Stepping Aside For Lent

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This is funny, to me, although I’m not about to read more into it than I can see.

I had this idea. I have lots of ideas. They show up, make their pitch, and get shown the door, usually. There are so few good ones.

But I’m a fan of consistency, of doing the same thing for a period of time and seeing what, if anything, is the result. So I looked at Lent, all convenient and on the calendar. I understood early on what this season meant to me and what I thought about it. My guess is that 90% of the people at my church pay little attention to Lent. It’s supposed to be a period of reflection, but that’s kind of hard to encourage. Go home and THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU’VE DONE. Yeah. That doesn’t really preach.

This year, I actually made a move. I’d keep a low profile on social media, and I’d pay attention to what if anything changed. I’d write about it, document it as much as possible. As Lenten exercises go, this was pretty minimal.

And as I said from the beginning, I was mostly curious about what was distracting me from being better. From doing better, from making the rest of my time here on this planet more useful. To get out of my own way. To stop judging so much. To stay out of other people’s business.

Obviously I didn’t see this current situation happening, but who am I to question the mysteries of Lent?

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Here’s the thing—I’m not that good of a person. I’m OK. I’m a decent person. I will help when I can. I might not ride in the ambulance with you, and call your family, but I’ll apply pressure to your head wound until the paramedics arrive. I won’t just keep walking.

That’s about it, though. I’m not being hard on myself. It’s just that I know plenty of people who serve those less fortunate. That’s their calling, what they live for. It’s hard not to feel that the rest of us aren’t pulling our weight, but we do what we can, I suspect.

My friend got sick, so I gave him a ride to the hospital. I didn’t envision months of this, of driving every day down to Seattle, of bringing him strawberry shakes and reading his medical charts and trying to explain what was happening. I’m the one who explained to him that he had cancer, for example. He would want to know, and doctors can be a little cautious.

And yesterday, I panicked a little. I look at his recovery, stretching ahead for the foreseeable future, and it’s scary. His prognosis is actually pretty good, it seems, but I’ve been at this for nearly two months. I’ve seen all sides of this.

When I got the impression the night before last that he was requesting that I do more, that I take more charge of the details, which I expected he could manage by himself now, I freaked out. I can’t be his permanent caretaker; I have other people to take care of. My wife needs food and support. My son needs a tremendous amount of encouragement and help, even at 29. I may be underemployed, but I have things to do. I was getting the impression that he thought my primary responsibility was him.

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So, here’s the thing—on Tuesday, I came home from dinner, collapsed into my recliner, and slept for three solid hours, after which I went to bed. Last night, after a morning and afternoon at the hospital with him, I did the same thing, just passed out until nearly 6pm, when I realized I had to bake some bread for Julie’s service at school this morning. This may not be a huge responsibility but you see? I’m not just sitting here reading HuffPost.

I’m tired. Duh, but yeah. I’m tired, and even if I haven’t been moving heavy furniture I’m still tired. Impromptu naps can mean all sorts of things, but in this case I imagine it’s just proactive biology. I’m not a natural napper. This was a reaction.

And after griping and fussing to a group of people yesterday about my concerns and fears, I found out that he’d already made some calls to his physicians that morning. We had a very pleasant drive to the hospital, good conversation. He walked all the way from the garage to the office on the 7th floor, just a cane for balance. Endurance is pretty good. The news was also pretty good. The plasmapheresis seems to be working, and we’re hoping it continues until the chemo does its magic.

On the drive home, he asked me to stop at the grocery store so he could buy food he can tolerate (the chemo affects his sense of taste). He did his own shopping while I just followed, watching, as he slowly moved through the store on his own two feet.

In other words, he was reacting in exactly the opposite way to what I feared. The procedure had kicked in, and so had his independence, 66 years of essentially being on his own, and I felt dumb and relieved, and that’s when I realized.

This may be mostly about me.

I have to get out of my own way, as I said. I need to stop worrying about what he’s thinking, and concentrate more on how I can help without causing undue burden to my family (and my emotional state, and my sleep).

It hasn’t gotten in the way of anyone else. I’ve spent around $2000 out of pocket so far, and my friends saw this and wrote me a check, no questions asked. I certainly didn’t ask. People have loaned me cars, for weeks at a time. I get cards almost every day, bucking me up.

These people don’t know this guy. Why should they care?

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I think I found my Lent after all. I’m not going to be a professional do-gooder; I don’t have the skill set, and I tend to be shy. I do my best. What I’ve learned is that I can do better, and I should, because somebody should.

My friend needed help. People need help. I see them almost every day. The next time I get off I-5 at the James off-ramp, ready to turn up the hill toward the hospital, I’ll see them. I always look in the other direction. I never wonder who helps them. I know.

 

Chuck SigarsComment