When the hurts take over

Getting hurt isn’t limited to caregiving. All people suffer stuff that leaves marks on our bodies, thoughts and emotions. For caregivers, however, hurts seem to compound because we have to stay in the situation that inflicts them, and stay in it for long stretches of life.

Last week I read a story I’d read plenty of times over the decades of my life. I noticed something I’d not appreciated before: it’s a devastating account of giving in to hurt.

And Miriam died there and was buried there.

Miriam was the sister of Moses. The story starts with her death. We have to read between the lines but I think we are safe assuming that Moses was weighed down with grief.

The funeral is hardly over when

…they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD! Why have you brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle?

Pardon my language, but what a bunch of bastards. Yes, they are in a difficult location. But Moses, ordered by God to lead the people, is mourning his sister as well as sharing their discomforts. Ignoring all that, they jump him with their complaints, pointedly working in language about dead siblings to rub salt in Moses’ open wound. They whine that their cows are unhappy. Their cows count for more than his dead sister.

Moses and his brother Aaron try to keep it together. They go off in private to pray. And God offers to help.

…and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.”

Moses has a sacred staff – a shepherd’s tool, indicating his role as the caregiver of the people. And this item has been a sign of God’s power with him every since he was stuck with the job of looking after them. But as he takes it in hand, Moses gives in to the hurt.

Where God said, “Speak to the rock and call forth water,” Moses decides that the simple word from God isn’t enough. Moses wants to do something badass to show the nasty people just who they’ve insulted. And so

…Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock.

His display of anger cost him dearly,

And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”

He gets to lead the people to the edge of a Promised Land, but doesn’t get to go in with them.

Our hurts can take a terrible power over our life. They can cause us to miss the help that is with us, from God and other people, and to lash out in spasms of emotion that create more problems than they solve. They can make us stumble and fall way short of our values and our hopes.

At some point, we must come to acceptance, or forgiveness, or at least some good jokes that take the sting out of old hurts. Sometimes, we can see how they’ve shaped us and taught us, making us stronger or better in some way.

Most of all, we need to listen for the voice that reminds us that we are not alone, and that we are defined by the One who loves us, not the hurts we carry.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39 ESV)

What He Said

Let me ‘splain.

Lily, our 74-pound, tall and skinny black lab, waits in Joey’s room, across the hall, in the dark, her eyes looking like shiny golden marbles in the dim light, staring at me, until I come in and “Oh.” “Oh” means to move his scattered pillows from all over his bed to a place near his head, then lug his very heavy (to me!), weighted-blanket and gently place it from his neck to over his feet, patting every inch to apply the deep-pressure that his autistic bones crave. When I do this, ever since he was a baby and I comforted him, I have always involuntarily said “Oh.”

So, at some point in Joey’s life, when it was time to go to bed Joey would say “Do you want to ‘Oh?'”

Last night, Lily noticed that Joey was ready to “Oh.” I glanced over and saw her marble eyes in the dark and quietly walked into Joey’s room and asked, “Are you ready to Oh?” I arranged the bed and covered him. I asked him “Are you Oh?”

“Yest.” (No, that is not misspelled.)

I smiled. Good. A small “cross” on the forehead and “God Bless you and keep you safe through the night.” I could see his white teeth (thank-goodness for electric toothbrushes and modern toothpaste!) in the dim light.

I looked briefly at him, feeling complete, or so I thought, until he said, “I love you Miz Ami.” That was beyond complete.

This should be the end, but for fun, I will explain. When Joey went to school, everyone’s name began with Mr. or Mrs. So Mommy and Daddy, he assumed would be fun to say with “Mr. and Mrs.” I became Mrs. Mommy. Joey likes to play with words. Hence, Mrs. Mommy became, Miz Ami, or Mizami. To which he just chose to add “I love you.”

It won’t be Father’s Day until…

“Dad will go to the airport and get Mommy.”

Joey’s been saying that since we dropped Melissa off at the airport on Thursday.

She is enjoying a precious opportunity. She has a childhood friend in another state, and the friend’s daughter was married over the weekend. I was able to take some time off, so there was a window open for Melissa to make the trip.

But Joey, while not anxious or upset, still wants Mom to get home.

Father’s Day, ideally, is about a man defined by his relationship to a woman; Mother’s Day, likewise, is at its best when it is about honoring one member of a partnership.

Partnership might be too weak a word, of course.

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:27-28 ESV)

A couple that gives and tends life. An expression of God’s care giving to the whole creation. Two wrapped up in one blessing.

So we will be taking a Father’s Day moment tonight after “Dad will go to the airport and get Mommy.” Because it’s not a complete Father’s Day without honor to Mom, or Mother’s Day without honor to Dad.

Eating their faschables

manateesThis picture from Animal Planet’s River Monsters shows host Jeremy Wade feeding some gentle manatees, also known as sea cows. It reminded me of an epic care giving adventure.

When we lived in Southern California, there were a few years during which Joey seldom slept.  He would catnap now and then, but he would be up at all hours and Melissa and I suffered lots of sleep deprivation taking turns with him.

One 4th of July, he was up at a hellishly early hour. It was my turn to get up with him. I realized I was not going to have a holiday sleep in, so once the sun came up I decided to load him in the car and drive along the coast, hoping to relax him.

In my bleary state, I drove onto the freeway and kept going for over an hour, finding myself in San Diego.

On a lark, I drove over to Sea World to see if it was open for the holiday. Sure enough, the gates were opening.

Joey was surly. Getting out of the car in a strange place, to his mind, means “work” – that he’s going to be put on the spot to respond to other folks and do stuff not of his own impulse. He was making agitated noises, clenching and unclenching his fists and scrunching up his face as I paid the admission.

We walked around, Joey complaining all the way. He stopped a couple of times and even took off in other directions. I kept coaxing him, obeying all the rules about staying calm and giving him constructive options and all the other blah blah care givers have to do in place of normal parent yelling.

A breakthrough came at Penguin Encounter. Inside the cool, dark and quiet exhibit, Joey calmed a bit. He was entertained by the way those waddly birds were impressive torpedoes under the water.

Then we went into a manatee exhibit. Again, it was dark, cool and quiet. A wetsuited diver was in the tank, hand feeding the big critters whole heads of lettuce.

“The manatees eat the faschables” was how Joey vocalized what he was seeing. He was fascinated. Years later, you can ask him what the manatees eat, and he’ll respond with that same answer.

We went on to have a wonderful father-son holiday. He laughed himself silly when I told him that a black Pilot Whale was Monstro from Disney’s Pinnochio. We sat in the “splash zone” of several animal shows, and he cracked up at being doused with cold seawater. We went to a play area and climbed and slid. We found a place for him to have his personal pizza. We hand fed dolphins, avoiding aggressive sea gulls who tried to snatch the sardines.

It is one of those care giving days I think back on with happiness. A “success,” an impromptu victory over the stress and challenges.

And most of all a joy for Joey.

Shorthanded

Anybody out there an NHL fan? Stanley Cup Finals are underway, and as L.A. natives we are checking in to cheer for the Kings.

In case you’re not a hockey fan, let me ‘splain something. When your team takes a penalty, the offending player must go sit in the penalty box, usually for 2 minutes. During that time, you play “shorthanded.” The other team has five players (plus their goalie) on the ice, but your goalie has only four players providing cover.

In a really bad situation, you can be shorthanded by two players, with five opponents coming at you against only three defenders.

So what? Well, I’m playing shorthanded this morning. Melissa is not well today and on bed “rest” which really means she’s pinned down, enduring pain. So I’m trying to keep things calm and quiet for her. Which means

  • the dog is barking, apparently at a squirrel
  • the cat is throwing up hairballs on the rug
  • the autistic kid is creating a mind breaking din, repeating movie lines to amuse himself
  • I’m trying to let folks know that I won’t be there to meet them at stuff that was lined up for today

So what to do?  I mean, yelling at the dog, the cat and Joey, or being too long and loud on the phone, are going to make the environment anything but peaceful and healing for Melissa.

Sometimes, the penalized hockey team lucks out and scores a shorthanded goal.  I don’t see much of that happening for team Tim today.

Oh well.  #GoKingsGo