Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ink for my Dad

I have given my mom lots of verbage. My dad I haven't as much. Yet he was the parent who was present when we were kids. He is warm, both in anger and in affection, and has provided a clear moral compass my whole life. Yet he has gotten less press on this blog - probably because he wasn't as hard to win as my mom. I only felt her affection and understanding in my adulthood. His unconditional love has been ever-present.

He is the Superman to her Wonder Woman. He is the patriarch to her matriarch. And he is aging the way I want to age.

He's still energetic and learning every day. He...

Okay, gig's up. I struggle to write this. He's so good he's boring to write about. He's so steady, so predictable, so rock solid that I can barely bring myself to blather on about his perfections! The man continues to indulge his curiosity. He wanted to be a deacon at church but found out he needed a Bachelor's degree to do so. Was he deterred on his quest to give more to the church and expanding his mind though? No. He's taking classes on liturgical matters just for kicks.

Last year, at SEVENTY years old, he went on his first ever trail restoration trip. Granted, his 39 year-old daughter toted his tent and most of his clothes, but the man got it done! We hiked 6.5 miles in high elevation and he sucked up all the oxygen his sleep-apneaed self could and slept in a tent for five days. He swung a Pulaski, dug water bars, and hauled rocks with the men 20+ years younger. The man sucks it up.

He has taken on the project of rehabilitating my aunt, his sister-in-law, who suffered from a stroke two years ago. He drives 30 miles each day to her nursing home to get her out of bed and walk her and talk to her. She has improved more than thought possible. He takes Eucharist to the shut-ins and nursing home residents three times a week. He has a group of 85+ year old men, affectionately dubbed his "Geezer Group," who he weekly rounds up for breakfasts and flea markets.

You see, the man's a bleeding saint!

And he's always been that way. So good. So steady. So solid and reliably Christian. A communicator and people person.

Yet I don't take him seriously. Perhaps because of another of his best traits. The man can laugh at himself. He begs laughter and invites teasing. Even when he is taking himself too seriously, I have to laugh at him because there is passion in that too. He stomps and rages and tells his persecutors (read: my mom and me) in no uncertain terms that we are the problem. It is his passionate delivery that becomes a parody of anger and makes me giggle. He is always real, always readable, transparent in love and war.

That's my dad. And here, at last, is his ink. And a smile.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Stealing the Eucharist

Before I could take the Eucharist, I thought it must be like the moon in November. An icy disk that would melt in my mouth, illuminating me from the inside. That was long before I became an atheist. But I am so profane that I will steal the Eucharist for my purposes now. I want to distill that light and make it mine. What illuminates me from the inside? Some days I can give off light and others I hog it all to myself.

I have had a week of turning inward. Not by choice. It is never by choice. It is the switch that goes off and I find my well has run dry; I have nothing to offer. I can only look at my students and they feel alien to me. My friends I avoid. My Near One I shun. I know that if I talk to any of these really close people, I will be flat -- or worse -- cry.

So I retreat. Words have always been my refuge. Language and thinking and writing. The imagery they provide heals me. I am the helium balloon, snipped free and floating above it all. I don't wanna be down in the trenches with the rest of ya all! I want my head out of the humdrum, the helter skelter, the busy nonsense of chasing down success. I get sick of chasing. I wanna just be. Floating. Right on up to the moon where I open my mouth wide and suck in that icy wafer, letting it melt slowly on my tongue, sip-swallowing those cold trickles.

I need to step off in so many ways. I grip and grasp at my life and success relentlessly, driven. I climb too many days a week and exhaust myself every workout. My heart pounds from overtraining, threatening to leap right outta my chest and land there, red and throbbing, accusing, there on the mat. I grasp at the holds, gripping too tightly, squandering energy and pumping out my arms. I wanna be fluid with just the right amount of contact. I want the light touch that gets the job done deliberately and gracefully.

I wanna stop running so hot. I have been all red energy. I push, push, push my mind just like my muscles. I give 100% of me to my students, I listen to my colleagues and reflect their concerns, I go out with my friends and... it takes from me. I am an introvert. The debits of being outward grind down my inner savings. I have become a faker non pareil, putting out the cheer and the support for those I love. Then I crash. And I got nuttin'. No love for me, no love for anyone. Just a wrecked wracked psyche that craves illumination, that craves a Eucharist to restore it, to center it and bring it peace, to give it the right light touch where I can give graciously.

I still push for perfection. Until I can't push anymore.

At those times, it is not a choice to give or not to give, to climb or rest. My body and mind shut down. And then I remember what I have learned so many times before, in so many ways... we become stronger when we sleep. We become stronger climbers, triathletes, and runners when we give our bodies days off and allow for recovery! I become a stronger, more giving friend, teacher, and lover when I take the time to repair my mind, restore my heart. I read my climbing training guide and it tells me the same thing as my triathlon training books of old, as my heart tells me... my sleep is sanctioned, my recovery warranted.

So this is my new symbol, my new metaphor and mantra:

To that delicious moon I go, getting my Eucharist.