Thursday, July 24, 2014

62 Years

My Mom called me every day last week to ask if she had paid me for their cell phone for the year. She repeats the same thing a dozen times in a conversation now. She remembers her childhood and some things about the past but her short term memory is virtually gone. My Dad is getting tired, I can tell. He says he'd rather have it this way than the tables turned and he be the one in need of care. She is getting more and more frail and unsteady. She fell twice in the past couple weeks. As many times as we've suggested moving into a one story house or something closer to us, I know they will stay in the three story until my Mom falls and breaks something and will have to be put in a nursing home.

Sixty three years they've been married. I know all the years have not been a joy for either of them. I remember when I was in high school they had separate single beds in their bedroom. Of course we weren't that far removed from married people sleeping in separate beds like in "Ozzie and Harriet" and "Father Knows Best" in the 60's and so it didn't really raise a red flag, but now I know it was one. I remember my Mom sniping at my Dad at supper then. She always did that, but I recall a particularly despondent look on my Dad's face in those days. My Mom told me a few years ago that there were a few times she had her bags packed while Dad was at work but had them unpacked by the time he got home from work. She was glad she stuck it out. Now that she has dementia she has mellowed out and she is happy. I told my Dad he's lucky she's not like some other old people I know who turned mean. I think he's glad that she, and he, stuck it out too.  I look at them and my Mom's words ring in my ears and sometimes I get a twinge of "what if" about my former marriage.  But I did what I did and I worked at this one, though I have to say the Wifey has never given me a reason or excuse to look elsewhere.  We're not too many years from this. God knows who will be taking care of whom. But it is enough to know that we'll be taking care of each other.

It has been about 8 months since I quit my school job and started back in construction. I'm definitely feeling 62. I hurt my back last week but had three critical path jobs so I gutted it out. That's nothing new, I've done it lots of times before, but I know for sure I'm not 35 any more. I don't recover from heat, injuries and fatigue as fast as I used to. As many "tricks of the trades" I know, there are no tricks that make framing 14 foot walls when you can't bend over and pick up a level easy.

I've done a lot of things to make money over the past 46 years. I'm perfectly capable of "working with my brain" and that was what I always thought I'd do for the long haul, but I keep coming back to working with my hands. Of course, working with your hands as a craftsman takes "brains", but the creativity and tangibility of construction, whether it is painting, finish carpentry or just carrying heavy stuff from here to there, has a soul-satisfaction to it that I couldn't quite find in an Excel spreadsheet or even crafting a concise and clear email. When I was working for the school I did construction on the side to keep my sanity. I feel blessed that I can flip that and do construction full time and craft sentences as an avocation. As much as I love to write and had fun collaborating with Fr. Joseph on "Fire from Ashes"  and re-editing and getting "Lord of the Hunt and Other Tales of Grace" ready for publication (soon), I think if it were my full time "job" and sole source of income I'd come to despise it. All in all, Solomon was right: "The sleep of a working man is sweet." I go to bed at 9pm mostly now.

We put our last dog down today.  Maggie died on Thanksgiving morning and Bella died a couple months ago. Carlos has been going downhill over the past few months. He was blind, deaf, had a tumor, and his back legs were crippled. We decided to put him to sleep before he just completely broke down. He knew something was amiss when we took him for a ride to the vet. We've always stayed with our dogs when we put them to sleep. It's hard, but it is part of the bond that will be fulfilled in heaven in the eschaton.

 Our grandbaby is a year old already. Sorry, new parents... all the "cute" has been sucked out of the universe now. 

 The Grandbaby is "multi-racial"... Our daughter is 1/4 Chinese and the baby's father is African-American. When I forewarned my Dad about our daughter's boyfriend's race before we all went to visit them. He said, "She can do better than that".  I had to remind him that he married my Mom at a time when "Yellow" was a plague and everyone who was east of California was a "Jap". When my Dad introduced my Mom to his parents, my Grandma looked at my Mom, then at my Dad and said, "We sent you over there to kill them, not marry them." So he came by his racism honestly. I was the first grandchild and, as the story goes, the first grand child makes everything OK.  This is my Dad with his first half-black great-grand baby.
All is right with the universe.


elizabeth said...

you sound at peace, even in the midst of all the ups and downs of life. I am glad. God bless and keep you and your family!

Rus Meister said...

I'm little more than a decade behind you, but it feels like I'm catching up to you fast. Buried a neighbor last month, my wife's parents approaching the stage of yours.

God bless!

Elizabeth said...

My mother-in-law's dementia is now advanced and quite severe; she is still living in her own home but with lots of help from us and daily carers. The psychiatrist who assessed hervery recently warned me that she will need to be hospitalised soon, possibly in as soon as a few weeks.
My prayers for your Mom and Dad and your own family at this difficult time.

Your grandbaby is gorgeous!

Symeon said...

Your granddaughter is certainly very cute! Grandchildren are such a blessing! At one year, they are completely lacking in guile, except for a few food and nap time prejudices!

Our one year old granddaughter is a mix of Irish, English, Welsh, Scottish, German, Norwegian, French, Italian, Hungarian, and Native American (possibly not an exhaustive list, and certainly not in any particular order). It would have been nice to add a couple more continents into the mix, but then we might have become prideful. Nevertheless, each of these groups of our kindred was most certainly hated by someone somewhere, and is likely still so today. I top out with Irish, and in school, I learned that there was a time in the US when a slave would have been considered by some to be of more value. Time has separated us from this understanding, even to the point that we find it difficult to believe. We may have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.

I know what you mean, though. My 88-year-old mother-in-law still hates the Japanese with her mouth, but if you call her on it, she clearly knows better. I don't believe she truly hates anyone, but she still says what she was taught. She acquired her prejudice honestly through WWII war propaganda. In the end, our world is fallen and in need of redemption; each of us is guilty in some way of the sin of prejudice. We should all take a long look inwardly before singling out anyone as “other.” After all, as children of our Creator and God, there can be no “other.” There is only “we” in Christ. Now, let’s get with the program!

I am sorry to hear about your dogs. I know it is a difficult time. We just put down our 14-year-old German shepherd, Crissy. She was part of our family for so long and we really miss her. My wife and I still find ourselves searching for her in the dark with our feet when we get up in the night. As she lost her sight and her hearing, she became a very large tripping hazard at the foot of our bed. Your description of your last dog mirrored our Crissy, minus the tumor. In the last few months, even though she was in pain, she could still smile at us, and she worked very hard to stay near as we moved about the house. The last two years really took a toll on her and she went downhill very fast. We took quite a few pictures on her last day and fed her special treats, including cheese, dry salami, and, believe it or not, blackberries. For some reason, she loved blackberries. We then gave her a sedative we had received from the vet a few weeks earlier, took her to the clinic, and sat with her until the end. It was heart breaking. Afterward, we brought her home and buried her in the back of the house near the woods. Our daughter, pregnant with her second child, dug the grave and only told me after the fact. My wife made a video that I'll paste in here. I hope the link works. Take care and God bless you and your family. Getting old may have its down side, but those whom we love, and who love us (including our pets) more than make up for it. :-) God is good and I truly believe He gave us our pets, in part, to teach us how to serve and to love unconditionally.