have screamed yesterday, but instead I was silent.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Life's Greatest Challenge

I have met a man who walked on the moon.

I have talked to people who climbed Mt. Everest.

I have seen Presidents and Vice Presidents.

I have talked with Governors and Senators and once conversed with the Speaker of the House.

On many occasions I have seen Billy Graham speak in public.

I've had dinner with millionaires, known authors of best sellers, and enjoyed the company of CEOs of major corporations.

But of all the challenges that face the human soul, the most difficult is what I do each day as I try to raise a man.

I love my son and I am always grateful that he and I have such a great relationship. I believe he is a good boy, and that he will make a fine man.

But like any teenager, he walks on the edge of manhood and can easily fall prey to foolishness. Some falls are fatal. Some are not.

When I saw Fred today at the church, I asked him how he was doing. "I've never had a bad day," he said, using his traditional reply.

Today, I came close to having a bad day.

A very bad day.

A woman came to the door at about 4:00 this afternoon. She introduced herself as Donna.

Apparently my son and two other boys had taken her husband's bag at the neighborhood pool, which had several items, including his Federal Marshall's badge and gun.

So my son had stolen someone else's property, and of all things, he had to steal something from a Federal Marshall.

I paged my son and immediately went to the pool, where I easily found him. He came to me and I asked him what was happening. He told me, in a very forthcoming manner, what he'd done. Several others gathered around, and Donna drove up at about this time. My son admitted taking the bag. He said he thought it belonged to one of his buddies, Chris. When they looked in the bag, they discovered the badge and the gun.

My son tried to give it to the front desk at the neighborhood pool, but they were afraid to get involved.

He tried to give it to a neighborhood security guard. He refused to take the bag, and suggested that my son put it in a US Mail Box.

This is Miami -- it's not quite like the rest of the country. The police here are not quite like they are in the rest of the country. Anywhere else the security guard would have taken care of the matter and taken the bag to return to the officer. Here, the guard was afraid of the cop -- mainly because the cop was one of several law enforcement people gathered around the pool for a birthday party. They were all a bit drunk.

My son returned to Donna all of the property, which was in the car -- except for the gun and the badge. She agreed not to press charges if we retrieved the gun and badge -- so off we were to the Post Office. As we arrived we found a man emptying the contents of the mail box. God was with us! The postal worker allowed us to take the bag with the gun and the badge after Donna showed him her ID.

When we returned to the pool, her husband and several other cops were there. As I said, they were all a bit on the drunk side -- some more than others.

I'm not sure how, but suddenly my son was in the back of a Miami Dade police car.

"He will be arrested," the officer said.

"We were told no charges would be filed," I said. "That is one of the reasons my son was so forthcoming with the information."

"He committed a crime."

"How can we handle this among ourselves."

"I want to press charges," said James, the Federal Marshall, who had stepped up while we were at the car.

"Is there anything we can do to avoid this," I asked.

"$500," James said.

I had it in the trunk of my car, under the spare tire.

It's a small price to pay for your son.

In any other town, a drunk cop leaving a gun where children could get to it would have cost the man his job -- in Miami, he walks away with a few extra bucks in his pocket.

At church earlier today, Fred has said that he has never had a bad day.

I almost had one today.

But at the end of the day, my son is at home. We are safe. And the terrible things that almost happened, did not.

God has been good to us today.

My son, like any young person, walks on the edge of manhood and can easily fall prey to foolishness. Some falls are fatal. Some are not.

Today's fall was not fatal.

Indeed, God has been good to us today.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Not Scotty, Too?

I remember it very clearly -- I must have been only 5 or 6 years old, but I knew immediately what the object was. I remember the fear I felt, but I had the presence of mind to let the whole motel know they were in danger.

"BOMB," I yelled as I pounded on door after door. "BOMB." People came out into the parking lot, many in their pajamas and robes.

"Look," I pleaded with them -- "It's a bomb."

They looked up and started back to their rooms, many laughing at me.

Laughing? We're all about to die.

I just couldn't figure out why the bomb was stuck in the air, hovering overhead.

Dad explained it was a blimp.

What's a blimb? I knew what a bomb was, but I had no idea what a blimp was. It sure looked like a bomb, and a big one at that.

Well, being 50, I now know about blimps. I saw one come in for a landing once. Ropes dropped from the blimp -- mooring lines, I think they were called. Ground crew secured the ropes to posts on the ground, thus securing the blimp.

I feel like I'm a blimp -- I'm not only the size of a blimp, I also have mooring lines.

And I'm losing those mooring lines!

I thought about that when I learned that Scotty died. Well, it wasn't Scotty, it was Jimmy Doohan, the actor who played Scotty. But I didn't know Mr. Doohan. Scotty -- I knew Scotty. Known him for years. Now he's dead.

Snap! A mooring line.

Dad's dead.

Snap! A mooring line gone.

My mom. My two sisters.

Snap, snap, snap! One mooring line after another.

The people in our lives keep us secured against all the winds and turmoils of life. Once gone, they can never be replaced. The loss of any one of these mooring lines, real or imagined, makes all the others so much more important.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

So What's It Like To Be Dead?

Dad's funeral was today.

My son wore his newly purchased suit, as Dad requested.

Dad's long time pastor did the service -- he did my Mom's funeral as well, and he and I did Dad's wedding when he remarried a while back.

I've been thinking about what death is like.

Preachers are supposed to know the answer, but I don't.

I hear a lot of theological crap about death. Pearly gates? Great food? I heard one preacher talk about how he would play tennis in heaven -- yes, he played great tennis on earth. I'd like to play tennis in heaven also -- and no, I don't play on earth.

When I read through the Bible, the only real image I get is that we will be worshipping God in heaven -- which means some people aren't going to be happy. "Where's the buffet?" How disappointing some will be to see it's the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper that will be their feast.

They missed the point of life -- they might miss the point of the after life.

I'm babbling.

I do that when I'm tired.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

My Favorite Part Of Funerals

The best part of the funeral is what happens the days before, and right after the funeral itself.

It's the laughter. The sharing of memories. The being together with families.

I've been with so many families that cried and mourned so deeply and painfully, and I know there are times when deaths are like that. My oldest sister died during surgery. We didn't have a clue that might happen. My older sister died at the age of 7.

Not much laughter there -- not until long after the burial.

But for Dad, as it was for my mother a few years ago, death came slowly and quietly -- and probably at a good time. The wait was not so long that the body was in such pain, or the mind was so dimmed.

I've been at home today -- Dad's home. People have come and gone all day. They've brought food, flowers, and sometimes a few stories to tell about Dad.

I've heard the stories before, but I enjoy hearing them again and again -- and especially now.

I think there is something healing about the telling of stories.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

My Father Has Died

The phone rang.

My Niece was calling.

"Grandfather died a few minutes ago."

With all of the sadness at my Dad's death, what fills me most is gratitude for being part of a wonderful family and for all the love my Dad and I shared.

We leave for South Carolina tomorrow.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

My Wife Caught Me -- How Humiliating!

My wife caught me, and while I told her that most men do this sort of thing, I was still humiliated.

I think most women do it also.

There I was walking down the hall of the house, swinging my arms as I walked. One arm would go forward, and I'd take my middle finger and press my palm and say, "Pffffft."

Then my other arm would move forward and do the same.

"What are you doing," Wife asked me.

"I'm Spiderman, shooting my web," I told her in a moment of total honesty.

"Are you that much under stress," she asked.

What? I do this all the time.

I tried to explain that other guys do this, but she didn't believe me.

"Remember the car accident Tony had several months ago," I asked her. "Well, he told me in confidence what really happened. Want to hear about it?"

"Pastors aren't supposed to share stuff like that," wife said.

"Whatever," I said. "In this case it will make Spiderman look insignificant. Tony was driving home and his SUV caught the top of the garage door and tore up the door and the car."

"His wife told me about that. The door malfunctioned and got stuck a little from the top," my wife said knowingly.

"Yeah, right," I said. "What really happened is that as he turned the corner to drive into his driveway, he pushed the remote and opened the entrance to the Batcave. The Joker was after him and Tony, being Batman, had to get into the Batcave."

OK, maybe that story didn't make me look good -- it just made Tony look nuts.

"Well," Wife finally said, "I've often seen you turn the corner into the den and swing your arm as you turn -- I thought that was an odd habit. Now I know you were just playing Spiderman."

Actually, when I turn that corner, I'm Superman navigating around Mt. Everest, but I decide sharing that is probably not in my best interest.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Mental Vacations

I flew through Miami and decided to go directly to Jamaica. It is one of the few Caribbean Islands I've not visited. It was a paradise! The only problem is that the tour guide turned out to be a Klingon.

About the time I realized that, I realized I was dreaming.

But the Klingon behaved and I continued to drift in and out of sleep.

At one point I was wondering, "why am I back in high school?"

OK, Jamaica was fine -- high school dreams meant it was time to get up!

I'm not preaching this week. Ann is, but I will be the liturgist and lead much of the worship service. I also have folks to visit in the hospital. There are a couple of fires among the staff to put out. The session meets soon -- that is the governing body of our church.

Life goes on.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Ten Years Later

I imagine walking in my garden on July 13, 2015. I am remembering my father, and the thought comes to mind, "I wish I'd asked my father about..."

Or "I wish I'd told him ..."

But nothing comes to mind.

I know there will come a time when I do think of things I wish I'd said, or that I wish I'd gotten him to tell me.

But for now, I suppose we've said all we really need to say to one another.

This afternoon, I left him and Step Mother. I told him I loved him, and he told me he loved me.

What more can we really say than that?

I'm on my way home to Miami to buy my son a suit, as Dad requested.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Good-Bye To My Father

"Why don't you use the bed,"” Dad asked. He was sitting in a chair, wide awake, and I was sitting in another chair, dozing.

"“Are you kidding? Don'’t you remember what happened to you when Mom was in the hospital?"

Mom was dying from emphysema and found it more comfortable to be in a chair, propped up against the hospital desk/tray. She could breath more easily. I'd insisted that Dad use the bed and get some sleep. During the night, I woke up and found a nurse about to give my Dad an injection! Wait --– wrong patient!

Dad and I laughed at the memory of that story.

Maybe she wasn'’t trying to give him an injection. Maybe the nurse was just standing there trying to figure out who the patient was -- but over the years it made a better story to have the nurse holding hyperdermic, swabbing Dad's arm with alcohol.

"“You know," Dad said, "you and I stayed in that hospital for days. Then you and I went home for a night'’s sleep and your mother died before we got to the house."”

"“I'’ve always thought she decided she didn'’t want us to endure her death with her,"I said. It was something we'd talked about several times over the years.

There was a long silence.

"“Why don'’t you go on home, son. You'’ve got things to do at your church."

"“You want me to go home so you can die?"” -- no, I didn'’t say that. I thought it. Instead I said, "“You want me to go home?"”

"Your niece is taking some time off work, and she and her husband can be here. Go home, and buy your son a suit. I don'’t want him to look like a bum at his Grandfather'’s funeral. And call your nephew. Tell him to get ready to fly down from Chicago. It won't be but a few more days."”

We continue to talk openly and frankly.


And after a while silence sets in.

ALL of the instructions?

OK, the blogspot subscription didn't work, even after I checked the "enable" box.

So I read MORE of the instructions.

I made another change on blogspot -- and if that fails, I may even have to read ALL of the instructions.

And don't give me the old thing about "men never ask for directions" routine. I always ask for directions. I'm not usually one to wander aimlessly about. I'm just not in the mood right now to be reading a lot of instructions.

Well, let's see if reading MOST of the instructions will be helpful.

Instructions? What instructions?

In the Presbyterian Church, or PCUSA, if you are a minister who wants to move, you read CIFs, write your PIF, work through a COM, so you can be interviewed by a PNC -- and be sure to watch out for egotistical EPs.

Without explaining any of that for the non-Presbyterians, I have a story about a minister who wanted to move. I'm on the COM, or the Committee on Ministry. She was circulating her resume online in our system. She wasn't getting any response, so after 6 months, she came to me and asked what she could do to get more response from churches looking to call a pastor.

Simple -- in the online form she had to check a box that enabled the resume to be circulated.

"How was I supposed to know I had to do that," she asked.

"Read the instructions?" I thought it, didn't quite say it.

So anyway, I noticed I was having trouble with the bloglet subscription process. I was writing posts on this blog, but subscribers weren't getting the entries.

When all else fails, read the instructions.

I had to check the "enable" box on the bloglet web page.

Gee, maybe that will fix everything.

I'm new to this blogging business, in case you haven't figured that out by now.

I look at the visitors who have come -- how the heck are you guys finding this thing? 122 visitors this month? From 27 nations?

Actually, come to think of it, that sounds like my church. We have a little more than 27 nationalities in our congregation.

But how did someone in Sweden find this blog, or Spain.

I'm fascinated by the world I live in. Countries used to be so far apart. Now I seem to live in an increasingly global community.

Well, I'm babbling.

I do that when I'm tired.

The main thing is that I really just wanted to post something -- anything -- to see if I fixed this subscription thing.

Monday, July 11, 2005

A Trip Down De Nile

Step Mother came today. She has said that she was sick, but I’m sure it was more that she was afraid of being here. She finds illness and death frightening.

She was here when the doctor arrived and told us that the X Rays confirmed that Dad had dyphagia, and was aspirating food and liquid into the lungs. She explained that food and liquid would now be given through a tube. There would be absolutely no food or water to be taken by mouth. She and I walked out, and when we returned, we found Step Mother feeding Dad Key Lime Pie.

"He has to eat something to get his strength back," Step Mother told us.

I think we finally got her to understand that he is not to have ANY food or liquid by mouth.

It is hard for her to understand and accept that Dad is close to death.

I sometimes think that denial is a good state of mind -- at least for a time. It gives a person's soul time to prepare.

I just hope Step Mother doesn't stay there to long.

Forgotten Names

Dad woke up alert and said, “I need to get ready for the doctors. I’m tired of them coming in and asking me those damned questions. Tell me what’s the date.”

“Hmmm. I can’t remember. Where’s that newspaper I had while ago?”

I find it – Monday, July 11th.

“And Bush is the President?”

“Right,” I say.

“They always ask me three questions. What’s the other one?”

“Do you know where you are?”

“St. Francis Hospital.”

“Memorial, Dad. You’re in Greenville Memorial Hospital.”

OK, we’re ready for the day’s quiz.

Shortly afterward, Dr. Hogg came by. She seemed pleased that he was more alert than yesterday.

"What is today," she asked him.

Dad knew it was Monday, July 11th. Hey – we’d studied for this!

"What year is it?"


"Who is the President," she asked.


"Who was president before him?"

Dad hesitated, so she prodded, "His wife is named Hillary."


Later on, however, another doctor or nurse had given Dad a similar test. "Do you know the day of the week?"

Dad did not. He could not venture a guess.

"Who is the president?"

"Wilson," Dad said with confidence.

"Do you know this fellow," he asked, pointing to me.

"My son," Dad said.

"What is his name?"

Dad looked at me in silence, and finally ventured, "Bush."

"Hey, don't insult me now," I smiled at Dad. "He asked for my name, not the president's."

Dad hesitated, and finally said saidly and strangely, "John, I can't remember your name."

Sunday, July 10, 2005

In Remembrance

"This is my body, broken for you," Phil said as he led us in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. "Do this, in remembrance."

Phil has been Dad's minister for years. He did my Mom's funeral over 20 years ago (has it really been that long?) and a few years ago he and I did Dad's wedding when he married Step Mother.

Della and Bill were with us in the room while we worshiped. They have been great friends for years and are members of Dad's church.

I've done this countless times -- taking the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper into homes and hospitals. I never really knew what a powerful experience it was to be unable to attend church, and to have the church come to you for worship.

After Phil left, Dad was in a great mood, very talkative. He was filled with memories. He kept talking about one thing after another.

"Remember when you were 5 years old and decided to paint the car?" Yes Dad, how could I forget?

"Remember the time when you were 6 and we went to that fancy restaurant in New Orleans and when the waiter brought out the meal you saw the parsley on the Frence Fries and insisted he take it back to the chef? 'I don't eat grass on my Fries' is what you told him." Yes Dad, got any more embarrassing tales.

"Sure, remember that time..."

So I turned the tables on him.

"Remember when you were in that hotel in Rome, Italy, taking a bath and noticed the button on the wall. You kept pushing it wondering what it was. Then a woman comes in and starts trying to help you out of the tub. You know, you always told us that was a hotel that catered to elderly and the woman was there to help you out of the tub. Are you sure you told that right? Was she really there just to help you out of the tub? Or was this some other sort of hotel?"

"How should I know," Dad said. "It's not like I spoke any Italian. All I know is that she finally got the message that I wanted her to get the hell out!"

"Dad, you remember when we were in Washington DC, and you were visiting Congressman Dorn? I asked you if he could get us into the Naval Observatory so we could look through that telescope."

"Hell yes -- I told you not to dare ask and you asked him anyway."

"It wasn't my fault. He's the one who said as we were leaving, 'if there is anything I can do while you are in DC, don't hesitate to ask.' So I decided to comply with his request."

"You know, that really was a great night. I'll never forget seeing Saturn through that telescope. Man, what a sight!"

And then we sat quietly for a while, as if savoring all the wonderful stories we'd just tasted.

"You know," Dad said finally, "we really have had a great time."

We sure have, I thought, as he closed his eyes and began softly snoring.

We sure have.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Dad gets his revenge

Dad had several visitors today -- it was Saturday, so lots of people had time to drop by.

My Rabbi came to see me. Of course, it's not really my rabbi. It's a buddy from high school who is Jewish. I hadn't seen him in years. He used to call me his priest and I called him my rabbi. How wonderful it is to see an old friend walk through a doorway.

One of Step Mother's brothers came by to relieve me. I needed it! I went to the lobby and made a few phone calls. Imagine, using pay phones! Yep, they still have a few of them in Greenville Memorial Hospital. My cell phone needed recharging, so I used those old 20th Century devices :)

I touched base with several parishioners. Vern is back in the Jackson Hospital. Her cancer grows worse every day. Youth Director tells me one of the teenagers is pregnant. Associate Pastor has everything under control for tomorrow's service -- I knew he would. The weather has not been too bad in Miami. Wife says they had lots of the hurricane's bands coming through.

Just as I was hanging up, ready to drive to Dad's home for a long nap, Step Mother's brother came out of the elevator.

He walked right past me and I called to him.

"Sorry," he said sheepishly. "I just can't handle that. It's too much."

It's not too much for me. I am tired, but there is something precious and humbling to be here. It's an honor of sorts to be the one who sits and waits at the bedside of someone you love, and who has loved you, waiting for that person's last breath.

Throughout the day, I help my Dad. He needs help to eat. He needs help to roll over. He needs help to move to a comfortable position. He needs help to pee.

He was sitting on the edge of the bed and I was holding a small urinal. A little urine sprayed against my arm. It was an awkward moment and I felt sad for my father, but he smiled and said, "Sorry, but I've waited 84 years to get you back for the time you pissed on me!"

We both laugh, and I ignore the fact that he referred to his age, rather than mine. He's only waited 50 years for his revenge :)

India likes us!

Dad and I have been watching a baseball game on television. It is one thing he can watch without worrying about following a plot line. He can watch half an inning, sleep, watch another inning, sleep --- he seems to feel a little better today.

Great news from India -- someone likes us! Asia Times says that

"Fully 71% in India express a positive opinion of the United States, compared with 54% three years ago," the survey says. Favorable opinion of the US in India was higher than any of the countries surveyed, including Canada (where it declined from 72% three years ago to 59%) and the United Kingdom, where it dipped considerably from 75% to 55%. Indians also had the most favorable opinion of the American people - 71% compared to 70% in Britain, 66% in Canada, 65% in Germany, 64% in France, 61% in Russia and 43% in China. The survey was conducted among 17,000 people in the US and 15 other countries from April 20 to May 31."

When I was in India a short time back, they were all very hospitable to our American group.

Long, Sleepless Night

Dad slept most of the night.

I slept little.

Strange gift -- this Internet. It beats watching late night reruns on the hospital television. I found myself reading blog after blog after blog. So many ultra conservative Christians keep blogs, and a few liberal Christians. Am I the last moderate left?

Whatever -- reading other blogs keep me somehow connected to the rest of the world. It's easy in this hospital room to think that reality has shrunk to these four walls and the hallway outside.

Hurricane Dennis is coming and I'm clueless what's going on back home in Miami.

I have two church members -- doctors who have gone to Haiti and they are stuck there. I urged them not to go. The Presbyterian Church, USA, ministers left weeks ago. Most missionaries have left. The Peace Corps has left. The sane have left. So they go in to continue our congregation's work there. Port au Prince is a terrible place to be right now. At least their skin is black -- it means they will be safer than I would be as a white Anglo. They are both Caribbean Blacks, so perhaps they are less likely to be kidnapped. Maybe they can "fly under the radar" while in PAP?

The Session meets this Sunday, and I'm letting Associate Pastor handle it. I hate to miss a Session meeting, but we have lots going on.

But all of that is in the "rest of the universe."

My universe is in this tiny room, focused on a father who will probably not be alive this time next week.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Remembering Dad

I will always remember my father as a tall, robust man. But for a brief time during his last days, I am seeing him as a frail creature. His skin sags, as if the muscles between the skin and the bones have all but disappeared. There is no smile on his lips, but his mouth hangs open in confusion. He is often asked to identify the day of the week, the name of the current President, and to tell where he is. These are questions he does not always answer correctly. I wonder where all of his wisdom has gone. Are his memories fading?

Dad is sitting in a chair right now. He is exhausted from his shower. Rather than being bathed in bed, this morning the nurses tried to walk him to the shower. It was extremely difficult for him, and he was unable to make the entire trip into the shower stall. He was near to the point of collapsing on his way to the stall when he defecated on the floor. The nurses sat him on the toilet and bathed him there. When we returned him to his bed, he decided to sit in a chair instead. He has been sleeping since the bath two hours ago.

Dad is very frail. The term, "skin and bones" describes him well. When I help him up to use the bedside urinal, his shoulders and arm seem to have only skin and bones, I feel no muscle at all. His mind is not always clear. He does not remember his telephone number. At one point, he mentioned needing to find out what Missy thought of something. I have no idea what he was talking about, and didn't know if he was getting someone's name confused, or whether he was talking about his daughter who had died in the very late 1950's.

I do not see how Step Mother can continue to live in the house without constant or frequent nursing assistance.

I am not at all convinced that Step Mother is sick, as she claims to be. I fully believe that she feels sick, but I believe that in truth she is so afraid of facing Dad that her mind has produced the symptoms so she can stay at home and hide from the truth. I have seen many cases of denial as a minister, but none so dramatic as this. Step Mother remains convinced that she will bring Dad home and he will return to his former health. That chance is there, but it is so very slim.

I called my Associate Pastor and told him to take care of things in Miami -- I have no idea when I will return home.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Visiting My Father -- Who is Close To Death

I spent the night in Atlanta. When I got up my blood pressure was 160 over 106.
I drove to Greenville and arrived at the hospital to find one of my step sisters standing in the hallway. It was Nancy, although at the time, I didn't recall whether she was Nancy or Kathy. For some reason, when Dad and Hazel were married, they decided it was best to keep the families separate, with Dad and Step Mother celebrating Thanksgiving with one family, and Christmas with the other.

I went in to see Dad. It did not take long for me to come to the conclusion that I'd been completely misled about the seriousness of the situation. I don't know if Step Mother is in deep denial or what the problem is. This is obviously a life changing event for Dad and Step Mother. I don't know how Step Mother will be able to care for Dad after he leaves the hospital.

Florence came by for a while. It was good to see Dad's sister again. She is now in her 70's, still works at the nearby Red Cross, but is beginning to show some age. She remains a member of the Westminster Presbyterian Church. She did not like the former minister at all, but she does like the present pastor very much.

I talked to the office during the day, exchanged email and faxes, and kept everyone posted.
Phil came by today. It is good to be able to know Dad's pastor. I met his doctors, and was able to talk with Lloyd Hayes, who told me that Dad's pneumonia is very severe and is located in the lower portion of the left lung.

When the physical therapist came by, Dorris, she walked him into the hall. They walked 10 feet -- the distance of the oxygen tube, and Dad walked with the assistance of Dorris and a walker. It exhausted him, and he did not make a second attempt that Dorris had planned on.

I did go to the house very briefly. By this time, Step Mother was feeling very bad. She has a cough and a sore throat and a fever. She will remain at home while I spend the night with Dad. I seemed to have come just at the right time.