A Moving Experience

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Having bought and sold several homes in my lifetime, I’m very familiar with the various stages of moving.  We have now entered the stage that I’ve learned to call “chaos.”  It’s the stage where everyone involved in the changing of residences can no longer procrastinate.  Of course, Cookie and I fall in that group!  Repairs must be done, things must get packed, appraisers must appraise, repair folks must repair, and the reams of paperwork must be filled out.  And, of course, all this must happen before the big event, commonly known as “The Closing”, can take place.  And even though the date and time of the said “Closing” isn’t yet set in stone, everyone seems to realize there’s a deadline ahead.

We’ve come to that time when Cookie and I must consider those things still packed in their boxes.  You know, those precious things you’ve moved from one place to another. Somehow the unpacking never took place.  And so, once again comes the proverbial question: Do I really want to move that box one more time?  Well, you think, someday I might need it.  And how about those old clothes that I’m too plump to fit into?  Am I ready to concede that the exercise program I’ve long considered just ain’t gonna happen?

My dementia has added a whole new dimension to the process of moving.  I find that I am much more easily distracted by things.  I have trouble recalling how and why I latched on to things in the first place.  Why in the world did I once feel the need to acquire an old beat up, mechanical calculator?

I’ve been emptying closets and shelves, going through old three ring binders, and finally, giving away a lot of my books.  Some of them went to my friend Rick, who’s going to seminary.  Many went to the Midland Library., and some are now in the library at St. Nick’s.  My wandering mind and my achy old back have made me appreciate the wisdom of Kindle!

I have been feeling this great need to give away things.  I can no longer deal with all of the clutter.  I no longer want to accumulate stuff.  I believe some of that is from my just getting older, and some of it has to do with the dementia.  I’ve had the notion that for dementia, the simpler, the better.

It’s that time in my life to be sorting and throwing, giving and packing.  Truer words have never been written, that for every thing on this earth there’s a time and a season.  For me, it’s the season of learning to live with dementia and learning to finally give up old things.  I’m not quite sure yet which task will be harder, for we humans seem to have a great attachment to things.

Blessings,

Fr Dave

 

 

 

The Tapestry of Light

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While in the midst of my packing, I happened to set the above CD case on my bathroom counter.  As I walked past it a bit later, I discovered the case was also a prism, both reflecting and refracting the light.  I decided to leave the case on the counter, so I could enjoy the beauty until we’re ready to move.

It also brought back memories of the death of my mother.  She’d been diagnosed with cancer back in 1975, after her dentist, of all things, had unexpectedly discovered a tumor.  The cancer had already moved into her lymphatic system, and subsequently, through various parts of her body.  She lasted six years, the last two years by far being the worst.  She spent some time in the hospital and then with hospice at home.  The pain was intense, and the medications were strong, and so I gave her some prisms I had purchased in college.  My father hung them up in her room in the hospital, and then later, in her bedroom at home. She loved to lie in her bed and to watch the many beautiful colors that danced on her walls.

The memories have made me think about this thing we call vision.  There’s a whole lot we can’t see in the world that surrounds us.  The light we can see, because it fills up the darkness.  But to be able to to see the lights’ amazing complexity, it must be refracted, much like in the biblical story of Noah.  Noah’s family saw the light refracted in the arc of the rainbow, after the flood in the great Bible story from Genesis.

In a sense, it’s pretty much the same way we get to know people.  Our first impressions can often be wrong.  We have to spend time getting to know folks, of seeing them them from a number of angles.  What we see on the surface is often not what we judge that they are.  To judge others without really getting to know them, is to miss the incredible complexity of life.

At times I wrestle with the pain of dementia, as I struggle to get on with my life.  At times it is frightening, I won’t deny that.  But there’s also great insight, and at times out of that darkness comes God’s comforting light.  Not necessarily the light that drives away darkness, but light refracted, revealing life’s more intricate depths.  It is a glimpse of the wisdom that lies dormant within us, awaiting that time in one’s life when we’re able to to hear it.

May you each be blessed as you travel on your own  journeys, and know that my prayers will be traveling along with you.

Blessings,

Fr Dave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spiritual Gifting

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Still Alice

Cookie and I  have had quite a week, getting ready to move out of our house and into a very nice duplex.  We’ put our earnest money down on the duplex, and are getting things ready for the two closings.  Even with a sound mind, it’d be a whole lot of paper shuffling, and the dementia really livens things up.  Our checkbook is starting to look like an accountant’s worse nightmare, with all the scratch-outs and erasing I’ve done.

I’ve always been careful to keep very good records.  I’ve prided myself on being able to find things I needed.  But dementia doesn’t seem to care about such things.  It seems to enjoy all my disorganization, and this change has been very disturbing for me.  In my life, I’ve been a tax preparer, a treasurer of several non-profits, and even served as a board member on a credit union board of directors.  It’s been very unsettling to know that I’m having these issues, and that they’re going to get worse.  I’ve always done my own tax returns, but this year I’m thinking I may go to a pro.

And, of course, there’s the  hi-jinks caused by my memory, more specifically the lack thereof.  I had forgotten that when the Home Inspector arrived yesterday afternoon, we weren’t supposed to be there.  He was a gracious fellow, and occasionally chatted with us as he went about doing his work.  When he’d arrived at the house, we saw him talking with another guy, before he came into the house.  We figured he probably ran into someone he knew, and so we thought nothing of it.

And then, the phone rang.  Our realtor gently reminded us that we weren’t supposed to be home, as the inspector and the buyer were supposed to be inspecting the house.  And, to make things even more complicated, the guy the inspector had been talking to was the buyer of the house!  Even worse, he’d seen we were home and got into his vehicle and left!

The two realtors were able to work things out over the phone, and we got out while the getting was good.  We actually had a very nice couple of hours, getting away from the mess.  I even went into a store and did me some some shopping; a rarity as many of you know.  Okay, it was just a birthday card for my soon to be son-in-law Michael, but hey, for me it was a major shopping spree!

I’ve learned that dementia loves to add the “dis” to my organization.  It is an unending,  relentless attack, and there is no real effective defense.  The medication I take work to to slow down the process, but they’re not able to stop it.  At best, they provide a delaying a delaying effect, as the dementia rolls on.  It is a very formidable foe, and I’m still in the earlier stages!

And so I look for strength, any where I can find it.  My Spiritual Director gave the above book to me at our last session.  It’s a novel about a highly educated woman, who is going through the same journey as me.  It is rather eerie to read, as the process she encounters is the pretty much the same as mine.  Even when she finally gets the courage to see a neurologist, the tests he administers are the very same tests ones my neurologist gave me.  I’m having trouble putting the book down, it is such a real a story for me.

Thank you all for sharing my journey.  You are each a special blessing to me.  Please pray for Cookie and I in this busy time in our lives, as we send you all our prayers in return.

Blessings,

Fr Dave

 

 

Lawn Warrior

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This past weekend Cookie and I sold our house!  We’ll be moving soon to a gated community in the city of Odessa, just a few short miles from Midland.  They take care of everything there, so I won’t be mowing anymore lawns after we move.  I’ll be a retired lawn warrior, and I’m both happy and sad about that.

I started mowing my parents lawn when I was eleven, inheriting the job from my two older brothers.  It was your basic lawnmower back in the day; no gadgets.  Back in those days, there were still a few people in our neighborhood using powerless mowers, cylindrical spinning blades operated by muscle!  But we had a gas mower, which was a very good thing since we lived on a corner lot, and had one of the bigger lawns in our neighborhood.

I liked mowing lawns right from the get go, and landscaping in general, something I learned from my dad.  He allowed me to mow other lawns with our mower, as long as I’d spring for the gas.  It was the ideal business model, considering the low cost of gas.  Soon I had a number of customers, and the money began to flow in.

It was then I discovered a curious thing about some of our neighbors, and how they cared for their lawns.  Some of them would keep their front yard neatly mowed, and completely ignore the back.  I didn’t make much mowing the front yards, because they were small, but the large yards were a teenage bonanza!

The unfortunate thing was, I had to mow the backyards twice and sometimes three times, in order to make it look right.  Even worse for both me (and the mower blade)  it was impossible to know what might be hidden under the very thick grass.  This was the Detroit area, and we always had plenty of rain.  I saw many a snake, and once I got bit by a spider, causing one of my legs to swell up.  And than there were the discarded toys, rocks, pieces of wood, and even pieces of metal.  I sometimes discovered ancient car parts buried in the grass, as one would expect mowing lawns in Detroit, the aptly named “Motor City”.

But the worst lawn I mowed, and by far the most lucrative, was a neighbor’s house just down the street.  The house had originally been owned by a cement contractor, whose son Ron Jr. was a best friend.  Ron Sr. had used dyed concrete and stone to build various decorations for his backyard.  Over the years he built a wishing well, a huge barbecue structure, bird feeders, lawn statues, patios, tables and chairs.  The problem was, when he finished doing these jobs, he’d bury the scraps in his yard.  Or, he’d just build piles on the grass, a haven for rodents and snakes.

When they moved, the new owners were a couple of ladies, owners of a Tennessee horse ranch.  Like my Dad, they were both teachers in the Detroit school system.  In the neighborhood, given those times, they were politely called “the teachers.”  They paid me good money to retrieve all of Ron Sr’s. debris, and haul it out to the curb.  Even so, chunks of concrete and stone were always rising up out of the ground like proverbial spirits, causing dents in the mower blade.  My dad and I had some spirited discussions about that; there were a few times I had to pony up money to pay for a sharpening, and in one instance, I had to buy my dad a new blade!

As I got older, I moved on to more lucrative things, but I’ve never stopped loving to mow. I love to landscape in general, though my older back is much quicker to protest.  And so, it’s with some sadness that I surrender my mower, and move on to this new phase of my life.

And then, of course, there is my dementia to be considered.  A lawn mower blade, as some have found out, can sometimes be unforgiving. They’re a lot safer now than when I was a lad, but that sharpened blade still has to spin.  Best to leave it alone before I make a mental mistake, and find myself missing a finger!

That is the one of the hardest parts of dementia.  Like most kids growing up in Detroit, I couldn’t wait for my driver’s license!  I’ve always loved driving, no matter the place, and it’ll be hard to give all that up.  However, I had to take my own father’s keys away, after a thrilling ten minute ride with him, during which he nearly had two serious accidents. And so, this lawn warrior will give up his car keys, and surrender them to my Dementia.

Blessings,

Fr Dave

 

 

 

 

Getting there safely…

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Today for some reason, the phrase “Get there safely” has been on my mind.  When I was in the police academy, we had a fair amount of training time behind the wheel.  The mantra was “Get there safely”.  Which pretty much meant, you can’t help anyone if you get in an accident.  In other words, don’t drive outside of your abilities.

Over the years, I noticed that most of the squad accidents were mostly fender benders. There were the usual pedestrian (no pun intended) city traffic collisions.  Sure they caused some damage, and an occasional injury and such, but they weren’t catastrophic in nature.

My two squad accidents were low speed events, and early on in my career.  They both occurred on the graveyard shift and did not involve other vehicles.  I once backed into a large bench on a golf course on a rainy night, which was a little embarrassing to report.  The other occurred on an icy night while on my way to a hot call, the type of which I can’t remember.  However, I do remember encountering glare ice on a curve in the road, and sliding into the curb at 30mph.  It caved in one of my tires, and had to be towed to the City Garage.  I got away with a nasty glare from my Sgt., who had to do the paperwork.

Though the major accidents in policing always draw attention, most squad accidents are relatively minor in nature.  Very rarely did I have trouble “getting there safely”, though I did have some close calls.  But in dementia, there is no getting there safely, because the damage is already done.  There is a progression of the damage, though it’s rate can vary considerably, and can occur at a variety of different ages.

But there’s another kind of getting there safely, and it’s the one I’m most concerned with. I do my best to remain focused on my relationship with Christ, as I deal with the challenges of dementia.  Our lives on this earth come with no guarantees of safety, and certainly, no explicit warranty.  We all have our own accidents, our ailments and infirmities, and at times they can be pretty scary.  But the kingdom that Jesus was talking about is the one that I’ve grown up with.  I’ve come to know Jesus as others have, as the Great Physician.

Over time, however, I’ve studied other religions.  And, as the old saying goes, there are no atheists in fox holes, whatever your religion.  Whatever path you travel, and whatever tradition you embrace, each involves a journey on some kind of path.  Each path that I’ve encountered  seem to share some common goals.  They all have a path on which to get there safely, and to love one another in the process.  The many folks I’ve met have shared their journeys with me.  We travel many common paths, whatever our faith traditions.

As our Episcopal Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry is fond of saying, “If it ain’t about love, it ain’t about God.”  And without love, there’s not much room for safety.  And so despite the seeming power of dementia, I continue on, focused on my journey.

Transitional Meditations

In just two days, I’ll be stepping down as Rector of St. Nick’s Episcopal Church, here in Midland, Texas.  For the first time in many, many years, I will be without a job.  I will be getting used to this thing we call retirement!  My dementia will be joining me on this quest, of course, and adding mischief to it.  At times, it seems my brain just has to take a leave of absence!

Like all of you, I don’t know how life will go, from this moment as I write this.  Our human warranties are only good for the present moment.  Just minutes from now, our lives could suddenly be much different.  Such thoughts have been on my mind, as I continue on my journey.

The truth is that I am very weary.  Enough so, that I omitted a sizable chunk of last Sundays liturgy.  Unfortunately, it has become a more consistent pattern.  More of my brain cells evidently just aren’t firing.  I’ve had to stop pretending that things will eventually get better.

Having served as St. Nick’s Rector has been my greatest privilege.  They were an awesome bunch when I got there, and even more so as I leave!  They understand that Jesus is in love with his whole creation.  He knows we all have warts and things, but he loves us as we are.  Jesus loves us, despite our imperfections.  St. Nick’s is full of folks who have come to understand that.  They radiate their love of Jesus Christ.  There is no litmus test, to come and worship with them.  They know we each must find our way back home to our Creator.  It’s a sacred road we each travel, and we help one another share the load of making our common journey.

For me, the words in the Burial Rite of the Book of Common Prayer have taken on new meaning.  Life has changed, not ended.  I leave the role of Rector, but I continue on that road that leads to life in Jesus Christ.  Like all of you, I have my ups and downs, but those come with any worthwhile journey.  And despite all the bumps I’ve encountered on the road, I wouldn’t change a thing.

I thank you for your many comments and good wishes.  Please, keep sending me a prayer or two, when you have a moment.  If I don’t respond to you, it’s not that I don’t want to. Dementia is a much demanding companion on the road that I am traveling.   And for those of you that are around this weekend, I look forward to sharing the love of Christ with each of you on Sunday!

 

Dementia: It’s the little things..

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Sometimes I think the dementia is having fun with me.  Early this morning, I was getting ready for church and was going to brush my teeth.  I was thinking toothpaste, but my brain had it’s own agenda.  Sure enough, my right hand picked up a can of shaving cream!  I suppose you’re thinking I squirted shaving cream on my tooth brush, but I’m not that far gone yet.  But I did chuckle for a moment at what that might have looked like.  And tasted like.  Yuck!

Little did I know, that was just the beginning of my day.  The dementia kept after me in church, resulting in some mishaps.  All in all, I think it had its way with me.  As I write this, it seems to have finally let me be.

I’ve been thinking of creating a t-shirt that reads, “I am demented.”  Not sure what kind of picture I’d put on it, I’m in the early stages of production.  Might as well have fun with it, it’s sure having fun with me.

Cookie and I have been debating what to do about our housing.  It’s hard to plan, not knowing how fast the dementia will be processing.  At the moment, it is clearly getting more troublesome, and showing some momentum.  But it could plateau again, and therein lies the challenge.  And we have to factor in our three Chihuahuas, which is a major complication.  They don’t seem all that worried, if you know my meaning.  As long as they get their treats, they’re good for a new location.

This month I apply for Social Security and for my clergy pension.  I am not looking forward to filling out the forms.  I hadn’t planned on retiring this early, but such is life and I’m sure that I’ll adjust to it.  I really don’t have much choice these days, the dementia calls the shots.

It is a learning process and I’m glad you’re all here with me.  Enjoy the 4th, and all the good things that you’ve been given.

Fr Dave