Sunday, August 30, 2015

The wisdom of a nine-year-old

I don't know what to do.

Dad's in the hospital again. My sister Glenda has been with him all morning at the ER. I'm getting ready to go relieve her and sit with him until they can get him admitted. He's been in and out of the hospital for a few months now. At eighty-eight years old, the old man's survived two heart bypass surgeries 21 years apart, as well as other minor surgeries to repair his heart. Now Dad's heart is enlarged, so it can't pump as well as the rest of his body needs it to. His kidneys and lungs are starting to complain. The last doctor I spoke with said Glenda and I should start thinking of end of life care for Dad. From the research I've been doing, it sounds like that could mean six months or longer, or a few weeks. No one knows for sure.

It's the uncertainty that stresses me out. If we knew for certain when and where Dad would pass, we could devote our time and energy into helping him make that journey as peacefully as possible. Instead, with his health up and down like it has been, dragging on into the unknown, it's draining.

To make matters worse, Dad's getting grumpy. Er. Grumpier. In the past few years we've enjoyed his mellowing out. When I was a kid, Dad's default mode was grumpy. If he didn't get his way, watch out. He'd yell and scream and call you names. He acted like a two year old in a fifty year old's body. As he grew older, Dad calmed down. But now that he's really sick, his grumpy side is showing again.

This past week Glenda and I have been trying to fit into our daily lives the extra care Dad needs from us now. We've both been on the phone with his doctor's office trying to get an oxygen tank sent to his apartment. Glenda's been washing his clothes and running his errands. I've been running over to clip his toenails and do his grocery shopping at fucking Walmart, my most despised store that Dad insists is the only place that carries the items he needs. It's not. But I'm picking my battles here with Mr. Grumpy Butt. And there's no sneaking off to another store. Dad's a retired accountant. He reads receipts. Glenda gets his early morning calls to bring him back to the ER. We've both been staying with him during his hospital stays for endless hours, trying to keep him company. It's a stressful time in our lives. All of these things take energy away from us that we usually devote to our jobs and our other family members.

So I've got all this stress going on when I get an email from my pastor stating that he and the church leaders have agreed that he will resign. What the hell? I hate this kind of church drama. 

No, it's not due to the Ashley Madison scandal. I read that something like 400 pastors were caught with accounts on that cheating website. Basically the church leaders feel that Pastor Jonas hasn't lived up to their standards and they "want the future of the church to go in a different direction," whatever that means. 

I'm flummoxed. I think Pastor Jonas is wonderful. So now I have to decide if I want to stay with this church or if it's time for me to part ways with them too. Fucking church drama. I can't imagine Jesus would be a fan of all this bureaucratic bullshit.
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”― Mahatma Gandhi
Dad is dying and Pastor Jonas has resigned. In times like this, I turn to someone who I can really count on. Someone who is reasonable, who has the wisdom necessary to guide me during this trying time. I turn to my nine-year-old daughter, Katie.

Me: "Katie, can I ask you something important?"

Katie: "Of course."

Me: "You know about how Pastor Jonas is leaving our church?"

Katie: "Yeah."

Me: "What do you want to do? Do you want to keep going to Sunday School and be in the choir and do all those fun things, or do you want to leave the church, too? Or something else?"

Katie, after a long, thoughtful pause: "I think I'm mature enough that it's time for me to help other people instead of asking other people to help me all the time."

Me: "What do you mean?"

Katie: "I mean, like, I could do things where I help people instead of going to Sunday School and choir where the teachers help me."

Me: "Oh! I see. So what would you want to do instead of going to church?"

Katie: "Maybe we could feed hungry people?"

Me: "That's an excellent idea. Maybe we could volunteer at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter or something."

Katie; "That's an excellent idea."

Me: "But what about choir and your friends at church?"

Katie: "I can join choir at school and, remember, you said I could join Girl Scouts!"

Me: "More great ideas! Thanks, Punk. It makes me feel better to know we have options."

Katie: "Me, too."

Yes. There are other paths we can try. I still don't know where we're heading, but it feels like the right direction.