Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Real Graduations

Looking back at my life there are many milestones that stand out. I know most think about graduations, i.e. kindergarten, elementary school, 8th grade, High School, College and Graduate School. Or it can be a wedding, birth of a child and then the graduation process for that child. This week has seen a few of my kids graduate from Jr. High. I know for some making a big deal about graduations is what life is all about. I can still remember last year’s graduation with Alexis and the limo. Explain to me why a bunch a kids from the ‘hood’ would raise money for a limo. I’ll never forget the expression on Alexis’ face when the limo driver explained that the group had him for 2 hours not the whole day.

The real graduations in life occur as we figure out the real meaning and path of life. I know that for me this is seeing a lot of hard work connect back to real people making better decisions that see circumstances change. We did a house-painting project a few weeks ago that saw lots of people come out and do something tangible with their faith. The end result was that a couple of houses were painted, a great picnic party happened in a park, lots of kids and adults had fun and had lunch. The following week a txt message from someone we are helping showed the real impact – a resume had been typed out and then e-mailed to one of my team members who is going to help facilitate a life-changing program.

I know that the perception of some will be that Dave loves to play games, plan big events and gather lots of volunteers, love on his kids but real life transformation isn’t happening. Last night a txt from one of the mom’s whose daughter is graduating said it best – thxs for being there for her and you and Anne are the best. The journey of life transformation is a slow and mysterious process. You can’t rush someone’s journey of discovering life and the one who has given life.

I am thankful for being allowed to be part of many kids and adult’s awakenings. I know that for me to see Andee, former wild child, actually act as if my presence at her graduation was a big deal seemed to be out of this world. A few months ago she would have been the teen to cut up, talk all the time and definitely not pay attention. Now she is someone who draws others to Jesus.

Life is exciting when you follow the One who changes lives!

Friday, May 7, 2010

It Happened!

I know that the journey with my family over the last 4 years has been both heart breaking and also hope centered. I know that watching my mom die over a period of a year or so was devastating. She was my best friend and in many ways my inspiration to stand up and face anything in life. As a kid growing up you don’t think often if at all about what life will be like with one of your parents being gone. I know that I relived my parent’s lives as I cleaned out their house of 15 years. As we emptied the bookshelves onto the floor and then bagged up loose papers, mostly trash and boxed the rest I saw pictures and artifacts that had my life flash before me.

Little did I ever expect to have to be a caretaker for my dad? I guess never expected to be in this position. Over the last year or so it became obvious that dad wasn’t able to handle the pressure or stress of not having his lady and then the challenge of being alone took its tool on him. I can remember my first real exposure to his fears when we talked last October and November about the fact that he was broke and someone was after him. It was rather difficult to discuss anything with my dad because he assumed that he had all of the info and we had talked about this before. I finally decided to leave and visit to see for myself if dad was really on the edge.

We visited at Thanksgiving to be with him and my brother’s family. My goal in going was to empty out one of his storage units. I will never forget my dad’s response to this simple request, can I have the key – NO! I attempted to explain in a logical manner why this would be a good thing and how easy it would be for both Anne and I to empty out this one unit that he has spent thousands on over the years knowingly how my mom had wanted this gone. This again confirmed my sense that dad wasn’t in a good situation living at home.

I had a busy weekend planned between a large painting project with a 100 volunteers coming and also a church meeting the day before. The weather had been horrible all week with torrential rains. My team leaders for the painting project finally decided with me to postpone the project for a month and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to hit the road and see dad and kidnap him. I arrived around 6 AM and called him after I woke up and said I would come over and we could either go out for breakfast or stay at the house and talk.

We went out to Denny’s and my dad easily swallowed down his breakfast. I explained to him that I thought he should come out for a visit and consider, under a hushed voice, live with us. I came over the next morning and said dad let’s go. So he fumbled around and found a suitcase and began a slow arduous process of getting a few things together and after a couple of hours was ready to go.

Initially my dad seemed to like being in a totally different place and enjoyed the chaos and busyness of our lives. He actually liked our kids who came over weekly and came to church a few times. Slowly he started taking over the house as he helped out. He was the expert fly swatter, coffee maker, cleaner upper, etc… Our arguments revolved around his fear of someone coming after him and my unwillingness to listen and understand. Anne was the amazing one who listened for hours about an assortment of things such as how the Chinese or Pakistanis were after him. My patience went in cycles when I would sit and list

My Anne and Heather spent months looking at different places that might become home for my dad. I stayed out of this and let them narrow it to two places. I looked at both of these places and it was really difficult to know what was more important for dad. After much prayer and visiting both places a couple of times we decided on Chris Ridge Village. I knew that all of this work required my dad to actually want to go and live in some where besides my house.

We met with a couple of the staff and they explained how dad had to be interviewed by them, examined by a doctor and then get a chest x-ray before he could transition into his new home. My dad hadn’t been out of the house in months and wasn’t easy to persuade to do something at a specific time. So the initial visit with the two main staff ladies was a total surprise that he was able to relate to them and seemed to understand what we were doing. The second visit was more challenging in that the doctor was going to make a house call on my dad and do a simple interview and exam. My dad was still very adamant that he wasn’t on any meds and didn’t need to see a doctor. So the day of the doctor visit was a little stressful. My dad was more confused this dad and didn’t seem ready for a visit. Yet, in spite of this he was still able to answer questions and allowed the doctor to do a few things.

I was still expecting the worse when it came to him actually moving out of the house and going to his new place. The last hurdle was having a chest x-ray. I found a company that has a mobile unit that comes to the house. I connected with them made an appointment and the day was here. I thought for sure my dad would balk at this. Again, he was a pleasant surprise and talked with the tech guy and actually thought it was fun. He is in great shape so the test came back normal.

The following week or so was a blur as we shopped and spent his money to give him the coolest living set up ever. The weekend before the move in we had everything delivered and started setting everything up. It was a lot of work but also a lot of fun. Especially with his new large screen TV. and his IKEA kitchen unit. The place looked great and with his awesome recliner it was time for the move. The morning of the move I was afraid of pushing his button and really didn’t want to see him early in the morning. Yet, he peeked his head into my office early in the morning and I reminded him that today was the day. He looked at me with a smile and said he was ready.

Little did I ever imagine that this Monday was going to be a miracle day? I had assumed that he would fight us in getting into the car, driving and then actually going into his new place. I spent most of the day at his place fixing up last minute things. Anne actually got him to pack his stuff and get ready to go, albeit about 2 hours later than expected. They arrived around 6:45PM and we took him on a quick tour of the downstairs, which is really cool. He was very talkative and seemed to go out of his way to meet all of the people out for the evening. He went up to his room and you could tell that he was surprised and excited about having his own place. We didn’t unpack but just left his containers and persuaded him to go out for dinner. Again, remember he hadn’t been out of the house in months and had been opposed to going out to eat.

That dinner was amazing in that we enjoyed the meal, talked a bunch and then he said he was ready to go and get ready for bed. Over the next couple of weeks it became clear that this was the perfect move for him. I again tested his thinking when I bought him a computer and assumed he would want to use it. I set up his imac and he was like a little kid at Christmas. He still has this thing about wanting the instructions for everything and wanting to understand how to set up e-mail, make his phone work or reset his watch. We still spar at times but it is nothing like it had been the last year or so.

I am excited for my dad to have new friends and a sense of peace and security. He had been living in fear for the last 3 years and now seems to be able to sleep at night and not ask too many questions about the Internet, cell phones or being followed. I love my dad and now hope to spend lots of time with him doing a variety of things.

I know that mom is pleased and wants him to make some new friends and live life again. Dad, I love you and am thrilled that we can be friends in a real way.