I must decrease

“Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability
to see your worth.”

Anonymous


(a broken stem of blooming rhododendron floats across the lake / Julie Cook / 2017)

Over the course of the past couple of weeks following Dad’s death,
I am finding my world shifting.
There is so much to do, but it is vastly different from what I had been doing.
From the endless driving to the running of errands, the picking up of meds,
to the seeing of doctors, nurses, hospitals…
to buying groceries, paying bills and lastly, to sitting a sad and difficult vigil.

Now all of that is different.

There is change.

There are messes that now need sorting.
There are still many bills…as bills don’t die when we die.
This part of the process is hard, laborious and full of uncertainties.
Much like before, there are open ended questions and
just like in that time of before where there was transition,
so too a shift of all that is has become most apparent.

For now it is a matter of picking up the pieces…
the pieces that fell when Dad took his last breath…
And now a good many of those pieces simply leave me less then thrilled
that I must even tend to them.

There will be more on all of this once the dust settles..
and that might be in several months…

But the change has made me think.
The caregivers who had seen me every single day for the past several months see me now
about 2 to 3 times a week if that…as there is a shift in family dynamics…
So there is mourning and frustration in the change…
They continue to look to me to direct the course of the ship…
Despite my now being sole overseer of all that was and all that remains…
I have stepped back with a controlled intent.

There are lessons here…and some are hard…for all involved.
There has been frustration and even resentment…
but I know God’s hand is the actual hand which still guides this ship.
I am learning to be still, silent and serving as I wait.

I don’t understand it all.

Yet I wrestle with sorrow and absence mixed with a dose of bitter anger
all directed toward the man who I just lost…
He’s gotten us in a bit of a pickle with poor and selfish choices..
as I’m seeing just how much he didn’t consider the after effects….
This as I have to put his discarded pieces back together again…
because as I said…in death we, nor any of our messes, readily disappear.

However, this morning as I sat in another day’s nightmare now known
as Atlanta’s traffic disaster, the words echoed by the Baptist flooded my head…
“He must increase as I must decrease….”

As I ponder my role in regards to the caregivers and my stepmother…
all which is decreasing…
Much to the chagrin of those caregivers.
However their roles in our lives will end when April ends.
They will then move on elsewhere to new assignments.

For good or bad there is change.
And there is decrease…
while others and other things must increase….

But as for me, when all is said and done, to remain faithful…
To feel God’s hand steadying my shoulder lest I step out or speak out of turn
in unbridled harsh emotion as…

continued lessons during this holiest of weeks come readily into focus…..

The one who comes from above is above all;
the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth.
The one who comes from heaven is above all.
He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.
Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful.
For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God,
for God gives the Spirit without limit.
The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,
but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.

John 3:30-36

beasts of burden, greased watermelons and a wallowing pig

“A spiritual Christian should welcome any burden which
the Lord brings his way.”

Watchman Nee

mules
(a mini heard of donkeys per the world wide web)

The other day my aunt told me that there was a lady at her
church who is often heard to say that…
whereas she knows that God does not give us more than we can carry (or bear),
she just wished that He would not keep confusing her with a mule…

Mule, donkey…one half dozen or the other….
beast of burden none the less…

And might I add that I am feeling every ounce of the burden for which I am currently
bearing and wearing…
and then some….

Have you ever tried picking up a greased watermelon?

When I was a little girl, our neighborhood pool, as part of their fourth of July celebrations,
would grease a large watermelon then drop it into the deep end of the pool…
allowing it to bob up and down.
Next a whistle would blow and all the kids would dive into the pool.
swimming as fast as they could to the deep end,
as everyone would try their best to grab the watermelon…
desperately treading water while attempting to be the first one to shove the watermelon
up out of the pool.

It’s a wonder we didn’t all drown.

And no, I never could get a hold of the greased melon,
let alone push it out of the pool.

That long forgotten memory came racing back to the forefront of thought today
when dad decided he could no longer stand while the caregiver was trying
to get him showered off.

He did look rather pitiful today when I arrived…all slumped down in his hospital bed.
The caregiver told him that while I was there, we were going to get him in the shower,
clean him up and get his sheets changed.

I was assigned bed linen duty while the caregiver maneuvered Dad into the stand-up shower.
Dad was smelling really ripe and definitely needed a shower much to his consternation
as he was perfectly content slumped down in his oh so not fresh bed and pjs while watching Matlock.

Dad didn’t want to get up.
Dad is terribly lazy.
He is perfectly content just sitting and wallowing…
much like a pig…as he is perfectly content wallowing in the muck and mire that
makes up his little world of filth.

My grandmother would have an absolute fit if she could see him now…
as I somehow think that she would certainly not claim him…
and I know mother, who was looking down on us, would most likely be telling those
she’s met up in heaven that she has never seen that man before in her life…
or is that afterlife…anywhooo…..

Dad and the caregiver were in mid rinse as I was just finishing up the bed
when I heard a frantic call for my name.

It seems Dad decided that he just didn’t, or perhaps couldn’t, stand up any longer…
opting rather to gave up the ghost…
as he went down for the count…
sliding down along with the water working it’s way to the drain.

Have you ever tried picking up a greased watermelon?

Dad was a wet, slick bundle of pink flesh clumped on the floor of the shower
with the caregiver stuck in the corner behind him.
Steam was filling the small shower…
She was now soaked and he was listless.
More like dead, but not.
This while all of Dad’s bodily functions were now in full crisis mode..
It was a mess of epic proportions…
a terrible awful mess….

I don’t have an ACL in my right knee—an old football injury of long ago…
another story for another day…
but in a wet shower, with the water running
and shoes that are sliding while I’m trying to
lift a wet greased 170 pound watermelon…
a knee that will not hold fast only adds to the crisis.

And lets not forget I still have two ruptured discs in my back.
I now probably have two more….

We finally managed to get him up,
With me practically willing him up with my voice commands.
We wiped him down,
cleaned him up,
got him thankfully back in the fresh bed,
dried off,
and finally clothed…as best we could…

All the while my stepmother was in her room, door shut, sound asleep as she had not felt well,
none the wiser to the near 911 moment we were having in the shower.

By the time it came for me to thankfully head home, Dad, who was now clean and
was smelling so much nicer, was happily sitting propped up in his hospital bed,
happily munching on a chocolate covered doughnut wondering why the caregiver
and I seemed so stressed…

I really think God has me confused with an animal of immense burden….

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Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you;
He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.

Psalm 55:22

It’s all relative

“No culture in history has ever embraced moral relativism and survived.
Our own culture, therefore, will either
(1) be the first, and disprove history’s clearest lesson,
or
(2) persist in its relativism and die,
or
(3) repent of its relativism and live.
There is no other option.”

Peter Kreeft

img_2314
(my stepmother is so proud of her pumpkin display…)

Relative or relative…
Hummmm…

They say that learning the english language is one of the hardest languages to learn…
and maybe that’s because of our penchant to use one word in multiple ways,
with each particular way having it’s own meaning and even distinct pronunciation…

Thankfully however we are not like the French what with all their le and la business…
I never could figure out why one thing had to masculine while something else had to be feminine…
why can’t it just be…neutral…as in just a word…..??

But I digress as I am too weary to rattle on about the English language,
or mes amis à travers l’étang,
or that of the Queen’s, the King’s,
or even the colonies now turned states, english….

And while I’m thinking about it, maybe we should have kept that whole colony notion,
having stayed with that crazy King George…
because that way we wouldn’t be living in the current land of sensory deprivation
with all things in life now being only Hillary or the Donald…

But then the fourth of July wouldn’t be nearly as festive and we’d be dealing
with Brexit…

sigh…

But I’m way too weary for all of that garbage today as well…

Today has just been one of those days…
you know the ones…
you wake up after an awful night of fitful sleep with ‘sleep’ being a relative term
as you only got one hour…
let alone the 7 or 8 or whatever is currently being required
for waking perky and refreshed.

I can’t remember when I last felt perky…
maybe its the inflamed nerves…

It was then a day for relatives…
as in Dad and my stepmother and the day’s current caregiver.

There are days I am strong…as I have to be strong for everybody right now…
especially Dad…
But then there are days like today when strength is a relative term…

My stepmother was in a good mood thankfully…but the caregiver was not…
And with my stepmother, each day is a mystery as to who will wake up…
Dr. Jekyll or Mr Hyde…

Upon my arrival, I was happy to see Dr. Jekyll,
who actually wanted me to go buy her a new trashcan…
the kind with the step-on latch to open the top…
And it had to be small and stainless…

After gathering the trashcan, which thankfully she loved…yet tomorrow that could change,
and gathering the groceries and their lunch…
it was time to schlepp things up from the basement all in order for her to
“decorate” for any trick or treaters that may come their way.

My dad is the sole remaining original resident of the cul-de-sac…
as all the other neighbors have sadly faded away.
The quaint neighborhood of 10 houses, that were built in the mid 1950’s, once overflowed with
the sounds of children…
Yet those children, of which I was once one, have all grown up and moved away…
leaving those once joyful sounds of play, sadly now silent.

I am happy however to report that young couples are currently moving back in
with their own band of gleeful little ones who will once again romp up and down
the relatively safe little street…claiming it, just as we had,
as their own tiny little realm of the mighty cul-de-sac.

So today, in giddy anticipation, my stepmother wanted to ready things for a few
hopeful customers for candy come Monday evening…

Yet as is often the case, dealing with those with dementia,
my stepmother was giddy and excited today,
wanting me to buy candy for Halloween….but come Monday,
which in Dad and my stepmom’s limited world, the passage of time is indeed relative,
she may completely forget, by tomorrow, what all the candy is for…

And then there was Dad…
still holding his own but gravely weak and now bleeding a great deal
as the doctors have told us the tumor would ebb and flow.
The tumor is now causing a good bit of pressure so dad feels the urgent urge
to urinate yet with little to nothing to show for the effort…
…and now there is more blood than anything else…
so the constant up and down is taking a toll.

He did however request, that when I went to buy their groceries, that I buy some ice-cream…
and I did…lots and lots of ice-cream.

By the time I was finally on my way home late afternoon,
the caregiver called me,
alarmed that dad is so weak that he almost fell getting in the bathroom…
She wanted to let me know that she was calling the hospice nurse,
who will be out tomorrow morning, sharing the latest worries.

So I will go see what she thinks…

Some days are good,
and some days are not so good…
and that, I suppose, is simply life…
Of which,
I believe,
is simply being relative…

So as I was driving home, with hot stinging tears welling up in my eyes…
wondering where my mom was when I needed her…
an old song I use to love a million years ago came flooding into
the forefront of my brain…
thankfully…
mercifully…
miraculously…
flooding…
and washing…
into my brain…

Reminding me…
swiftly,
quickly
and powerfully
that not all things in this life are merely relative…

That there is one thing and one thing only that is totally separate,
independent and irrespective of this innocuous life..

and that would be…
the Lamb of God…
the blessed lamb of God….

The song is The Lamb of God by Twila Paris
and this is a moving You Tube video clip I found reflecting her beautiful song…

I am what I am….

“I am what I am,
and that’s all that I am.”

Popeye

popeye_black_white_cartoon
(Popeye the sailor man)

I grew up watching, and loving, the old black and white cartoon exploits of Popeye the Sailor man–
That one eyed, pipe smoking, old salt of a sailor…
Along with his sidekick and girlfriend Olive Oyl, the antagonist, Bluto (later known as Brutus),
as well as little Swee’Pea, Wimpy, Poopdeck Pappy, the She Hag and Alice the Goon…
Popeye has been one of the longest running cartoon comic strips having made his debut in 1929.

Popeye was a bit of a rough neck yet was always the good guy.
Whenever he found himself in a jam or was having the living tar beat out of him by Brutus…
which always stemmed from some sort of fight over a girl, in this case the skinny and whinny Olive Oyl…
Popeye would always pull out, from nowhere, a miraculous can of spinach…
He’d bust open that can,
swallowing the contents whole,
then he would proceed to swell with muscles and superhuman strength…
all of which would allow him to beat the ever living slop out of Brutus…
or whomever was causing him woe.

Moms all over the country used that idea and image of Popeye eating spinach in order to get their kids to eat their spinach. And back in day, spinach came from the grocery store in a can…nothing like the healthy fresh stuff of today.

And as far as I was concerned, it worked…I’d eat my spinach every time…

Popeye was famous for mumbling and singing to himself but one of his more vocal and
enunciated phrases was
“I am what I am and that’s all that I am”

And out of the blue…this morning…that very expression…
came racing back…
out from the depths of a stored away childhood,
racing to the forefront of now…

“I am what I am and that is all that I am…”

Me…
yes…
simply me…
nothing more, nothing less.
Just me.
No spinach,
no bravado,
no pretense,
no falsehoods of expectations or promises…
for good and for bad…
just me.

Striped away of everything and anything that gives off some sort of “other than”
and false perception…
I am…
just me…

And given my life’s precariousness of these current days…
the fact that I am not super human, despite ingesting as much spinach as I can, I am…
simply…
me…
nothing more
and nothing less.

My dad loved seeing / reading Popeye in the “funnies”…
as he still calls the comic strip section of the daily newspaper to this day, the funnies…
as in funny papers….

It’s the fist section of the paper he pulls out.
No longer does he scour the front page with its gloom and doom…
nor the stock section with its constant state of ebb and flow….
Dad has always scoured over the comic section of the paper first and foremost.
Because he likes to, needs to, laugh.

Just as he has always gravitated to watching cartoons….
preferring, always, those cartoons from his day and time….
Popeye,
Dick Tracey,
Buck Rogers,
Little Orphan Annie
and Superman.

My dad has, for better or worse, always been a kid…
Which was great when I was a kid and when my son was a kid…
but not so great as I grew up and needed a “dad”…

That whole dad thing…responsibility, paying bills, working, caring for a lawn…
you know,
dad things…
none of those things were his cup of tea.

Oh don’t get me wrong,
he did it all, worked, cut grass, paid the bills….
but it was always obvious he hated it and would get out of it as much as possible—
which usually meant every weekend.
Sleeping away the day and doing as little as possible.
While my friends dads were all out and about…
I had to make excuses that my dad had worked all week really hard, so now he was tired.
I now know that it was just a matter of my dad being lazy….

And now, at 88, he’s wanting to get out of all this cancer business…
which I can’t say I much blame him—
because who in their right mind wants to deal with that devastating “c” word….
None of us,
that’s who!!!

I learned a while back that I had to accept dad for who he was / is…
and that’s a man who is simply more kid than adult,
as that meant I had to be more adult than kid…
not exactly fair, but no one ever said life was fair.

Yet during these coming days…
days that I know will only grow more weary and taxing…
for both dad and myself….
I’m thinking I might just need to stock up on some Popeye’s spinach…
because I’m going to need all the muscles I can get!!!!

God said to Moses,
“I AM WHO I AM”;
and He said,
“Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel,
I AM has sent me to you.'”

Exodus 3:14

Retreat, Sabbatical, Escape

“In order to understand the world,
one has to turn away from it on occasion.”

Albert Camus,

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Aristotle

“By God, I shall spend the rest of my life getting my heart back, healing and forgetting every scar you put upon me when I was a child. The first move I ever made, after the cradle, was to crawl for the door, and every move I have made since has been an effort to escape.”
― Thomas Wolfe

DSC02774
(bags ready to go / Julie Cook / 2015)

It was this time last year when a plan was hatched.
It was the birth of a thought.
A “what if” sort of conversation.
Curious as to what may be found, three willing travelers were more than ready to journey to the land of great grandparents. . .
A grand adventure was set in motion. . .

Then the world fell apart.

Well not the big World, but rather the little world of family and self.

Practicalities began screaming “NO”
Mr Mole and Mrs Loon became impossible.
Caregivers continued threatening to leave as anger, resentment and failing bodies and minds wrecked havoc on the one versed with the overall wellbeing of everyone involved.

Backing out was too late.
It was a “go” whether or not the surrounding circumstances were in compliance.

So after a year of planning, then frustratingly dreading, the day of departure has arrived.

I’m heading out of pocket for about two weeks.
I leave behind Dad and Gloria who are not in good places right now.
Caregivers who have told me they may not be in place upon my return.
A husband who can’t leave his business.
A son and daughter-n-law who are now scarily “in charge”
A cat who appears to have broken a leg. . .
You name it, there are 100 reasons as to why I need to stay. . .
Yet I’m too far in to back out now, and my two traveling companions would be up the proverbial creek if I did. . .
You never know what will happen during the course of a year as you wait for a “big” event.

What started out as an exciting trip, has now morphed into, more or less, a cross between a sabbatical and a retreat.
Certainly no one is paying for me to go, no one but myself, yet I think my heart and mind both desperately need for me to go.
Things have been really bad on the Atlanta front as of late.
Actually almost impossible.
Enough to make me sick of both heart and health.

Getting away, far away, may be best for a while.
Unplugging, unwinding and simply allowing God to direct my path.
This is a pilgrimage of sorts to the Celtic roots of my life.

I’m not taking my computer.
Of course I’ve got both phone and iPad
Emailing and texting as time allows.
I doubt I’ll blog.
I just want to empty my thoughts for a while, allowing room for God to move in closer.
Dad and Gloria have almost pushed me over the edge.
I’m hoping with me not there 24 / 7, it’ll actually calm them down for a while.
We’ll see. . .

So until we are together again, in about 2 weeks. . .

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!