Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Grey Hair is Glorious or ????

Grey hair is glorious?

I was cursed with grey hair at a young age of around 35. I was blessed with my mom’s genetic makeup. I am thrilled to have hair but would rather have it be my normal brown instead of greyish white. The Bible does seem to give some sense that there is some type of glory or wisdom that is wrapped up in having grey hair. The assumption is that you would be older, more experienced and wiser. Whereas in my case it was premature grey with the fallacious assumption that equaled being wise beyond my years. I would agree that age brings more of life experiences, which doesn’t necessarily equate to being more patient or wiser.

I think most would be quick to admit to being in denial about their real age as they approach those different barriers like 40, 50, 60 or wooow 70. I have many friends who truly embrace the notion that age really doesn’t matter. I could rattle off clichés about age doesn’t matter or something about mind over matter or ? Yet the reality is we choose how old we want to be, whether that is acting like a Jr. Higher when you are a 20 something college student or the 40 something who thinks he’s cool to pursue a 20 something girlfriend.

There is a sense that those who have great health, which is truly a gift from God, don’t really allow their age to limit what they choose to do. I have a good friend Art, who is at least 80 and is still involved in helping with doing tutoring and helping out in an amazing way with our group. I will never forget the first time Art asked one of the younger kids how old they thought he was and a little 5 year old gal said I think you are like 140. The next little boy then echoed, ‘No I think he is more like 100 years old.’ Finally someone got at least a little closer and said around 73 and he was actually 74 at that point. He is now over 80 and just as capable as ever to share his smile and his generous heart in helping.

The downside to old age for many, not all, is that your body starts to give up. I have become my dad’s caretaker over the last 3 years. I truly have loved becoming his special friend and advocate. The difficulty is at times I think my life is just watching him get old and prepare to die. I so much want him to experience more of life and be more than someone who watches the History Chanel for 10 hours a day, eat three meals and have an occasional visitor. It is so easy to drop off our loved ones at the closest Senior Complex or Nursing Home.

My dad has now lived  at a very nice Senior Complex, Chris Ridge, which was high end apartment living, assisted living, memory loss help or nursing-rehab floor, he’s been in the hospital twice, done a stint at rehab and is now in a group home. The goal selfishly is to have him in a home environment where those who help him truly act like family and give him the respect, love and attention he so needs and desires. The challenge is that it is difficult for all of this to happen all of the time. One of my dad’s fellow residents told me two weeks ago that he believed that he wasn’t gone to be around much longer. Mr. Otis had renal failure, was a diabetic and had respiratory problems, so I knew that each day was literally a gift for him. He was a real gentle guy that clearly loved God.

I was gone for about a week with having the flu and being out of town. I was very concerned about my dad’s situation but still wanted to know about Mr. Otis. As I rang the doorbell in my dad’s group home I saw his normal caretaker. I asked the obvious about Mr. Otis and discovered that he had been admitted to the hospital for pneumonia. The challenge was that Mr. Otis needed to have seen his doctor a month or so ago and that never happened. So instead he ends up in the ER with pneumonia, which for many older and frail seniors mean they reach their end. Unfortunately, Mr. Otis succumbed to pneumonia with many complications. I know that as he shared that he looked forward to going home to be with the Lord and his wife.

Yeah, I think at times that getting old sucks because everything you use to be able to do you talk about, fantasize about or just get bitter, angry and tough to be around. I know that my dad has become actually a very pleasant person to be around who is easy to love today.  Yet, I know that he has given his caretaker a ‘run for his money’! Dementia is a horrible disease that robs you of your mind and ability to relate to circumstances. Initially this isn’t that difficult because everyone forgets their keys, misplaces their wallet or can’t find their book they are reading.

I have some amazing friends who are in their 90’s who write me long letters and pray for me on a daily basis. They are an awesome testimony to the gift of old age for a few who are able to age gracefully and still be a vibrant part of God’s family. I truly hope and pray I can be like my father in-law who is still going strong at 85 or is it 86.  Today as I return to see my dad I have to decide whether he is recovering from the flu or whether I should take him to the hospital. It isn’t easy to know sometimes what to do. Yeah, it is easy getting older, especially when you have to be dependent upon someone else to make your life happen.

This summer Anne and I will have a young couple stay with us that have a little guy that is seven months old. It will be refreshing to have the extremes of a toddler and my dad be part of our daily routine.  Life is an adventure that is lived both frontwards and backwards at times.  Right now I’m not totally sure of my direction at times, so tonight I will be skating with a large group of teens and feeling more like a 20 something! 

Friday, May 25, 2012


I hang out or almost live at my Starbucks in the mornings doing e-mail and blogging almost every weekday. I have been sick the last few days and then was gone because of my great aunt’s funeral last week so the gals thought I had died or God forbid switched coffee shops. I want to intentionally hang out at the same places to get to know different people. One of the benefits of doing this is that I have become close friends with the manager of this Starbucks, Joseph. It has been a blast being able to abuse him a little in the mornings when he eventually makes his way to his store. We have partnered with a couple of different community events over the last year. I have invited him to serve on the Barrio Board. He feels free enough around me to ask to borrow my BBQ, tables, chairs and canopies for his daughter’s graduation party this Saturday.

I have attended a few graduations so far this season and still have a few more left. It is fascinating to stand back and look at the crowds that come to graduations whether they are 8th grade, High School, Community College or University. Graduations are definitely a rite of passage for everyone today. Last night we were at a graduation for a newer smaller high school and there still seemed to be thousands jammed into this indoor arena. It was so crowded that it took almost an hour to find our graduate – Michael! One of the down sides to most of these graduations is the lack of awareness of the massive crowd that we are here to LISTEN to the ceremony and not to PARTY. Last night it was impossible to hear anything that happened.

Yeah, I’m the guy that grew up in the 60’s and loved to play LOUD rock music in a band. My wife still claims that I’m partially deaf from my loud intense guitar music when I was a teen. I claim that my hearing is just fine! I don’t need any hearing aid just turn out the volume a little and it will all be ok. The real test is that you can’t hear my music through my ear buds when I’m listening to my iPod. I think what stands out, which is sad, is the lack of respect most have for what is really happening. I agree that we want to CELEBRATE someone’s accomplishment but to do that we have to be able to hear when his or her name is called out over the loud speaker.

It was neat last night to meet Michael’s sister and Aunt. We have been around Michael the last year and it wasn’t until last night that we actually met some of his family. The difficulty was that the decibel level was so HIGH that we couldn’t talk at all.  I know that most graduations have long drawn out speeches by every board member or head admin person on top of the superstar students. So I understand why it is easy to zone out and just get on the phone or talk to your family member or special family friend. The challenge is that once a few do this it is impossible to hear much of anything.

I am fortunate to be around a variety of students that range from teens that break the grade curve and those that graduate albeit at the bottom but they graduate. (You know the proverbial joke, ‘What do they call the guy that graduates last in med school, Doctor!’ It will be exciting to see a couple of my gals graduate from 8th grade this afternoon. Much as it will be just as moving to see one of my ‘superstar’ teens graduate with honors from High School on her way to a coveted place at the Naval Academy that took an act of God to get in there.

I’ll have to confess that I missed my undergrad graduations because we moved due to the premature birth of our Heather. Much like my Anne had to finish her Sr. Project at a distance, which meant no real graduation. So I have really enjoyed being at my Julie and Jon’s graduations from ASU over the years.  It was a very meaningful experience for Anne and I both to graduate with our masters from Westminster Seminary in the 80’s.

The biggest reason to celebrate is graduating from learning important life lessons. I just received 3 texts from teens, which want to work at 6:30am and not do the summer thing of sleep till noon. I know that one of the most meaningful graduations for me was seeing my mom, who was dying with cancer, attend my brother Scott’s PhD ceremony in Santa Barbara. Sometimes the most important reason for doing something is for someone else, like mom, dad or the grandparents. So celebrate!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bad Days Happen

I have to admit that on occasion I have what would be called a bad day. Yeah, Dave experiences real life with bad days. I know there are some that a bad hair day would be enough to send you over the edge but I’m blessed to have hair that is always just right. (My wife is jealous because she’ll spend at least 30 minutes messing with hers.) I have been so blessed with many special friends who have become close to me and help out in a variety of ways with New City – Barrio Nuevo. We have received tickets to different events that are gifts, which obviously are free to us but cost someone real cash. We had been asked to see a CYT performance of Alice, i.e. Alice in Wonderland, at a very nice Art Center. I usually jump at the chance but then I am a little cautious because I don’t like ending up in two different scenarios, where we have too many show up for an event and I have to say no to a few or a lot or I ask for more tickets then I need and have extras which someone else could have used.

This last week Anne and I had been gone doing my Great Aunt’s Funeral in St. Louis. It was an incredible trip connecting with a couple of my cousins and my brother was able to come also. What wasn’t cool and reminders of the brokenness of people was that I couldn’t talk with or see one of my mom’s brothers. I was hurt and upset but as we talked with my cousins it was obvious that part of my mom’s family was having ongoing feuds. So as I reminded my group via text about the play I received an assortment of text saying YES we want to go and invite friends or a younger family member. So I assumed that I could fill 50 seats easily and probably do 60.

We come home and I end up volunteering to take one of my close friend’s kids to see their cousin’s dance performance on Saturday morning. I assumed that this would be a stress free event. We would show up to a school auditorium, watch the performance for thirty minutes and then be gone and my Saturday morning wouldn’t be consumed beyond like 9:30-10:00am. I pick up grandma and the little kids. As we arrive at this school it is clear that this isn’t a one-school performance but a huge Community Fair that includes lots of schools and local businesses. It also becomes clear that arriving at 8am was a waste of time because the cousin wasn’t coming until 9:30.

I don’t know whether I’m complaining or just painting a picture of how easy it is at times to have a bad day, which wasn’t part of the plan. We end up playing on the playground for about 15 minutes and then I realize, I don’t want to admit, but the grandma who is with us starts looking for one of the kids who I assumed was with her mom and not us. We had gotten into my little van and it was clear that this little one wasn’t there. So this is why grandma is looking around and asking for help with other Hispanic Grandmas.

I really hadn’t planned being part of the evening news as there began a search for a missing child. My good friend who I am helping out had the morning from hell. His truck, which he had just invested a huge amount of time and money to get it seaworthy or able to pass emissions, decided to ‘crap’ out again. The new fuel pump decided to give up the ‘ghost’. So I know that he was bent out of shape. We had already talked a little. So when I had to call and ask the obvious question he gave me the answer that I didn’t want to hear, the little girl was at home alone. Most likely she was still sound asleep in bed or watching the T.V. So my friend got permission to fly home which I’m sure was like a 5-10 minute drive. She was safe and sound at home. The challenge for me was that the police had already asked me; understand this was a large community event with lots of local police showing off their swat team gear, whether this little girl was ok. I lied and said yeah we are good.

Everything calmed down as I told  grandma what had happened and we watched the cousin’s dance performance. It was incredible and the memory of what had just happened seemed to fade or at least I pretended to let it fade. As we are watching these little kids, who are dressed in Mexican dress, do their numbers it is like being in another world far removed from Phoenix. My phone starts to receive texts from different teens and adult saying that they can’t make it to the play. My blood pressure is starting to rise as I try not to lose it with a few who had made commitments and now at the last minute had something else they perceived as more important.

I have too much experience with this type of thing and know in the end it all works out. Yet, I did want to impress my friends who had gotten the tickets that I would have a real list of who was going and that it would be a relatively easy process to pick up our group. I make a few phone calls and get a few more to come and then more texts come about who can’t go now because of birthday parties or family events. My special friend who is donating the tickets texts and says we should be there early and I remind him that we will meet at 1 and it will be ok. Yet, he shows up more like 15 minutes late. The different drivers show up with their groups and we are almost ready to blast off. As one of my faithful drives relates the fact that the family he was supposed to get wasn’t ready and had forgotten about the play. I’m fuming at this point because of the kids in this family at texted me numerous times in the morning.

I decide to not let this totally rob my joy so we load up the vehicles and make our trek to see Alice. I didn’t know what to expect. I had probably 10 little kids that could possibly sit for an hour but not 2 hours unless this is something special. As the musical begins it is clear that our kids are going to be mesmerized by Alice, the sets, the songs, which are more rockish and then the story itself. My little friend next to me would keep asking when are they going to dance again, when are they going to dance again.

It was a long play but the action and continual change of sets keep you glued to your seat. The story itself was enough to help even an old guy like me see my need to be myself and not think being a rock star is better. As the play finishes and obviously Alice and a few others receive a standing ovation we are ready for home. My friends who had donated the tickets I now come to understand had personally done all of the sets or props. Wow – this was like months worth of work. As we take pictures of our group I’m humbled to be blessed with such amazing friends. They are my heroes for the day which wasn’t the best till then.

We drive home without any incidents and drop everyone off except for a couple of our guys who live in a group home. Typically they end up at our house for at least an hour waiting for their ride. My day ends with an incredible conversation with these 2 older teens about real life, Jesus, making the tough decisions and the call for action today. What a way to finish off what started off as a nightmare for my good friend and a little girl who is now safe at home with her family. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Family Feuds

I had the privilege of going back to St. Louis for my Great Aunt Alice’s Funeral.  I knew that my Aunt Elaine would most likely be by herself with just her Jack and maybe a few other family members. I had to go back to honor one of the few relatives in my life who hadn’t cause any drama and remembered the majority of my birthdays over the years and my kids. I share this blog not to blast my relatives but to make a confession that it isn’t easy not to have family feuds over the years. 

I have been blessed to oversee the funerals for both of my grandmas. These were over 25 years ago. I do have memories of one of the funerals where the dividing line was obvious in the way that those attending choose to sit at the funeral Chapel. I can remember saying that Red, my grandma, probably wasn’t too thrilled with the heated discussion about silly things like the time and day of her funeral. I know, now that I am aging, that it is much easier for older people to get their buttons pushed and be ‘bent out of shape’. 

We were truly blessed to be housed by one of my awesome cousins. I’m the outsider because I didn’t grow up in St. Louis where my parents grew up. I have been able to visit a little over the years but not enough to really know my cousins or their offspring and now their grandkids. I had e-mailed one of my cousins who forwarded the e-mail to his brother. This meant an instant e-mail where the welcome mat was put out and we had no choice but to say YES. 

It was a delight to stay with my cousin and his wife. It gave me especially an opportunity to hear more about my mom’s side of the family and some of the things that make us who we are. I know that most of my mom’s siblings and parents were somewhat ‘racist’. They grew up in St. Louis in neighborhoods that went from being all ‘White” to all “Black’. I can remember growing up in a ‘color bind’ world because neither of my parents were prejudiced against any race. So name-calling and slurs were not a natural part of my legacy. 

I wasn’t surprised to hear from my cousin how his mom and dad were very opposed to someone of a different race being part of his wedding. I shared how I heard a racial slur for the first time when I was visiting one of my grandmas during the week that JFK was assassinated. I was totally naive so when I asked my dad about this derogatory term I was taken back by his quickness to rebuke grandma. I learned a quick life lesson that week both about how my parents were different but also how it was easy to get the wrong impression about a racial group of people because of the acts of a few. 

I have been estranged from an Aunt and Uncle since my mom’s death, which has been almost 5 years ago. I am not proud of this but actually ashamed of what has unfolded. As I sat in the living room that was cluttered with kid stuff I sat and listened to my cousin and his lovely wife as they described some of the family feuds that were taking place with their larger family. At first it made my feud with my Uncle not seem to be that big of a deal Yet, the more I thought about it, especially after doing my Great Aunt’s funeral, the more I knew I had to attempt to make things right even if it meant that I swallowed my pride and intellectual integrity and admit that I was being a total a_____ knowing that I might have won an argument in my mind but ultimately created a broken relationship in protecting my dad from a slur. 

I know that we live in a world of haves and have not’s, those who value education and those that believe having a job and staying at the same job for 35 years is far superior to having 5 different jobs in a life time. I also understood that I grew up in a racially open family and that to be critical without being able to explain why was never acceptable. I also know that as my dad ages it makes it very difficult not to react to anyone that is critical of him or his service in the Air Force. 

So my hope, which might be naïve, is to reach back to my uncle, whom I know isn’t likely to forgive me or want to kiss and make up but I have to at least try. After listening to my cousin taking about his mom, my aunt, I know what I’m up against. Yet, for the honor of my mom and dad I will try! So I truly hope that I don’t end up causing any type of feud that lasts more than a day or so in our families. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Tribute to my Aunt Alice who lived to almost 107!

I have to admit that I sometimes don’t like answering my cell. I know that God crafted voice mail to allow me to ‘filter’ what calls I should respond to and others that can wait. My real reason for not always being quick to respond to certain callers is that I know they might be the bearers of ‘bad news’. I will never forget the call from my Dad at 3AM, I usually don’t answer at that hour, but I knew most likely it was the inevitable call about my mom’s passing. As I answered it was my dad and I knew exactly what he was going to say. Yet, as I listened it was definitely a sad call but glorious in the way that my dad shared the story. He was on a spiritual high that I know was a byproduct of the heavenly host taking my mom to her real home. My dad was on a spiritual high for weeks following. I instead was in tears and heart broken. (Tears continue to come even five years after her leaving.)

I had been playing phone tag with a new friend whose cell is from St. Louis MO. He and his wife are going to help us in the summer as they get a better sense of God’s direction in their lives. So when I saw the 314 area code, I assumed it might be from him. Yet, as I go back to respond, I was in the middle of doing my monthly update, I realize that it is from my Aunt Elaine. I know that the news she has to share is about our Aunt Alice who is 106 ready to turn in a week 107. I had been expecting this call actually for the last couple of years. Al seemed to stare death in the face and continue to win.

I do feel horrible, even though my Aunt rebuked me, for not coming out to see AL over the last few years. I was blessed to see her consistently for a couple of years when I was first doing networking with New City Fellowship in St. Louis. I had the great excuse to go out four times over a year or so and always would go see her. I am so glad that my parents made one last trip before my mom’s health went totally down. It gave me an opportunity to see St. Louis through the eyes of my mom and dad.

As I write this tribute to Al it’s not that I saw her that often through out my 58 years. She was always someone who chose, whether I did or not, to stay in touch. She was the one who sent Birthday Cards, Christmas Cards and other occasions type of cards that I know kept Hallmark in business during her life time. Her sister, my Grandma Miller, would come out every year for a few week’s visit. So Grandma Miller was truly part of my life. I can remember a few times when really young going to their old Province house that was then in a bad neighborhood. I won’t repeat some of the things that I learned about racial strife through this experience, but it did open my eyes and in many ways has given me a passion for being part of racial reconciliation in action.

Al’s claim to fame, this really is something worth bragging about, was being a quilter. I didn’t know this until our visit to St. Louis with my mom, dad and my family. Elaine, who had been her home for most of her life since the death of my Grandma Miller, is the one who showed us Al’s masterpiece. I’m not much of a crafts person, I do love photography, so I had little appreciation for the amount of time that is required to plan out a quilt and then actually do it. Al had designed a quilt that was a deck of cards. I have no clue as to why she would have done this, maybe she loved playing cards or…. Yet, the precision in which this quilt was put together was totally amazing!

Elaine had sent pictures to a quilting magazine that ultimately did an article about Al and the quilt, which is now famous and will be in some quilting museum. The amazing part in my life with Al was that she cared and never stopped. I can’t say this with other of my relatives because there have always issues that have separated us for the silly things in life. I can remember doing the funeral for Grandma Dotson and could see the lines drawn in the group that attended by how they chose to sit in the funeral home. I can laugh at this now but looking back it wasn’t something laughable.

Al was given a green thumb by God, the master gardener and you could see it in the garden that was always planted in her and Mil’s backyard or for the last 30 years in Elaine’s backyard. I will always remember the squirrels and cardinals that would always flock to the back porch in Elaine and Jack’s house. Al had this special sense about her that seemed to draw an assortment of animals. I have memories of her with peanuts in her mouth that both birds and squirrels would retrieve!

I didn’t mention that Al was a rather small person, actually even smaller than my Heather or Anne. I know that the adage that great thing comes in small packages was made for her. She always had a smile on her face and something about her that would draw you to her. She was the type of person that would always be quick to help or ask if there was anything she could do for you. My only regret in life is that I couldn’t be around her more so my kids could have some of the green thumb rub off. My Anne and I are animal people so they all have the animal knack as part of their DNA.

My dad grew up between two families where he at times was left out. I know that my dad as he got older most likely has had Dementia for the last 15 years or so, which translates into him not being the easiest person to be around when he disagreed with you. I mention this to highlight the heart and commitment of Elaine, my dad’s sister, who adored and looked up to her older brother, even though he left home when she was still very young. My dad turned into a Bible thumping right wing type and my aunt was the opposite, which made it at times difficult for real communication. I also have to admit that I react to the ‘Ditto Heads’ out there in radio land. Alice seemed to be the one that could draw us together regardless of our religious or political bias.

As I arrange my Southwest Flight for next week I don’t know who will be at Al’s funeral? There are at least four or five that are still alive. I know that my Heather would love to come. I forgot to mention that one of Elaine’s loves has been to trace the family history of the Provience Family for generations past. My Heather has also developed an interest in doing genealogical work for our families.

I will always remember Al’s smile, her big glasses and her frail frame but sturdy side that made her a great cook, gardener and lover of God’s amazing creation in her backyard! I will miss my special Aunt and Friend, Alice Provience.