#dadupdate – Back in the Hospital

01/13/2015

Dad is back in the hospital.

Not a fall this time. Not a new complication from the LVAD.

It’s an old issue. Fluid retention.

This is where we started last year. Summer of 2013, to be exact.

I’m pissed off. Pissed off at the pharmacy that didn’t grasp that a man with a weak heart couldn’t wait five days for a prescription to be filled. Pissed off that I wasn’t more proactive on Monday when Mom said CVS still hadn’t filled the prescription for Dad’s diuretic, called in on Friday. Why didn’t I insist that she call elsewhere? Why didn’t I call?

I’m pissed off at myself that I didn’t get more things done on the fitness project I’m working on. I let myself get derailed by a couple of financial matters that needed to get done, but maybe not in the order and at the time I addressed them.

I robbed myself of a couple of precious productive hours.

And pissed off that I couldn’t drag my sorry dupa (Polish slang for the backside) off the couch any sooner than now to put my thoughts down.

I’m pissed off that Dad is now likely to miss Emily’s Sweet 16 party on Saturday.

But amidst all the stress and anxiety, I’m still grateful to have my mom and dad here to talk to. To visit. To help. To have a meal with. To enjoy Mom’s cooking and baking. And her laugh. And Dad’s sense of humor.

How many people can say that their parents just celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary? They are still here — both here — to celebrate.

I’m a blessed, fortunate guy.

Had a discussion this evening with someone who is severely depressed. Recently lost a parent. Sees no joy whatsoever in this life. No feelings. No sense that prayer is important. No sense that life is important.

What do we own? What can we claim as ours, now and forever? Only our thoughts. Only our relationship with God. When all is said and done, that’s all we’ve got, folks.

Everything else besides how we touched other people, how they touched us, and our relationship with our Creator means nothing when it’s time to say goodbye to this life.

When everything around us is hopeless or when we encounter a person who is in hopeless despair, what’s our most powerful method of combating the enemy?

Prayer.

It’s better than sending a check. Or a box of chocolates. Yeah, sometimes the money comes in handy for things that make us more comfortable or for necessities.

But when the need for all of those things are gone, what do we have left? What do any of us have?

Our relationship with our Creator.

And we better be prepared.

In the meantime, we have to live our lives. We should function at the highest level possible, given our station in life, given our income level and skill set.

And yes we need prayer and a strong spiritual life in order to do those things. But we need something more basic, more fundamental for our temporal world.

Take care of your body.

Yes, we need to take care of our minds. But if we neglect this vessel of flesh and blood, it will betray us as we grow older.

We only have so many years on this Earth. Some of what determines that is our genetic predisposition.

But our health and functionality as human beings also depends on lifestyle.

How do you treat your body?

Are you taking care of it?

Are you doing everything you can to keep it operating as efficiently as it can and should be?

How many years do you have left?

Are you prepared for what comes next? After this life?

Are you prepared for the years you have left? Has your lifestyle increased your risk of heart disease or diabetes? What about fluid retention?

What about functional fitness? How prepared are you for a slip on the ice? Could your body hold up against a sudden thud to the ground? How sturdy are your bones? How strong is your heart? How efficient is your cardiovascular system?

Let’s ponder and answer these questions together. For the benefit of the people whose lives we touch. And who touch our lives.

And with that, bedtime. Still exhausted after too little sleep yesterday. Hopefully, these words make sense.

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Divine Love and Unconditional Love

01/12/2015

Dear Renee,

We had kind of a strange snow storm yesterday evening and overnight. Up here in the great white north, high above the Arctic Circle in northeastern Illinois, not a flake of snow.

Good for us. Not great for my mom and dad.

I hesitate to call them elderly. Yeah, Dad turned 80 last March and Mom will be 78 end of next week. But they sure don’t act it. On the other hand, neither of them should be shoveling snow.

20140218_151647——————————-

You and I both know about early starts to our day. Today, I was done with my first appointment at 6:45, and my next client cancelled. My next appointment wasn’t until 9.

Before I left my client’s driveway, I checked my phone, saw I had a message from you. So as I headed south on the next leg of my journey, I had time to ponder your words:

“I did have a question for you about the Baptism of the Lord–is God’s love unconditional or Divine or am I just getting confused on my definitions? I am well pleased with you–is that unconditionally?”

Before I answer, I must emphasize that the answer comes not from a scholarly theologian, but from a flawed layperson who attempts to assimilate Church doctrine within my own feeble study of scripture, the Catechism, the saints, documented encounters of holy people with human beings, and my own brief skirmishes with the supernatural. Certainly not authoritative.

But steeped in faith. And an earnest endeavor to seek Divine Truth.

God is Love. God is Mercy. God is Truth. God is Divine.

By definition.

I believe this with every fiber of my being.

Above all, as Jesus told Saint Mary Faustina Kowalska, God is Love and Mercy itself.

Therefore, all Love from God is Divine Love. It must be. By definition. God cannot not love. That would be contradictory. Sorry for the double-negative. But it’s necessary to emphasize the point.

God’s Love is Divine. God’s Mercy is Divine. God’s Truth is Divine.

Must be. By definition.

But is God’s Love also unconditional?

I think it must be.

God doesn’t place conditions on His Love. Jesus doesn’t place conditions on His Love.

We do.

By our flawed human condition.

Does that make sense?

——————————-

I had big plans for this morning. I knew that my 7:30 appointment had been cancelled, and before I left home I knew I was headed to Panera for “second breakfast” (hey, I’m a growing boy). I would use the time productively, working on a fitness product I’m developing with my son’s help.

On my way to my 6:00 appointment, I ran into snowy roads. And when I got as far south as Lake Bluff and Lake Forest, there were three or four inches of snow on the ground.

6:45, my appointment over, I sat in my car, having read your message. I put the car in drive and headed south.

I had a choice. Do the work I planned to do or head to Mom and Dad’s house to shovel snow.

The decision was obvious. But there were those moments of rationalization on the way.

As I drove and pondered, I reflected on your questions.

I was placing conditions on my love.

I hope that helps.

Sincere regards,

Dave


NOW You May Take Down Your Decorations

01/11/2015

I hereby declare Christmas season over. You can take down your decorations and put them away until next year.

Why today?

Today is the Catholic Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Ordinary Time begins tomorrow.

Many people seem to think that the Christmas season begins the day after Thanksgiving. Retailers want you to think that it begins before Halloween. The secularization of the season sure has skewed our perceptions of what and when and why.

Oh sure, it feels like Christmas season in the United States as soon as Thanksgiving. The traditional start to holiday shopping now begins on Thanksgiving. Family celebrations, office parties, special get togethers with friends… all centered around our secular “feasts,” beginning with the fourth Thursday in November.

But like the penitential season of Lent, Christmas is actually preceded by a period of preparation. It’s not as somber as Lent, but it is also not supposed to be a period of partying and rejoicing. It’s a season of anticipation.

We Americans party.

And Christmas is not over on December 25. That is when the Christmas season begins (well, actually for Catholics, it begins at the Vigil Masses on Christmas Eve). It’s on Christmas that the Lord makes his appearance as human flesh and blood. It’s on Christmas that the Creator of all that we have, all that we see, all that we think, say, and do… every single one of our experiences… becomes one of us, one of the created.

Do you stop to consider that?

Do you ever stop to consider the enormity of that moment? Of all that it entailed? Of what had to happen to make that a reality?

But that’s not for today. Today, we talk about why Christmas season ends today.

Our Western tradition fixes Christmas Day as December 25. I won’t get into the reasons for that. But we all know that 12/25 is not only the feast day but also the secular holiday.

Feast days are not limited to 24 hours. They are celebrated over an eight-day octave. So the formal Christmas feast is actually celebrated from December 25 through January 1.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops states it this way:

“The liturgical season of Christmas begins with the vigil Masses on Christmas Eve and concludes on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. During this season, we celebrate the birth of Christ into our world and into our hearts, and reflect on the gift of salvation that is born with him…including the fact that he was born to die for us.”

The season includes the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph (Sunday after Christmas), the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (January 1), the Epiphany of the Lord (primarily celebrated on the Sunday after the Feast of the Holy Family, but traditionally on January 6, the “12 day” of Christmas), and the Baptism of the Lord (Sunday after Epiphany).

(Some traditions actually celebrate the Christmas Season until February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. That, too, is a topic for another day.)

Our tree came down today. The cats were none too pleased. One obvious reason: the evil vacuum made an appearance. But the other reason was they lost their favorite place to sleep, under the tree.

Our cats don’t bother with the ornaments or lights or the “cranberry” garland. They don’t drink the water in the tree stand. They snuggle on the skirt under the tree or nestle into one of their blankets, which we strategically place as close to the bottom of the tree as possible. They love it under there.

They’ll have to wait to enjoy its “shade” until next year. Although, they can still see the tree. It started to drop needles this week, but the branches and needles are still soft and pliable. So instead of bagging the tree and tossing it in the trash like so many others do, we left it standing on the back porch.

Goofy? Yeah, probably. But that’s the way we like us.

—————————

We heard an extraordinary homily today from Father Dwight Campbell at St. Therese of Liseux Church in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, on the significance of Jesus choosing to be baptized and the gifts and graces we receive from baptism, and why it is important to baptize infants. It was so good I wish he had recorded it. So much information, I couldn’t listen fast enough! I know I didn’t absorb all of it, but I’m sure he would be happy to discuss it again. Perhaps the subject of a future post on this very website

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Sleeping Late, Feeding the Cats, Sin, and Love

01/10/2015

I feel so sorry for our poor cats. Weekends are a real crapshoot. During the week, they’re used to eating between 5:15 and 5:30 in the morning.

Last night, I watched the nightmare from Edmonton others would refer to as a hockey game. It wasn’t over until 11:30 or so.

(Well, some would argue it was over long before that…)

I cannot just turn off the television after watching the Blackhawks play – especially when they lose so decisively – meander into the bedroom, plop myself down, and fall peacefully to sleep. No. There’s a certain ‘unwind time’ necessary for this hysterically casual observer.

Plus, there’s always some reason to sneak into wake up every cat as I walk into the kitchen, even it’s only to shut off the lights over the sink and stove.

Well… last night was no exception. Lady Jay led the charge, looking at me hopefully with those sad green eyes, groaning a raspy meow. Did I bother to give her a morsel of food? HAH! Not me! Their unthoughtful Daddy squeezed his way through the feline masses and left them all on the edge of starvation.

Despite the fact that multiple bowls of dry food were a mere inches (okay, okay… a couple of feet) away.

Before dawn, I woke up, got up to check the clock. 6:30. Fleeting thoughts of staying up and starting the day crossed my mind.

Naw. Too many nights of four and five hour sleep this week laid their grip on me. I crawled back under the covers.

Two hours later, the sun – which actually decided to make a brief appearance this morning – nailed me straight in the eyes. I stirred and made an effort to get out of bed. That woke Kathy, who looked at the clock (I can’t see more than a foot in front of me without my contacts or glasses) and remarked at how nice it was that we both slept until 8:30.

EIGHT THIRTY?!?

Half my morning was over! Forget the cats, I’m usually either done with my second breakfast or desperately seeking the nearest morsel of food by 8:30.

I was definitely “behind my time,” to quote Bob Cratchit. And the cats knew it.

Part of my morning ritual is to pray. That usually occurs, in part, while I’m feeding my little babies.

Weekends are a little different. EWTN is a Catholic television network. Morning Mass is generally offered every morning at 7:00. I try to watch the Mass both Saturday and Sunday.

Before I went to bed, I changed the channel to Comcast 119. In the morning, I could either watch live or rewind and watch later. EWTN broadcasts in low definition digital, not HD, so you can rewind the DVR for a couple of hours without formally recording the program, versus the 30 minutes of live TV that’s ordinarily captured from the typical DVR.

Fr. Wade Menezes of the Fathers of Divine Mercy has been saying Mass all week while the Franciscan Friars of the Eternal Word were on retreat.

Fr. Wade gives a most powerful homily, or sermon. He is blunt, direct, matter of fact.. he quotes scripture or the Catechism and tells it like it is. He pulls no punches. But make no mistake, he is a delightful human being.

Today’s first reading was the end of the First Letter of St. John. In his homily, Fr. Wade discussed John’s emphasis on love in his first epistle. He discussed how the Ten Commandments emphasize love of God (the first three commandments) and love of neighbor (the final seven commandments). He examined sin and its relationship to the love of God. He discussed the differences between mortal and venial sin and the benefits of frequent reception of the sacrament of confession.

Certain thoughts resonated:

  • Sin destroys or wounds love, our love for God and love between human beings.
  • Sin injures man and wounds human solidarity.
  • Frequent confession increases one’s humility, tends to help control bad habits, and leads to greater self control in daily living.

When Fr. Wade said that both venial and mortal sins can be forgiven by confession, it made me cry. It made me realize the overwhelming love of God for each and every one of us.

At the beginning of Mass, the people participate in a Penitential Rite, a form of contrition for our sins. One of the optional prayers begins “I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned…”

And then I spontaneously blurted “sometimes I like to, sometimes I want to, and sometimes I can’t help myself.”

And that’s precisely why frequent confession is so essential. We sin all the time. All day every day. It’s part of the human condition.

Does that mean we are bad? No. It simply means we are human. We are not God or gods. We are poor sinners. Sinners who need the mercy of our loving God. To repair our relationship with love.

So as I listened and performed my weekend morning ritual, I finally finished repairing my relationship with the cats. They got their food around 9:20. Yeah, I tend to get distracted.

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Learn more about Father Wade at http://fathersofmercy.com/priests/fr-wade-menezes/ and more archives of his work at http://fathersofmercy.com/author/fr-wade-menezes/


Morning From Hell? BAH! I Spit On Bad News!

01/09/2015

Dear Diary,

Car started. Fired right up. Despite the sub zero temps.

Good thing. I had a 30-some mile trip this morning.

Would have been a long walk.

Only glitch in the preliminary portion of the day was leaving the house a few minutes late.

And the car dying after turning the corner on the way to the credit union. But it fired right up as I rolled through a sharp curve on a lightly-traveled road.

Good thing #2. Ten miles from home in the bone-numbing cold.

Okay… what was awful about today? Hmm…

(drums desk during dramatic, pregnant pause)

Well, my right knee tightened up again on the ride to LA Fitness. That was unfortunate timing. But that’s the reality of two surgically repaired knees. They’re going to hurt… they’ve got a few miles on ’em.

So I can use the knee as a lame excuse for my poor, pathetic, lazy play on the racquetball court. But it was really me. Unfocused. Poor fundamentals.

There’s that…

……………….

The Starbucks was a mess this morning. Twice I had to ask the baristas to refill the half and half. The shaker of powdered chocolate was completely empty. The shaker of powdered vanilla was also empty. The tables were full of crumbs and sticky.

So there’s that…

……………….

Walgreen’s has eggs for $1.49 per dozen. No limit!

So……… there’s that…

Not awful…

……………….

Ummmm…….

Kathy’s been feeling a little under the weather…

So there’s that…

……………….

Got ten cans of diced tomatoes for 29 cents a can.

So there’s that.

Not awful at all!

……………….

Got home ahead of the snow and blizzard-like winds. That was good, but I had to worry about Kathy’s drive home. And Martha’s drive home to Sarah’s. And Mom and Dad’s drive home from Dad’s LVAD check-up at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn’.

Took them almost two hours to drive home. Normal drive time is less than an hour.

Kathy’s drive was slow. So was Martha’s. But everybody got home safely.

So….

No morning hell. No afternoon hell. Just the frozen tundra of winter, rearing its frozen head.

See how dull my normal life is?

Bliss.


The Morning From Hell Freezes Over

01/07/2015

Dear Diary,

Do you ever wonder if it’s not meant to be your week?

Of course you don’t. You don’t wonder. You can’t even think. You’re a diary. You’re inanimate. Not human, even.

No matter! I’m going to talk to you anyway. It’s a clever writing technique.

I didn’t finish yesterday’s post until after 11 last night. Spent an agonizing evening viewing the premier of the tragicomedy “Colorado Avalanche vs. Chicago Blackhawks.” It was billed as having all the elements of an action flick, but it was often as unexciting as watching paint dry. The Academy was so inspired by the Blackhawks’ performance, they created a new award immediately after the show: Most Shots On Goal With Zero Probability of Actually Scoring a Goal.

In a Lead Role.

The lack of sleep from the last two nights caught up with me. I nodded off before I finished writing, computer on my lap.

As I scraped the contact lenses off my eyeballs, I was already dreading the 4 AM alarm.

At least I slept past 3.

Alarm sounded at 4. I didn’t roll out of bed until almost 4:30. Still groggy, but wary. It usually takes me an hour and a half to get out of the house. Today, I only left myself an hour. After the events of the last two mornings, I feared I didn’t leave enough time to get ready and out the door by 5:30.

As usual, 5:30 arrived and I wasn’t ready to leave. Scramble mode again. Way too many things to carry to the car (will I ever learn? I think you know the answer), oatmeal firmly in hand until I had one foot out the door and reached back to close the door. Shades of Monday! Once again, I cradle the oatmeal bowl precariously as I reach for the door.

This time, the oatmeal survives.

Morning proceeds normally. Meaning: everything I think I have planned changes at the last minute.

I survive the appointments and manage not to kill anybody. Always a plus, as doing so would be bad for business.

Weather is frigid. Temperature hovering around zero. Unlike the last two days, there’s a little wind today. Happy that the car heater cooperates.

It’s a 2003 Nissan Altima. Yesterday, the odometer rolled past 282,000 miles. I love this car, but it’s seen better days. In the last year, one minor issue after another has me hoping against hope that it will live another day.

Being the model husband that I am, one of my stops on my way back north is at Starbucks for a cup of coffee. Then, off to my wife’s office to drop off said coffee.

I arrive at 12:07.

At 12:08, said Altima won’t start.

At 12:10, I call Kathy, tell her what’s happening and that I’m taking her car to Panera to get some lunch and do some work. I also need to arrange for emergency road service.

American Family now contracts with some service to handle their roadside claims. I was too distracted multitasking to catch the name of the company. The insurance company used to handle these calls. Must be cheaper this way.

Cheaper or not, arranging for the jump and possible tow was anything but easy or simple.

I spent 30 minutes on the phone with the representative.

Thirty minutes.

Glad I ate first. Allowed me the opportunity for heartburn as the call dragged on.

And on.

And on.

Just kidding about the heartburn. But I am glad I ate. I was starving and needed the calories.

Driver was supposed to arrive at 3 and confirm arrival by calling ten minutes before I was to meet him at my car.

At 3:25, I get a call.

“I think I’m next to your car.”

“Really? I’m down the street at Panera. I need to pack up. Give me ten minutes to get there. Maybe five.”

“Take your time, sir.”

I depart quickly, drive back to my car, exchange pleasantries with a couple ladies who are already done for the day and leaving. We chat about the winter fury that’s gripped us in the past handful of days and the prospects for a nasty blast of cold and snow tomorrow.

The guy is as pleasant and helpful as can be. He raises the hood, gets the battery starter in place, and barks “start your car!”

Said 282,000-mile Altima starts immediately. Not a hint of a problem. By 3:39, I’m on the road. And heading to get my battery tested at Wal-Mart Automotive, where I bought the battery. I can’t remember when.

I don’t have to wait at all. Pull the car right into an open garage bay. Battery tests out fine. It doesn’t need to be replaced.

Repair guy seconds the tow guy’s speculation that “if it’s not the battery, it’s probably the alternator.”

Great. Besides their speculation, there are no other symptoms.

Well, car started just fine after the battery test. Then I had to stop for gas. Car started just fine then, too.

I should mention that today is Mom and Dad’s 59th wedding anniversary. How cool is that? A year ago, almost to the day, we as a family had sufficient reason to doubt that Dad would be alive to see another anniversary.

In the grand scheme of things, my mornings — and now an afternoon — from hell are nothing more than benign amusement. Some laughs and lighthearted moments at my expense that elevate the blood pressure and stimulate the central nervous system, but are all a bunch of folly.

Still, now living with the knowledge that my car didn’t start today, an incomplete diagnosis as to why it happened, and the coldest night of the year upon us, I’m in the Twilight Zone episode of “What Happens Next.” And folly or not, that kernel of doubt and uncertainty will be there every time I start the car.

That’s not a real episode, by the way.

Maybe I should write it.


The Morning From Hell, Part 2. Is This A Pattern?

01/06/2015

Dear Diary,

Have you got it in for me? Are you jinxing me?

Yesterday was bad enough. What are you trying to do to me?

Up at three again this morning. But unlike yesterday, I was able to fall back asleep today.

Alarm at 4.

Today is January 6. Feast of The Epiphany on the traditional Catholic calendar. EWTN Radio was simulcasting the Mass from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Pope Francis officiating. Mass was about half over by 4, maybe a little more than half. A pleasant way to start the day. Mass was in Latin, so I couldn’t understand everything, but that’s one of the cool things about being a Catholic. Any Mass, any language, any country and we still know what’s going on.

Day here starts as most people’s day starts. Gotta “freshen up.” Didn’t have to shower this morning. Headed directly to LA Fitness for the first official racquetball match of the year. Quick shave, wash the face, move on.

Move on.

Wait.

(Didn’t we do a lot of “wait”-ing yesterday morning? Sighhhhh…..)

Well this morning’s “wait” moment was special.

Pull handle to turn water on. Push handle to turn water off.

Push handle to turn water off.

I said “Push handle to turn water off.”

Perhaps you didn’t hear me. “PUSH HANDLE TO TURN WATER OFF!!!!!”

Water — or more specifically, faucet — doesn’t wish to cooperate. Water doesn’t shut off. Not even to a trickle. I mean, it is literally (not figuratively, Tribe Writers)…

WARNING: INSIDE JOKE…

… it is literally gushing out of the faucet in the off position.

The faucet has been leaking for a while. An annoying trickle. Lately, it’s been a little more than a trickle and there have been a couple of occasions — of course late at night or early in the morning and almost always immediately before we’re about to race out the door — when the trickle has turned into a steady stream. And with the holidays, a repair job was the last thing I wanted to tackle.

Diary, don’t tell let this secret slip. The conservationists will be all over me! Yeah, I know… I’m stealing water from the fish. Yeah, I know… we could use the same analogy my parents made about not wasting food. You know, all those starving children in China (how the heck were those kids going to get my leftovers anyway?), all the people suffering from drought… blah blah blah blah blah. But it wasn’t that much water! The cost in time and effort (and money) did not justify taking immediate action. At least in my mind.

But…

… like yesterday’s “immediate action” required with the oatmeal crisis, this situation called for immediate action. This was real water loss. A real crisis. Cats will have to wait for breakfast. Brushing my teeth will have to wait, too.

And my mood. Mmore than slightly surly. The halo I was wearing moments earlier? Washed down the drain with the water gushing from the “off” faucet.

So today, shortly before 5 AM, I’ve got my plumber’s hat on. Mr. Fit It, as my family affectionately knighted me. And I leave the house with the bathroom faucet in pieces. The final half hour of my morning chores (yes, including brushing my teeth; I used the bathtub faucet) was another panicked rush. The poor cats got the short end of the stick. Oh, they got fed, but Daddy wasn’t his usual jovial self.

The faucet’s repaired now. Life has returned to normal. The fix was about a six minute job, max. Ace Hardware even replaced the faucet cartridge for free. Lifetime warranty. So that was a bonus.

But gee whiz, can we lose the morning drama? My hair is gray enough. And thin enough.

 


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