As my wife would say I don’t read for pleasure but too often for information. Over the last year I have read some of Henry Nouwen. I ended up reading a couple of his books that talked about the story of the prodigal along with Tim Keller’s book on the Prodigal God. I typically would view myself as a servant that is quick to dive in and help others without much thought about attention, reward or payback. As I read Nouwen’s books it struck me that here was a very intelligent and gifted scholar who ends up caring for a man, John, which was in a care center because he couldn’t care for himself. John would usually ask the question do you have a home and will you be home tonight? It is out of these questions that Nouwen rethinks his view of his own life and what is really important, i.e. being a famous scholar teaching at Yale or Harvard or loving on someone who isn’t completely there.
My mom died a couple of years ago. She was truly my inspiration for being an outward person that did have a heart for people and was never afraid to jump in and help. I watched her die over a period of years not months or days. During this period I saw my dad go from being a rather typical male to becoming someone that was overly protective and an isolationist. All of this impacted my brothers and me. My dad all of a sudden didn’t want just anyone around. He was quick to cut us off and protect his lady, which I don’t blame him. I knew that my mom would be gone soon and that I would eventually have to care for my dad. I love my dad but we are totally opposites in almost everything. I drive him crazy because he thinks I don’t listen and I think he talks too much or says the same thing. (Which most of us do.)
When I decided to bring my dad to live with us I didn’t really know what to expect. I did this almost like a ‘lark’. I drove out and didn’t know if he would respond to my simple request to come and life with us in Phoenix and leave San Diego. After waiting a few hours for him to get his stuff we eventually left and arrived in Phoenix. After he had lived with us for a few days I will never forget a comment he made at dinner, “Hey, I like living here and think I should stay here forever.” My hope along with Anne was to help him find his own place where he could be around people and be re-introduced to life. Instead he believes he has found his new home and now has disconnected with everything in his past.
The purpose of this blog isn’t to go too deep but to consider that taking care of my dad really is important and actually an act of spiritual service. My challenge is my attitude towards God – why. Everyone knows that it is always easier to love those outside your family circle than you immediate family. If you lose your temper it is always with those closest to you. As I consider Nouwen’s choice to finish his life’s work by helping his John I can see my dad saying, “I have a new home and I am here today” and that is all that matters. We are in the process of doing a lot of work to help my dad get relocated to Phoenix from San Diego. At times it is easy to forget that what is most important is how he is doing today. Not, whether yesterday’s storm is that big of a deal. I know that I will fight with my dad over silly things often and he will at times accuse me of being the father now and all too quick the boss. Yet, just as he will fight me he is always so quick to come back to me and say thanks for taking care of me. He usually has a short memory. My problem is that I have too good of a memory and always want to be right.
It will take the Lord time to help me see that caring for my dad is just as worthy of a pursuit as loving on my grandmas in my neighborhood or taking a burrito to Mr. Sanchez. God knows that I got along better with my mom but my dad is the one who is now living with us.