Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Planes To Catch And Bills To Pay

"And the Cats in the Cradle and the Silver Spoon
Little Boy Blue and the Man In The Moon
'When you coming home, dad,' 'I don't know when,'"
Harry Chapin - The Cats And The Cradle

Harry Chapin charted this song when I was about 8. It's such a bittersweet song. I remember as a kid that Brandon Cruz (of The Courtship Of Eddies Father fame) crying when he found out that Harry Chapin was going to perform that song live for him. I totally get it. Even then and even more now that song hits at the heart of where we are at as boys; as teens; as young men; as fathers; and as older men. Living through those stages, it hits home. We men just don't make the time for what's important. Jobs, mowing the lawn, church leadership, you name it gets in the way. When you figure that out, it's usually too late. By then, your son is dealing with the same stresses that kept you from him. I just wish I could stop things and find that perfect moment to tell Fox that I love him; that I'm proud of him; and that he has what it takes to thrive in this world. The problem is that even if I do, it doesn't seem to sink in. That's not an indictment on him, but more just how things are.
This all comes together as I live in middle life land. Right now I'm on a plane heading to see my dad. Although a picture of health for a man of his age, he didn't know that he was hemorrhaging around his brain. It resulted in a stroke. I am so thankful that he survived and has rehabilitated to the point of moving on to assisted living. I thought of how I now have to be on the other side of providing care. Not that I mind it, but I am concerned how that will be a paradigm shift for me and that I'll have to emotionally work it out. I also stop and think that our time on earth together is a lot less than I realized.
My dad comes from a very different era. He also is partially influenced indirectly from the Japanese culture his dad came from. I fully understand this and accept it. It doesn't prevent me from longing for that depth in relationship that God designed us to have. I know that men of his culture and era just aren't that in touch with their feelings or comfortable expressing them. I know that there are gaps in my life because of this and again, I don't blame my dad for that. It is these the burdens that bring me to my knees longing for my Heavenly Father.

Hospital Visits:
Seeing my dad in a weakened state is tough to see. Even though I knew this is the way it was going to be, it's nothing compared to when you see it first hand. I'm now the one instructing him and encouraging him. It's such a shift in mindset. Also, I'm working hard to find the balance of taking charge and helping without dishonoring or disrespecting my dad. He will need to learn to use a walker and spend considerable time in a wheelchair. There's hope that he could fully recover but also he could plateau and require assistance the rest of his life.

The most beautiful moment was when my uncle (my dad's closest brother) spent time with him. Here are two men who have been in a close relationship longer than any other people in their lives. I think they must have had countless wrestling matches, games of playing catch and quiet moments fishing together. Today, my uncle takes the time to carefully clip his fingernails. In most ways this is such a common thing to do, but for one who has suffered a stroke, it is a very difficult task. My uncle gently takes my dad's hands and takes care of a basic grooming need. I feel like I saw something so wonderful and intimate - two brothers who love each other and one demonstrating his love in such a tangible and caring way. I am blessed to have an uncle who will stand up for my dad.
I spent the large parts of the days learning how to help my dad. Again, I am continually trying to find a respective but helpful mindset when working with my dad. I'm helping him get in and out of bed, his wheel chair, and a car. I have to ask him when he needs to go the bathroom. I'm sure it's humbling for him and even a bit embarrassing but he understands the goal is to recover and so he soldiers on. It is the great blessing of his character and the age he grew up in. He has experienced a great deal of hardship (working on a farm, living through the depression, World War II, Internment, and losing loved ones). I sense a settled peace in this challenge. I'm very proud that I am his son.
My good friend Frank Prats

Relocating to assisted living:
There is a sense of great responsibility when it came to be having the assignment of moving my dad to assisted living. First I had to furnish his residence. A true testament of the Body Of Christ was that with one phone call to my good friend Frank Prats I was able to secure a truck and two men to help with the heavy lifting. It all went very smoothly.During this time anybody who provides that kind of support is a blessing. I am so thankful Moving some of the furniture included pieces that literally haven't left their respective rooms for over 50 years. Many pieces are older than me. This also provides some security in the familiar for my dad. My brother Robert was there to help arrange the place and put things away. That was nice to have.
If moving inanimate objects is a challenge think of the responsibility of moving your invalid father. This was a step beyond training as it was in my hands and my hands only. I packed his stuff along with his newly acquired walker and wheel chair. For the first time I helped my dad maneuver into a car unassisted. Again, the weight of my responsibility was hitting me. Thankfully, it went well. The drive did tire my dad out but we made the 80 minute trip without a hitch.

Arriving and admitting went well. I had a huge amount of information to disseminate (another huge responsibility!). It also required me to focus on the care of the staff (which looks excellent). I realize after being responsible and in charge in these past few days I now have to make the next shift, to releasing much of the control and let the staff take over. Change is a challenge for me so I went through a lot of challenges this week. I can't imagine how my dad feels through all of this change. Once again, God showed up in a literally sweet way. Dad's first dinner at the facility included cream puffs for dessert. If you've read my other blog post, you will know that cream puffs were a specialty of my mom. It was like God was telling me personally that it is all good with Him and that He is in control. We are all family and with a few special touchstones (like cream puffs) we'll get through this together. I am so humbled by all of this.
My hope is that I will see my dad fully recovered. He can then go back to walking with the group of dog walkers in his neighborhood and hit the golf links sometime before dawn with his friends. No matter what, I know that my time with him is limited so I'll be sure to make more time to savor his love, warmth and kindness.
"We'll get together then, you know we'll have a good time then..."

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