Follow up to Moving Furniture

IMAG0038[1]Oh what was intended as a time killer and a poor attempt at humor has changed to something so much more serious.  As my husband has had a turn in his health and ability to get around, moving furniture has now become something closer to making the house safer .  The big dining room table with the glass top must be sold and the tiny two person dinette table will sit in the dining room in it’s place.  The recliner in what I called my “Mom’s den”  will come back into the “guest bedroom” as the treadmill now fills that area.  Better he get his strength back there than having to step down into the garage, deal with boxes and the clutter that comes with a garage that is not as well as the heat and stuffiness of no air conditioning.

Things have taken a far more serious turn as I listen to him breathe, make sure he is breathing.  Afraid to go to bed, afraid he will wake up and decide to get up and fall yet again.  The first fall meant an ambulance and a trip to the hospital that turned into a nightmarish odyssey into a world of  understaffing with a never ending torrent of patients with all manner of needs streaming through door to the point there was no where to even stand and not be in the way.   He was kind of shoved into the corner of a one patient room while the second patient who was dying of lung cancer had a panic stricken episode of being unable to breathe which brought on a heart attack.    After hours and hours of working with that poor man, the nurses were able to move him to ICU, but forgot to give my husband food or water or start his IV (his fall was the result of severe dehydration).  He became so weak he was unable to pull himself up in the bed or turn on one side.

The following day, as his body began to recover from a lack of fluids his reason for dehydration kicked in, IBS.  Well, that was messy.  A well meaning CNA gave him one of those rolling thrones, giving him the feeling he could get out of bed, in his cramped corner while he was hooked to leads for heart, blood pressure, pulse, IV, just a web of tubes and lines.  He had his second fall and this time laid open his forehead and damaged his neck and shoulder.  He would up with 17 stitches, two black eyes, a bruised cheek and a lot of pain.  He was transferred to two more room on two different floors and was sent home Sunday.  Monday he fell again, I was asleep.  At least it was on carpet with carpet over it, good and soft.

So now it is no longer how to move the hutch,which is moved and looks so good, or move the desk, which is in it’s new location so I can be away and still hear everything his does, every breath he takes, it is about keeping him safe.

You know, you never know what life will hand you next.  I had so loved that glass table, now I see it as a threat.  The oversized coffee table that opened up to store the grands toys, another impediment to his safety.  Both go, neither to be missed.

I have to get some sleep, but will he fall yet again?  Will he aspirate his gatorade as he did earlier?

The lesson is be ready.  Life gives us wonderful things and we need to enjoy them, it can also hand us challenges, we must take them all in stride.  I am not doing the in stride part too well right now.

A Lesson in Forgiveness

Katy Curry©

Those boys!  Her foot pressed ever harder on the accelerator while her brow furrowed in anger and frustration.  Tears ran down her cheeks while her mouth was set in a firm grimace.  How could they?  She had worked so hard to make everything perfect!  The leg of lamb, garlic smashed potatoes, asparagus garden salad would have been perfect.  They were her favorite dish; dessert was homemade lemon meringue pie; perfectly browned.    She set the table as beautifully as her mother had taught her and planned everything for a quick and easy clean-up so she could enjoy the day with her family.    It was to have been, should have been HER DAY!  Mother’s Day!

She stood on the brakes and pulled off the road as she realized her rage could make a bad situation worse.  “Get ahold of yourself, Kathy.” She scolded, and then allowed herself to collapse into the steering wheel in a cascade of tears.

She was furious, scared, angry, disappointed, horrified, and hurt and so much more all at once.  She did not know how to react first.  Her son, her youngest, got himself arrested Saturday night.  ARRESTED!  Thrown in jail on a marijuana charge!  His brother had come over to tell his parents.

She and Frank had been sitting in the living room, watching their favorite Saturday night show when their older son had burst in and sat down on the couch, clearly upset.

“Mom, Dad, I have to tell you something.”  JR started.

“What’s wrong, Bud?” Dad sat up straight in his recliner.  “What’s happened?”

“It’s Jackson.  Jack has a problem.    Well, more than a problem, um, he’s in trouble.”  J.R. managed to get out.

He had Mom’s full attention.  “What is the matter with Jackson?  Is he hurt?”

“No, Mom, he’s, he’s, Jackson was arrested and is in jail!   But if we go down we can bail him out, I called and checked.  We can make it all right.  He had a roach, oh sorry, marijuana…”

“I know what a ‘roach’ is, J.R.” Mom said tersely.  “I thought he was at work.”

“Well, yeah, he was, he was delivering a pizza and lit one for the drive, but then he ran a red light and got pulled over,”   Frank explained.  “We just need to pay his bail, and he can get out.  His bond is six hundred dollars so we can bail him out for sixty dollars and get him home!”

She had sat there in disbelief.  Drugs.  Jail. Bond.

Mom reached out her hand as only she could.  “Give me the phone.”  She commanded.  She dialed the non-emergency number for the sheriff’s department and asked for the jail, gave the man her son’s name and asked if he was there.

“Yes ma’am, “responded a bored jailer.  “If you come down to the jail you can bail him out….”

She cut the jailer off, “Can you give him a message for me?  Can you tell him to enjoy his night and he can figure out how to get home because no one will come?  He buttered his bread, and now he can sleep in it.  It is his mess.”  Her voice was tight the fury barely under control.

“Yes Ma’am, I’ll be happy to give him the message!”

She thanked the jailer, got off the phone and pointed at J.R.  “Don’t you dare bail him out!  He can figure his way home, do you hear me?”

“Now, Babe, don’t you think that is a bit harsh?” Frank, Sr. suggested.  “After all, it’s not like he robbed a bank or killed someone.  J.R. and I can go down to the jail in the morning…..”

“I’m going to bed.” She said and walked out of the room, took her shower, her sleeping pill and climbed into bed in a fury of motion.  She had suspected both sons were smoking pot, and it angered and terrified her.  She said one simple prayer that in its own strange way would be answered the next day.  “God, get me through this!”

Mother’s Day dawned, she got up, went to church, left through the back door so no one would have the chance to talk to her, ask where Jackson was, wish her Happy Mother’s Day.  At home, she went through the motions of preparing the Mother’s Day meal, but her heart was no longer in it.  About noon, J.R. walked in and behind him was an exhausted and chastened Jackson with a bouquet of flowers.

“Now Mom, I didn’t bail him out, he was released on his own recognizance.  I just couldn’t leave him to out there; the jail is in the middle of nowhere.  Look, he has flowers for you; you know how you love flowers.”

Mom looked over at Jackson; ice and pain were in her eyes.  “I don’t want those.  I don’t care what you do with them. “

Jackson reacted as if his mom had struck him.  Never had he expected this type of response from his mother.  She was always the one who had fought for him in high school, always the one who spent the extra time to get him to do the homework he tried to hide from her; she had championed him from his earliest memories.   She had always seemed to understand.  Other kids had wanted a Mom like he had.  He got his answer quickly.

“How could you?  Everything I have done for you and you repay me with, with this?  Arrested?  Drugs?  You were brought up in the church!  You were taught right from wrong!  Now you do this?  Get out of my sight!”  Mom was sobbing.

Jackson tripped over a chair as he backed up, struck a second time by the physical blow of her words.  “Mom, I’m sorry,” was all he could say.

Almost hysterical, she grabbed her keys, stormed out of the house, jumped into the car, and taken off.  We join her as she drove maniacally into an undeveloped area where she knew she would not have to watch for people or dogs.

As she sat, sobbing into her steering wheel, beating it with her fist there was a knock on her window.  She looked up, and a sheriff’s deputy parked behind her, light’s flashing.  Oh great, they always show up when you don’t need them.  She wiped her face with her hands and lowered the window.  “Am I doing something wrong, Officer?” she asked.  She had pulled over in a deserted area, so she knew she was not disturbing anyone.

“No ma’am.”  He answered carefully.  “May I see your driver’s license and registration?”

“Oh sure, sure,” she answered; wishing she had not quit smoking as now would be a very good time for a cigarette.

He studied them for a moment and made some notes, then handed them back.  “We got a call from a very concerned family about you, ma’am.  I am glad I found you in one piece.  I need to call this in that you are okay.  Can your family come out and talk to you?  They are pretty upset.”

“THEY are upset?  THEY!”

“Your son told me about what he did.  You know, he isn’t the first kid to get into trouble.  As bad as you feel right now, I can guarantee you he is in worse shape.”

“Oh yeah, I bet.” She answered, bitterly.

“Jackson said you go to church, over at Freedom, right?  My wife and I just started going there.  Good Pastor.”

“Yes, I go to Freedom.  Not that it did my family any good.  What did I do wrong?  What didn’t I do right?”

“You were fine, I am sure.  Kids are kids, Kathy; may I call you Kathy?”

“Sure, that’s my name.” she answered with a ghost of a smile.

“I don’t want to preach, I’m a cop, not a preacher, but something that struck me was something that Jesus said.  He said in Matthew that we should forgive those who sin against us seventy times seven times.  I think that means every time.   What do you think, Kathy?  Did Jackson sin against God or you? “

“Well, both…..”

“You are right there, but his sin against God is between him, and God and his sin against the State of Florida is between him and the State of Florida, right?  So that leaves just him and you.”

Kathy had no words; she just stared at the deputy wondering at the wisdom he had shared.

“Now I don’t mean to overstep here, but my guess is you have had to say you were sorry a few times.  Now your son wants to tell you in the worst way how sorry he is.  Jesus said seventy times seven….  Looks to me like you have a pretty simple decision to make, whether or not to show him, Jesus.”

Kathy stared at the officer as the truth entered her heart.  It was true.  Jesus had already forgiven Jackson.  She knew she had to, not only because of Jesus teaching but because of her love of all of her family.  She needed to forgive all of them as badly as they; especially Jackson needed to hear her forgive him.

Kathy looked over at the Sheriff’s Deputy; “Deputy  … D’Angelo?  Are you a deputy sheriff or an angel here from God?  I want to thank you.  You helped me to realize something I needed to remember.  Thank  you, and God Bless you.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Deputy D’Angelo smiled.  “Now I really have to go, seems there’s a problem that needs handling.  You be safe now.”  He climbed into his patrol car, turned around, and well, where did he go?  Kathy shook her head, wondered if she had just had a conversation with an angel, there was no trace a police car had ever been there.

Kathy put her car in gear, turned around, and drove home.  She walked in the door and Frank Sr. and Jr. and Jackson looked up at her.

“Mom…” Jackson started.  That “Mom” hand stopped him.

“I need to say something to all of you.  I let this get out of perspective and punished all of you for Jackson’s mistake.  Dear, I should have let you finish what you were trying to tell me last night, but I was too angry.  J.R., you did the right thing by getting your brother when he was released this morning.  Jackson, thank you for bringing me flowers, it was very thoughtful.  I know you never meant to spoil Mother’s Day, I know you made a bad choice that you will have to deal with.   I am sorry I was so harsh to you, and I need to ask that you forgive me, that all of you forgive me for behaving so badly.”

Jackson was up and had his mother in a bear hug.  “I am so sorry Mom, so sorry, forgive you?  Please forgive me, I was so stupid….”

J.R. was there to giving his lop-sided grin.  “It’s okay Mom, no harm done.”

Frank Sr. sighed with relief.  “Jackson, where are those flowers you got for your mother, let’s get them in some water.  J.R.; let’s get the water on for the asparagus.  I don’t know about the rest of you but I am hungry!”

“Oh, one other thing, I was surprised the police were out looking for me, I didn’t think they did stuff like that.”  Mom commented.

The three men looked at each other confused.

“Babe, we never called the police, why would you think we did?” Frank asked.

“J.R., you know the deputies around here,” Mom said.  “Do you know of Deputy D’Angelo?”

“Uh, no, or he’s new, but there is no D’Angelo that I know of,” J.R. answered.  “Why?”

Mom smiled, she remembered that angry statement she had made as an excuse for her evening prayer.  “My prayer last night was answered in an unusual way.  Now let’s get this meal going so I can love on my family.  Where are Joe and Irene?  Jackson, will you say blessing today with a special thank you for blessings received?”

Jackson gave his huge smile and gave Mom another hug.

The doorbell rang, and Joe, Mom’s eldest son, and his wife, Irene were there.

“Come in!  You’re just in time for dinner!” Frank said as they came in.  “We have had quite a time here.”

“Talk later, food now!”  Jackson said.

Everyone sat down, Jackson prayed, and Mom watched her family and realized what a perfect day it was, because of God’s answer to prayer.

CLOSING THOUGHTS:

Part of this story is autobiographical.  Jackson (not his real name) continued to have problems with drugs and ‘graduated’ into cocaine.  I only wish I had had that angel when “Jackson” was arrested for possession of under 20 grams of pot and possession of paraphernalia.  The next ten years were to be the most challenging and frustrating Frank and I had ever faced as we struggled to get our son out of the drug scene. 

The following year, on Mother’s Day Eve, sheriff’s deputies showed up at the house to arrest Jackson on a violation of probation from that original drug charge.  I asked them if they knew what Sunday was.  They had forgotten and were somewhat sheepish as they confessed they had forgotten to get cards and flowers for their own moms and wives.  I asked if I guaranteed Jackson would be waiting for them Monday morning, would they let me have him for Mother’s Day.  They agreed.  Jackson was taken into custody that Monday morning.  He called me at work to tell me they were there.  I warned him to be cooperative; his voice shook with nerves and shame.  That will be another story.

 What I can tell you is this.  Love your children where they are.  Don’t sugar coat, don’t try to protect them from consequences of their actions, but don’t turn them out.  Tough love is not kicking them to the curb.  Tough love is loving them through earned consequences and being there to try to provide guidance, reassurance, and most importantly, unconditional love.  They need you, more than you know and more than they will admit.  It was love that brought Jackson back.  Love from God and from his family who never gave up on him. 

Verses referred to:

Matthew 18:21-23 (NIV)

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”  22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Hebrews 13:1-3 (NIV)

13 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

 

Dolls on a Shelf

dolls

As adults, we have all had wonderful old dolls. They are different for each of us, some tall, some short, some blonde, brunette, lots of hair, no hair. They are all very different and diverse but in every case, very precious to each of us; bringing a source of comfort, love, joy, frustration, sometimes even anger or tears. We take them out periodically and spend time with them, then when some moment happens, the dinner is done, the church service over, the magic hour chimes and we put our dolls back on their shelf, at first somewhat casually and as time goes on, more and more carefully.

As we mature and move on with life our dolls watch our achievements with joy. The excitement and demands of life, eclipse them; our own families, careers, life in general. Our dolls just seem to become crowded out with other seemingly more pressing or more interesting avenues and undertakings that life presents to each of us. We do not mean to ignore them, time just gets away. Today turns into tomorrow and tomorrow into next week or next month, and so it goes.

Sometimes the dolls feel lonely, overlooked, forgotten but they wait, trying to be patient, hoping their people will notice and remember they want to share in those happy and new things. Yet as much as they may knock on the glass, their people do not think these old, dusty dolls would fit or they are just too busy to notice. The dolls never stop loving, but a new sadness enters into their eyes and hearts.

Eventually, either the appointed time rolls around and it is time to take the dolls off the shelf again. But wait, one doesn’t seem quite right. The doll is broken. How did this happen? Why didn’t we notice? Our heart breaks, we didn’t realize if only we had spent more time with both the dolls. As we put that doll away, sadly, with tears and prayers, we look to our remaining doll; it looks much frailer than before. We explore different possibilities to make our remaining doll safer, and put it even more carefully on its shelf.   Bring in others to look after the doll, after all, we have families of our own, jobs to do, appointments to keep ….

We continue with our life and check  to make sure our one remaining doll is in good hands. We  take our precious doll off the shelf ever so carefully, and promise we will not take it granted; but as happens, the loss of the one doll becomes a memory and we forget. We still take the other lone doll out, but less and less frequently. Then one day we come and our remaining doll, oh no. Wh-Wha-What has happened!

Next comes the mad rush to the hospital, the painful decision, the transfer to hospice.  Our doll, in its last days has once again become real, and as we watch the one that raised us, skin so pale, translucent, hair, so thin and white, our parent smiles that smile always made things better; from when the bully down the street called us a name, to when we fell off our bike and scraped our knee.

“Mommy.” “Daddy.” we say, heart again broken, tears flow freely as we remember all the times we could have spent but something else seemed so much more important or vital or interesting. We think of all the times we argued when we could have stayed quiet.  We spent so much time doing the ever so important things forgetting what was truly important,  wasted precious time. Time we wish we could have back, but it is gone.

Then, in a moment, that precious doll, that precious parent is gone. The tears run down our cheeks in great torrents, our tummies hurt from the pain crying and trying not to cry.  No time for mourning, put grief aside; there is too much to do; arrangements to make, the service, the burial, the reception to thank those who came.  Then come the thank you notes to write, the attorney’s to see.  Finally, the things that belonged.

“Some day this will be yours.” we remember hearing.  We laughed and said, “I know, I know, but I’d rather have you.”  Now the reality hits.  Now as we hold that ring, that pendant, sobs wrack our bodies  and those sobs come and come. We remember the conversation, we pick up another item and remember the day we gave it to them, the pleasure on their face.  But with them come the “if only’s.”  These drive us to more action, to dull the ache, the hurt, the regret.

A year goes by we are getting it together. We visit that empty shelf less, our tummy hurts less, as long as we don’t think too hard or too long.  “It was a blessing it happened as peacefully as it did.” we share as others inquire how we are doing.  But, oh, what we would give for one hour, with our parents again. We remember their love, their smiles. We ask, “Have I made you proud?” There is no answer, we can only hope, for our dolls are gone, only memories remain.

The story does not end here, for as you and I turn around, we realize that shelf has become ours. We live in our homes, call the kids, but they are so busy with their own lives, all those important things to do and people to see, they take us off the shelf on special days: birthdays, some holidays, church on Sundays. We see their Facebook posts, try to send enticing emails, but, we have become the dolls on the shelf.