Archive for January, 2011

Monday’s Musings—A Caring Life

I have two women that help with the care of my mom. They are gems. Berta is 80 years old. She speaks with a heavy Cuban accent and is Mom’s friend. This morning I heard her reading The Daily Bread to Mom. Later, laughter spilled out of the room.

“Did you change your mother’s doctor appointment.” She asked me as she carried Mom’s calendar into the family room.

“Yes, thanks for asking.” I smiled as I thought of how Berta had ministered to our family over these last four years. But she’s not the only one.

Paula cared for her father who was also a double amputee. Her mom lives with her now. Her mom is totally dependent on Paula for all her needs. She has a feeding tube, takes oxygen, and has to be moved with a hydraulic lift. So Paula gets her mother situated in the morning and then four mornings a week, she comes to our house. I’m glad.

Several years ago, when I was preparing to bring my father home from rehab the first time, I was terrified. It showed as I passed Paula in the hallway at church. She asked about Dad.

“I’m bringing him home in a few weeks and I am so scared! How will I care for him?” I said in between sobs. I especially dreaded the physical aspect of his care. My cheeks reddened at the thought.

“You’ll be all right. That’s the easy part.” She smiled and tilted her head. “It was a privilege to care my father. I still miss him.”

I had no idea what she was talking about since at that time, I had no context. I’ve just caught a glimpse of what she said lately—three years after Dad died.

Sunday, some of the ladies met at my house because we want to minister to caregivers. We’ve decided to start with prayer.

We’re going to go to the source of all comfort. The one that Isaiah talks about in chapter 40: 11, “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom, He will gently lead the nursing ewes.” We can help, but God is the Great Caregiver.

I think He wants us to start with Paula.

Monday’s Musings—A Caregiver’s Walk

We entered the dark theatre, understandably late. At twenty minutes to showtime, I arrived home and suggested the movie. After a little prodding, Mom said yes. We hurried to get ready.

Arriving at “True Grit,” ten minutes into previews was nothing more than a miracle since Mom moves at her 90-year-old-Tim-Conway-speed. I held onto the back of her waist, as in the dark she steered toward the back of the auditorium.

“Mom, that’s the back,” I used my stage whisper as I tried to urge her body toward actual seats. We stumbled upon the handicapped chairs as I helped mom off with her heavy coat.

Mom saw the original decades ago with Dad and their best friends, so I thought this would be a treat. I hadn’t seen the movie, so the entire story captured me. Occasionally, I glanced sideways to watch Mom and wonder about her thoughts.

As the lights came on I located Mom’s walker as she stood. Her heavy coat hung down, along with Mom’s head.

“Pick your head up, Mom. It’s hard to button when I can’t see.” Standing straight up for my mama is like 15 push-ups for me. She lifted her head and then, like the sun, it sank. I continued to button the large tan and cream buttons as my mind shifted to another time.

My four-year-old daughter stood in front of me preparing to meet up with the
Davis girls from across the street. They’d ride zig-zag patterns with their mini-training-wheel bikes on our block, while Kathy and I shouted directions from our lawn-chair-coffee-station. I pulled together the sides of Sarah’s coat, buttoned and patted it for extra good measure showing both my approval and my love.

My daughter is in graduate school now.

Mom’s head sank again as I finished. Time flies.

I patted Mom’s coat for good measure as Tim, I mean Mom and I shuffled home.

Monday’s Musings—Can I Really Love My Dishwasher?

My first dishwasher and I are permanently separated. After only two years of ‘irreconcilable differences,’ I had the bum extracted from my kitchen. I replaced him with a more modest, dependable brand. No stainless steel interior. No hidden buttons stylishly tucked into his upper lip. No complex cycles from which to choose. Just a plain, rinse-and-load, 2-choice-dishwasher. It is enough for me. I’m not complex enough for the dishwasher I dumped.

But I’m afraid. Afraid to love. Afraid to trust my new friend.

I loved my old dishwasher at first. Quiet and sporty, my dishes came out spotless—for a few months. Then, I began to have problems. An occasional spot here. A random piece of food there. Exactly two weeks after my warranty expired, it ceased washing dishes altogether. In fact, it seemed to take great joy in decoupaging large pieces of unwanted food into my dishes and glasses.

After 58 hours of phone conversations, a repairman came. He removed all of the internal organs of said dishwasher, but it was a temporary fix. A few months later, our relationship ceased. I resorted to doing dishes by hand. I had a vague recollection of how this was done, and after demonstrating this to my almost adult son, he helped, but begged for a new appliance.

I yielded.

So, I’m afraid to give my heart to my new appliance. Sure, I love and trust my refrigerator, but we’ve been together for two years now. He cools, freezes, stores an amazing amount of leftovers, beeps when I keep his doors open too long, and gives me fresh water. What else could a woman ask for?

My new friend has thus far, cleaned my dishes. Without vinegar, without much rinsing, without shouting into his interior. I simply load the dishes, and voila, they come out clean.

This will take time. A wounded housewife can’t commit to the first dishwasher that comes around. Here’s what would really steal my heart—if he ironed.

A Caring Life—Monday’s Musings

“Hi. My name is Pauline Hylton. Are you a visitor?”

I’ve said that countless times at my home church. Sometimes they are visiting and I show them to a Sunday School class. Other times, they’ve attended for 3 years and I either haven’t noticed, or much to my embarrassment, I’ve introduced myself 6 times and my middle-aged-menopausal brain doesn’t remember. I figure it’s more important to be friendly than to risk looking like a complete idiot.

Introducing myself to a stranger isn’t difficult for me. Raised as an Officer’s Brat in The Salvation Army, I had no choice. Like the regular army, we were ‘stationed’ at a ‘corps’ (aka-church) for a few years, and then my parents would receive ‘marching orders.’ Three weeks later, we’d show up in a new city, often a new state, a new house—and for me a new school. If you weren’t outgoing, you’d spend your life eating potato chips in your room. I didn’t. (Except the potato chip part.)

I also didn’t have a choice about caring. I rang the bell each Christmas, visited the sick, and handed out toys at Christmas to the less fortunate. And did I mention that my parents ran a transient lodge for homeless people? The lodge foreman, who taught me how to play pool, spent 17 years in prison for murder.

So when a homeless man began to attend our church in the evenings, of course I introduced myself. I didn’t remember his name, and I felt, well, awkward. What do you ask a homeless person? How’s the family? You like your job? How many children do you have? I was afraid.

Afraid of being taken advantage of. Afraid of feeling like I had to invite him to dinner. Afraid of the unknown. If I were grading myself on the Lord’s caring scale, well let’s just say I’d lose my college scholarship.

It bothered me. I sensed that he chose to be homeless, and that scared me, too. A few weeks before Christmas, I marched to where he sat and re-introduced myself. This time I remembered his name. Mark.

After some small talk I said, “How could I minister to you this week, Mark?”

He cocked his head and tightened his mouth. “I have a ministry that I do on Martin Luther King Boulevard on Saturday nights. Right after 7PM there is a local dentist who is throwing a Christmas party and I’d like to attend. I’m having trouble with my teeth.” With that he smiled to show a few were missing. “The trouble is that I need a pick-up to move the equipment.”

I had no idea why, but I knew Tom had a pick-up.

“Just pray about that for me. There might be a guy there who could help.”

I didn’t forget, and I did pray. I was familiar with the area since I’d run a Salvation Army girls group in that area as a young married woman. Often I’d pick up the girls or drop them off. The neighborhood wasn’t known for being safe. Tom and I agreed to be at the corner that he designated at 7.

It was a record-breaking cold night for The Tampa Bay area. I wanted to stay home in my heated house with my pink slippers, but we bundled up and drove there. We weren’t sure what we were looking for since we didn’t know what kind of ministry it was.

The streets were almost empty. A few Christmas lights adorned some old buildings. Newer buildings were added since I’d last been there. A group of young men hung out on a corner—pants low on their hips. I tried not to stare.

Then I heard a voice projected from up the street. A shabby, white van positioned itself in a vacant lot, with trunk-sized speakers placed on both sides. An African-American man read scripture interlaced with commentary in a Jamaican accent. Mark sat hunkered in the back seat.

He looked pleased to see us. We shook hands and talked a few minutes. Turns out Tom couldn’t move the equipment since his Toyota had a topper. The white van would do. He thanked us and we left.

As we rode back in the heated truck, I sobbed. This unnamed man from our congregation was faithfully ministering to people who weren’t listening and maybe even didn’t care. And until then, I didn’t care.

But God cared.

I’m studying the book of Isaiah in Bible Study Fellowship this year. No one listened to Isaiah. He wasn’t popular with Judah. God even had him dress in a loincloth for a few years to get people’s attention. I doubt that pleased his wife. He didn’t blend in with the culture of his day because God called him to be different. Like Mark.

I want to be different, too. My family and friends think I already am. What I mean, is I want to be obedient to God in whatever He has called me to do. Like Mark who ministers on an empty street in Florida. Like Isaiah, who ministered to a ‘stiffed necked’ people in Judah.

I believe He’s called me to be obedient to sit in front of this computer screen to tell you stories about others. So that we can all learn.

Happy New Year,