Thursday, September 3, 2009

Just how far will the truth stretch?

I have my friends lying for me today. Although I try not to make a habit of it there are times that the truth needs to be...shall we say...punched up a little. I need to come up with a photo of myself with a bio for an upcoming event.
I have not had a photo taken for years. If someone in my family is foolish enough to snap one on a digital camera or a cell phone
I cry and complain until they take it off just to shut me up. Let's just say the years have not been too kind and my thinning hair and my fat'ning face are running neck and neck in the race to see which will become the gross out champ. (the real money is on my face here)
As for the is not like I have not done anything worthwhile in the last, oh let's say, 50 is just that it is hard to take credit for the things in my life that are the best. I have great children, but anyone who knows me knows that they came pre-wired to be wonderful. I have always imagined the conversation up in heaven just before they came down.
"Now kids, we are sending you to this man (show photo of me) Please don't let him mess you up. We are sending you down smarter than him, wiser than him, and don't even get me started about how much more grown up you are than him. So kids, just do your own thing and you will be just fine"
My wife is the highlight of my life, but I certainly can't take credit for her. The kids and I say that her super power is being able to find anything. If she has found anything redeeming in me she has completely earned her title. She is heaven's other way of keeping me straight.
So I guess the bio will come down to a few mentions of some meaningless little things that I have filled my days with.
You really know who your friends are when they help you define yourself. Lucky for me I have good friends, let's just hope they have strong stomachs for stretching the truth.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Parenting: Whose job is it anyway?

I need to call the people at Websters Dictionary. I am looking for just the right word. I know that when a mom or a dad teach their child something it is called parenting. The cynical among us will argue that you don't see that much anymore but none the less, there is a word for it.

This is my problem...what do you call it when a child teaches a parent something?

I vividly remember the story of one such time. When my youngest was about 6 years old we were all experiencing a busy Saturday. I had started my day early with a list of tasks to do and later on that same day everyone else in the family would be dashing off to this or that. Upon my return home early in the afternoon I laid down on the sofa and quickly fell fast asleep, face up, on my back with my feet hanging off the end. Shortly after my return home my wife Lenore left the house. She was off to some sort of church activity. Then my son left the house to spend some time with his friends.

You know how it is when you are trying to sleep on the couch, you are asleep but you manage to hear every closing door and every ringing bell. A few minutes after he left my oldest daughter also left the house. With that last click of a door closing the house was all of a sudden really quite for about 3 minutes.

Then my youngest daughter Maddie came up to me on the sofa. She leaned over the arm rest about 5 inches above my face and said "Wake up dad, it's time to start parenting." Indeed on that particular Saturday I was the last one left to watch over the six year old. Yet in some odd way she was really watching over me.

I have thought about that sentence many times over the years. "Wake up dad, it's time to start parenting." I thought about it the day we dropped my oldest daughter off at college. There is nothing like leaving your child alone to make their own way. Suddenly there is a stream of questions and concerns. Have I taught her everything she needs to know? Does she know how to cook and wash her clothes? Does she know how to get around in a new town? Will she make the right decision when she is confronted with two compelling options?

I found that there didn't seem to be an end to the second guessing. After 18 years of having her always there were the lessons enough? I guess I was about to find out.

I had the same thoughts go through my head as I walked out of the room sending my only son off to Mongolia to serve as a missionary to the people there. What will he teach them? Can he cook? Can he clean up after himself? That one was a real head scratcher because we had not witnessed that first hand too often.

Somehow Carly finished and graduated from college and Andrew did indeed return home from Mongolia after two years of helping serve the people of that far away country. During the time they were away and since they have returned I have learned a lot of things from them. They took on their challenges and acting like adults not children they exceeded expectations.

So what do you call it when your children teach you valuable lessons?

For now, I think that I will just call it life.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Life, Death and Chocolate Pudding

Last night I woke up in the middle of a dream. I don't know if it is called a dream when it was more an actual memory than a conjured up story line about flying or going to school with no clothes. I was taken back to the last night I spent with my father before he died.

My dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the summer of 2005. Those are difficult words to hear. You don't know what to do or even say. So you are left to a meaningless attempt to say something that would make it all better. If someone comes up with those words please let me know.

Although he fought the best he could, we feared all along that it was found too late and too far advanced. I was not living near him the last months of the struggle, so I was left with phone calls and well wishes from a distance. Then in late September I received the call from my mother...come quickly your father is not doing well. My brother came down from Oregon and I came from Utah to join with my mother and sister who live in Arizona.

After a few days in the hospital where it was determined that there was not much that could be done at that point, we moved him to a hospice facility in Scottsdale. I am not sure where they find people to work at places like that but somehow they find the best of humanity. They are kind and gentle and understanding.

Since he was so sick we didn't want to leave him alone at night so we decided that the boys would take turns sleeping in the recliner next to his bed. I took the first night. The night went relatively smoothly. He suffered with his then normal amount of pain, without complaint. He just got quiet and rubbed his hands and wrists. I tried to make him comfortable but I know now that was not possible.

About 3:00 in the morning we both gave up on any attempt to sleep and we sat at the edge of the bed in the dark. It seemed to help somewhat rubbing his back so that is what I did. There we sat, in the wee hours of the morning, rubbing his back talking about life. Ironically we didn't talk about death, just life. We talked about what he was proud of and where he felt he failed. We talked about success and failure. All we talked about was family and love. There was no talk about his high school football days or his days as a fighter pilot, just about home, just about us.

At about 4:00 am the door cracked open introducing a penetrating light into the darkness of the room. Our backs were to the door but we heard a very bright voice say "What are you fellas doing?"

So I told her, "We are just talking". She turned on the light and came in. "What are you talking about?" I said that we were just talking about life. She said she understood and with what we would come to know as her normal level of perkiness, added, "Do you guys want some pudding? I would love some pudding right now."

All I could think was...pudding, pudding? Who would want pudding at 4:00 in the morning. My dad however thought he might indeed like some pudding so about 3 minutes later in she came with 3 bowls of pudding and 3 spoons. She told my dad to scoot over and then she jumped in the bed next to him. She looked at the bruises and marks left on him from his hard last fight at holding onto life and talked about them and how sorry she felt for him. She rubbed his head and made him laugh. She said she loved working there because she could actually get to really know people.

So there we sat, my dad and me, neither of us knowing what was about to come and a bubbly nurse who had seen it hundreds of times but acted as if it was nothing to fear and could be all be made better with chocolate pudding.

Somehow the light of dawn came. The family started assembling again for what was to become the last day we had with him when he could still talk. Later that day his condition worsened and my brother and he spent a very difficult night together. He did not make it to a third night.

I miss my father. I miss his strength. I miss his ability to answer any question I ever had.

I am grateful for his memory and that one night of life and death and chocolate pudding.

Why today, why now?

My mother says I am the most opinionated person she knows. I don't think she meant it as a compliment. The funny thing about it is I don't have a strong opinion about that statement.

She might just be right but then on the other hand if you don't have an opinion about life you get tossed back and forth with every trend and idea that comes along. If you do have an opinion, sometimes people label you as ridged and not open to new ideas.

I am going to work though that. So I thought that I would start this blog and find out for myself if I am forever doomed to be the most opinionated person on the planet or just a normal guy trying to make sense of it all.

Wish me luck.

Mom, when I get the answer you will be the first to know.