Monday, April 28, 2008

Being Right Or Being Happy

There is a certain kind of man who likes to get up on a Saturday morning and head for the Home Depot. As he crosses the threshold of the store a certain excitement builds within him. It is the store where dreams are made and a man can feel like a real man. I am not one of these men. When I go into a Home Depot I am as out of place as a bull in a china shop. Knowing this, my wife and son sent me there anyway for painting supplies and an extra gallon of paint. The two of them were painting a bedroom in my house. I am not as stupid about these manly things as I pretend to be but I am no Tim the Tool Man either. I got what was needed and headed to the checkout. There I encountered a store clerk who gave me some marriage advice. He said, "After 39 years of marriage I have learned that a man can be right or a man can be happy. I choose to be happy so I let her be right all the time". If only I could be so compliant.

I mostly hid out and stayed away from the work area on the 2nd floor of my home. All was quiet for me until Chloe and her mother showed up. Chloe and I went outside. Once I did that, there was no coming back in. She loves the outdoors. We found some worms. I always like to ask Chloe nonsensical questions to see what kind of answer she will give me. "Chloe, do worms fly"? "No Pa Paw! Only bees and butterflies and birds fly"! Chloe will be four years old in less than three months. She is as loving and sweet as she ever was but she is also becoming more and more independent with a mind of her own and either no ability or no willingness to negotiate anything. Dinner was chaotic as are all family dinners. Along with Chloe and her parents, we had my son Nick and a fellow seminarian with us. Nick came home again this weekend to register for summer school at a local college. I knew he was home when I walked in the house on Friday afternoon and saw the laundry basket of dirty clothes. By taking some classes this summer he can graduate early and avoid an extra year in Indianapolis. While going to school this summer he will also be living at local parish. I hope this parish agrees to feed him and that there is a washer and dryer there.

Sunday afternoon was spent visiting my mother, having coffee with a friend at a local Starbucks, and checking on my dad at the nursing home. I must be honest. I hate nursing homes. My father in law used to call them "warehouses for old people". Walking into the nursing home the hallways and community room are full of residents who seem to stare at me as I look for my father. Most of them are sitting in wheelchairs slumped over or staring into space. I speak to some of them and smile at others. There is usually no response. I find it sad and a little depressing. These folks were once young and healthy and vital. Some of them were pillars of their communities. They may have been professional people or business owners. Some perhaps were teachers and intellectuals. I think about all of this as I look for my father. I do not see him so I walk towards his room. He is in bed and sleeping. The oxygen machine hums by his bedside. I do not wake him. I simply sit in a chair by his bed and silently pray for him. Perhaps I should have awakened him but I didn't want to disturb him. I wondered how many hours a day this once very physically active man now sleeps. All his days must flow together. I looked at him and wondered what goes on in his mind everyday. I fear I will be in his place someday. I do not pray for his death. I pray for his life that he be physically comfortable and that his mind be at peace until his days in this life are over.

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