Sunday, May 27, 2012

To Be Continued…

The stories we tell often have a cut beginning and end. Our minds are finite, and we need to organize things with starts and finishes. It’s the way we are. But God’s above that. The stories He tells, He writes, He plays, run together meshing our lives with those around us.

The story He’s been telling me doesn’t have a clear beginning. It might have started in 1998. It might have started when I was born or when my father was born. Actually, it might have started way before that, I don’t know. But I’ve reached a climax, crisis or whatever one calls the high moments of suspense. We’ve reached a point in which nothing from here on out can be the same again. And a decision is made.

See, my daddy’s heart has always had a problem. One of his valves doesn’t work right and his thyroid is off, etc. He was born that way, but he didn’t discover it until he would keep my momma up at night because he was shaking the bed with only his heartbeat. In 1998, his heart stopped beating in rhythm for the first time. Momma rushed him to the ER and they shocked his heart back into pace, no problem. It just shook them up a bit and started daddy on yearly cardiologist visits. In 2009 it happened again with the same results. When we moved to Africa it was one of the concerns we had that we just trusted to God to take care of. And He has… in His own way.

On May 11, in the middle of the night, his heart went into arrhythmia for the third time. Daddy had spent the week on the island, where he doesn’t sleep well and the food is different as well as the less extravagant accommodations cause stress. The next morning I woke up to find my father up and sitting on the couch at 7 am on a Saturday morning, which basically never happens. When I asked what was wrong and learned, I sat down to give him a hug. But never have I given a more painful hug—as I leaned my head on his chest all I heard was “bum bump…bum bump bum! bump…bum….bump bum!” And that’s not a comforting beat to hear.

He and momma hired a driver to take them to Kampala, the big city, to see a trusted doctor there. The boys and I hung out with friends and expected a renewed father to return that evening. The instructions from the doctor (which we later confirmed with our American cardiologist) were to take blood thinner and wait three weeks before shocking. Those three weeks were very different from our normal life. If you take one member of a working family out of that family, there’s a gap that’s left to fill, chores left to be done and it affects the actions of the rest of the family. Momma was driving around town more, doing things, the boys were home more and I was out and talking to people more. And daddy? He was resting A LOT more.

Ever since that day he has not been able to walk more than across the house without a rest. He can’t stand more than 10 minutes or sit up straight more than an hour. Seeing him that way stressed all of us. But we all were counting the days until he would “get better.”

On this past Wednesday, daddy, momma, a friend of mine and her mom and I all were driven to Kampala for a couple different appointments. One was my dad’s for some blood tests. He got numbers low enough to go ahead with the operation and the doctor scheduled the procedure for the next day. Oh, daddy was so relieved. I started planning on being at church the Sunday after and the boys and I went to spend the night at some friends’ house.

But it wasn’t in the plot diagram, I guess. God didn’t write that in the story. Instead, He had the nurses shock my daddy twice, neither time being successful. Instead, He had us kids reeling with questions back home while our parents were gone and we heard snippets that daddy wasn’t “fixed.” Oh, the turmoil.

I think the next event in this story is our whole family going to Nairobi, Kenya for more advanced treatment. We’re gathering all our clothes, schoolwork and anything we might need for possibly the next two or three weeks to leave as soon as our money gets wired in to the country. We have no idea how long this will take. If Nairobi can’t fix it, the next logical step would be a cardiac aversion or pacemaker. But like I said, we’re not writing the story.

I just know the current status of it is “To Be Continued…”

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Step Back

One day a man woke up in a strange world. He first believed himself to still be dreaming, but as the day wore on he found this really to be the real world. It just didn’t look right.

The problem was he couldn’t see with his full view. He always felt as if he was looking through a camera that was zoomed in all the way. When he took a step into the kitchen from the hallway, he failed to see the chair right under his nose until his face was on the ground. He began feeling around to protect his step, but he found all his senses but sight were useless.

Grappling to touch the chair he had just tripped on, he couldn’t feel what it was. He knew it to be a chair, but only from his memory of the house. As his fingers skimmed the surface of the wood, he hardly could distinguish it from the walls he hit earlier. The normally small leg of the chair was too big to fit in his hand by some fluke of nature.

Standing, he began to ponder his fate. Maybe if he focused more closely on the small scope of his sight, he could figure out where he was and feel his way around. This worked while he had a guide—his memory—but upon entering his car to drive to work he found his newfound eagle eyes would not be of use. Even just looking out his windshield, he found his eyes only could focus on the bugs smeared across the glass—which seemed to be the size of his outstretched hand. If he could stretch his view beyond that, it only saw the rocks on the ground directly in front of the car.

“Well, this is no use!” declared the unfortunate man. He went back in the house, because he saw that he would only be a hazard if he were to drive anywhere. But he had to get to work. Thankfully, he lived just half a mile from his work, so he determined to walk. First he must warn his boss that he’d be late.

Finding the phone proved just as difficult as driving out the driveway. But dialing was the worst!  He managed to call his boss and even to walk the half a mile to the building, only to fall on the steps. When his coworker came out to help him up, he couldn’t tell who she was. Every time he blinked, he only saw a few strands of her hair as she pulled him up, or the texture of her leather shoes as they walked to the door.

By the lunch hour, he was too worn out to hear the reports his coworkers brought to their supervisor. By a mere miracle, he reached home again to hear his wife calling out to him. But try as he might, he could not find where she was in this whole wide world. He heard her say hello and even felt her quick embrace. He answered her concerned questions as to his early work leave with, “I don’t feel well,'” but he never could tell what angle he should focus at. Finally he shouted as loud as he could, “Where are you?” when she had stopped speaking.

“Why, dear, I’m right here. Can’t you see me?” she asked, now genuinely concerned. He then explained why the chair was overturned and the phone mangled. He couldn’t see at all! She led him by the hand back to his room and laid him down. He closed his eyes as he heard her say words that only confused him.

“Step out, step back, look out and look back. Step out, step back, look out and look back.”

Suddenly, he awoke once again. But he was unwilling to open his eye for fear of what he might see—or not see, as the case may be. He heard his wife murmuring to herself in their shared bathroom. She was repeating those words she had said as he had fallen asleep last afternoon. It was the words to the poem she was memorizing. He gathered his courage and opened his eyes, to see his hand was completely normal and he could even see the numbers on his clock.

He realized it was all a dream when the date was the same as it was when he woke up the first time. But he never picked up a magnifying glass again.

That day, after work, he said only one thing to his wife. “Honey, I think we ought to go take a vacation next week. I think we need to take a step back from everything and get the bigger picture of our lives.”

Focusing on ourselves leaves us confused and angry. To step out and look out and help others gives us a better picture of our lives and where we fit in to this world.