Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Light in the Window

We had an excellent sermon on The Prodigal Son this morning. And my mind kept going when the sermon stopped...

The Prodigal Son wanted to leave his father and asked for his inheritance. The father gave it to him, and let him go.
And he had a great time! For awhile. For awhile he lived well, and no doubt had a lot more fun than his father ever let him have!
But then the inheritance dwindled, and disappeared. He was bankrupt and starving and increasingly desperate. Dirty; disgusting.

And I thought how analogous it is of a spiritual prodigal. The virtues he develops as a child of God seeking to obey and do his Father's will, and the blessings that flow from those virtues are rich and abundant...and if he chooses to leave the Father and take his own way, that inheritance will go with him. And serve him well! Very well!

For awhile.Years, perhaps.

But apart from the Father it will dwindle...and disappear...till he is bankrupt spiritually, emotionally, and often physically and mentally as well...

We all have prodigal tendencies, I think. I know I do. Some of you have taken to the road, and the journey is losing its enchantment the farther you travel it.

But like Tom Bodett for Motel 6, our Heavenly Father has left the light on for ya.
Unlike Tom, He is also pacing the floor and watching the road.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Terror on the Homefront

Childhood is not for the faint of heart...

This is an old facebook status that took on a life of its own. I'm transferring it to here for safekeeping. Because who knows?...Ahem...maybe I'll abandon facebook sometime!!
It was written Friday, August 26, 2011 
A garden spider has taken up residence outside our back door. It is clearly a direct descendant of another garden spider; one I will never forget....

I was about 5, I guess, the summer The Spider spun her web between the propane tank and the white concrete wall of our house outside our back porch in NC. I had a phobia of spiders that had no roots in reason and extended to my worst nightmares at night.

We often ran through the space between the gas tank and the house when we were playing, but The Spider brought that to an abrupt halt. I shuddered at the sight of her, even at the THOUGHT of her, and she introduced a level of horror to my life that was quite unmeasurable.

One day Jeff and I were having a water fight. I had a glass Pepsi bottle filled with water, and Jeff was chasing me. In my preoccupation with escaping him I went streaking through that garden spider and her huge web without thinking.

I knew instantly what I had done, but it was too late!!! I streaked PANICKED and SCREAMING!SCREAMING!!SCREAMING!SCREAMING!!!SCREAMING!!!! up the steps, across the porch, through the screen door and into the living room, hurled my bottle to the floor where the water blub-blubbed out onto the braided rug, and stood like a demon-possessed water-soaked screaming machine, paralyzed by horror!!!

And so there I was, in Mother's living room. She came flying to my aid, but had not the merest hint as to what my problem was, and there was no way I could afford to quit screaming long enough to tell her!!!!!!

I don't know how she figured it out. Maybe I did manage to convey it somehow... maybe Jeff told her. At any rate, she commenced to calming me down in her unruffled, reliable fashion. She had, and still has, a remarkable talent for imparting sympathy and compassion without validating ones' fears. She cleaned the web off me, and I think I remember her showing me the dead spider, and taking its shriveled carcass out on a flyswatter.

She told me that the spider was probably just as afraid of me as I was of her.

But I am here to tell you, there is NO WAY that that was the truth!!!! No way. There wasn't enough space in a million spiders to hold the fear that was in my heart that day.

I'm still irrationally afraid of spiders. But I believe in facing your fears, and through the years I have gradually conquered it. Small spiders no longer scare me. Medium-sized spiders, I can swat with suave confidence.

But ......I'd just as soon the spider by my back door wasn't there.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


He came flying around the corner the other day and said, "Did you see that picture of Pooh, Mom? Do you like it?"
"Yes, I like it!" I said. "I like it a lot!"
Todd had taken a picture of Pooh and made it our computer wallpaper.
 And then I had epiphany  of sorts. "Would you like if we'd get it framed?"

You could see the wheels of his mind start turning, "How could you frame it?" He asked.
"We'd get it printed at Walmart, and buy a frame for it. You could keep it on your dresser."
"Oh yes! Yes! YES!!" Wild excitement spurted out all over him.
And off he went, leaving in his wake his mom drifting down a silent brook of the day when Pooh first entered his life.

Todd was due on August the 10th. I remember that date because I had to repeat it so often to little Regan. She could not WAIT for him to be born. I couldn't either. It had been awhile since we had a baby in the house. Frankly, I preferred motherhood to pregnancy a thousand times over, and this pregnancy had had its share of scares and bed rest and hospital visits. It had been a long nine months.

But the 10th of August came and went, and no baby. Another week passed and another came. And finally, with some help from the doctor, Todd Asher was born, 12 days late. I remember us looking at him the first time... Todd in my arms; the Chief, who deserved a medal denoting supreme courage and endurance, as do most husbands of new mothers, to my right, hovering above us both. Todd was our fifth child and fourth son.

We couldn't have been happier.

The nurse whisked him away to be weighed and foot printed and brought his certificate with his little prints on it, to show us. His footprints were goofy, oddly smudged around his toes, and I kidded the nurse about her not getting his toe prints right. She laughed a little and made some comment about having had trouble with it.

That was a clue. I missed it.

They brought him back, weighed, and swaddled and ready to eat.
And they left us alone, the three of us. But, despite his apparent hunger, he seemed to have trouble sucking. Another nurse came to see if she could help, and in just a moment, with no word of explanation, she put her finger into his mouth, and then quietly took him from me and left the room.

That was another clue. But I wasn't looking for clues. I had just had a baby.

She brought him back to us again. I picked up his little hand  to adore its tininess. A couple of the fingers fell away from it at an odd angle. His pinkie finger had two fingernails, and upon investigation, seemed to be two fingers together. I showed it to The Chief. He had seen it earlier, and hadn't said anything.

That was a third clue. A couple questions rippled through my mind, but I felt no particular alarm.

Later, when we were settled into our room, the pediatrician came in and pulled up a chair. He was nice enough, but he wasn't our regular pediatrician, and we had no established relationship with him.

"Your little boy," he said, "was born with a few birth defects. Major minors I would call them."
 He launched into a run-down of the things he had been able to observe to that point. He was matter-of-fact, but not unkind. Todd's toes overlapped each other. His right hand had significant defects. He had a cleft in his soft palate...I forget if he mentioned other things then or not. I was unfazed. I loved the mothering job. If Todd took more mothering, I'd give it to him. Simple as that.

The most apparent defect at that point was that he was born with a cleft of the soft palate. This meant his mouth was open into his nasal cavity. He was unable to create suction, making nursing impossible. The nurse showed me how to feed him. I put his milk in a miniature cup and then holding him up-right on my knees, I held the little cup to his lips and he sip-sip-sipped it off, like a pro. Like he had known all along how to do this. I was disbelieving.

Later, they gave me a bottle nipple created especially for babies with cleft palates. He learned to strip the milk from it with his tongue. No suction necessary, but regulating the flow was tricky, and  it ran from his nose and half-drowned him over and over and over. Feeding him was a very long process. It nearly consumed my life. I was determined to keep from feeding him formula as long as possible, so he would have every possible benefit from my own milk. But determination cannot scale every mountain. I capitulated after about a month and a half and started feeding him formula, trying not so successfully to shrug off the guilt.

Thinking about it now, I still cry a little. Mom-guilt is a mantle the fingers of reason are unable to lift from your shoulders.

And we began seeing doctors. So many doctors. About This. About That. He needs this test. And that test. And these x-rays. And those therapists. And this specialist. And that procedure. He should be checked for possible syndromes. And this panel should have a look at him.

The endless labyrinth of halls that is MCG took on a familiarity we could never have envisioned. The security guards at the parking garage became common acquaintances. I learned to know the parking garage, how to extract myself from the predictable caterpillar of cars that crawled its way from floor to crowded floor, and snag the parking spots less apparent to the uninitiated.

Todd's plastic surgeon said doing cleft palate surgery was most successful and effective when done at approximately eight months old. I looked forward to that day, and dreaded it at the same time. It was his first major surgery.

We went through what would in later years become conventional routine. Pre-op. No eating after midnight. Keeping him occupied and entertained until they called us back. Trying to act, for his sake, like it was no biggie, like everything would be fine. We purposed to stay with him as long as we could and asked the doctor if we could go back to the operating room and stay with him till the anesthesia claimed him.

And then we walked, just the Chief and I, back to the waiting room alone, to wait. And wait. In a room full of other parents and grandparents trying to entertain and pacify other little children who hadn't eaten since midnight.

Finally the surgeon came out and told us surgery was complete and he was happy with how it went. They had sewn a string through his tongue he said, and it would be hanging out of his mouth. It was necessary should his airway begin to swell, we could pull his tongue out and free his breathing.

He left, and we waited some more.

And then the door opened, and a nurse called "Strite". We followed her back as she gave us a brief run-down of  his condition.

And there he was, one baby boy in a whole row of little people in varying stages of anesthesia's spell, separated by curtains.

I was unprepared for how pitiful he was. He was so small and awful in that ill-fitting hospital gown, with that string hanging out of his bloody mouth.  When he woke his eyes brimmed with unspoken confusion, fear, and anguish.

I hid my own anguish. Or tried.

Once he was properly awake they moved us all together into a recovery room. The Chief carrying the plastic drawstring bag probably, with Todd's own clothes. The nurse with the IV pole. Me, with Todd. That's how it usually worked.

The room was dim and pretty small. The obligatory shades of gray in every direction. Except for one spot. One big Spot of Gold with black eyes and nose and a bright red sweater.

It was Pooh. Waiting patiently for his boy to get there. There was a piece of paper there with him.  I can't remember the exact wording, but it said something like: This bear has been donated by...I think her name was Carolyn something, during a WBBQ fund drive for the patients at the MCG Children's Medical Center.

It was a tough couple days for Todd, and for the Chief and me. The only thing you can do for a baby that age is try to convey your love for them through the pain, and hope they understand that much at least...that you are there, and will not leave. That's all you have. It seems so inadequate.

All the while Pooh sat calmly in the corner of the vinyl couch, waiting.

And then it was time to go home, and we loaded him up with all the other things...the prescriptions, the instructions, the discharge papers, and this and that.

And off he went to his new home, with his new boy. There was no way we perceived how important a bear he was.

Todd quickly came to adore Pooh. He took him to bed with him faithfully every night....Pooh sat beside him where he played.
And they grew...Well, Todd grew...Pooh pretty much stayed the same. He dressed him in his own pants in the morning, (they were short pants on Todd, long pants on Pooh.)...and put him in pj's at night. Todd grew out of the pants, but Pooh didn't. He keeps a pair or two to this day, in case Pooh is in a pants-wearing mood.

They have had parties together. And gone to grandmother's house. And camping.
He talks for Pooh when Pooh can't find the words to speak... a little boy who for years struggled to find his own voice.

Sometimes Pooh needs a bath, at which point Todd keeps careful track of the washing machine and how soon he'll be out again. And then of course, he needs drying...and it takes so LONG for him to dry! But he's pretty and golden again then. Just like new! And his little sweater is so bright!

Todd and Pooh are ten years old now. Todd has changed a lot. Pooh, not so much.

Todd has been through multiple surgeries in those ten years. That cleft palate surgery was just one of many. But Pooh has been a constant in his life from that first one.

And often when I see them together, and think how much happiness Pooh has brought to Todd over the years, nearly his entire life....I think of Carolyn. And I wish she knew.

Pooh's picture has now been printed and laminated, and today, I hope to find a frame.
Red, I think, to match his sweater. Or perhaps black, to bring out the color of his eyes.

Thank you, Carolyn...wherever you are. Thank you so much.