Saturday, August 23, 2008

Time

My daughter prays every night that God will protect her from bad dreams. I'm quick to remind her that should she have a bad dream, her dad and I are here for her and maybe God might use a bad dream to teach her how to trust Him. I tell her these things hoping she will outgrow her fear. What I purposely have not told her is that sometimes nightmares can be real. Sometimes nightmares have to be lived out during the day. No matter how much we might wish them away, or try to ignore them, at some point there could be a nightmare that is darker than any dream. I wish this were a foreign concept for me, but it's not. Unfortunately I am living it right now. You see, my dad is sick.

I can't dress it up or make it sound nice. It is a paralyzing fact of life right now. Because my parents live in another state it can be too easy for me to purposely forget the facts. I think that's called denial, which is one of the stages of grief.

To be truthful I have always had somewhat of a fractured relationship with my dad. Yet since my daughter was born seven years ago I had seen the fractures begin to heal. Tension gave way to the common ground of shared laughter over his new role as Grandpa. But not too long ago I heard God whisper that I was being haphazard about getting to know my dad. I brushed God off, telling Him to leave me alone. Stubborn and brazen, I knew full well there were walls built around my heart, but out of self-preservation, I refused to tear them down.

During that time it was easy for me to live as though there would always be "later" to fix deeper issues. I used words like "busy" to excuse lack of motivation to tend the relationship. I built an altar out of making sure I wasn't too uncomfortable. Then crisis hit. BAM! I saw all my missed moments fly right past me. The tailwind nearly snapped my neck. Everything I put off concerning my relationship with my dad - conversations about his childhood, dating my mom, you know, the puzzle pieces to his story - crumbled around me. The walls I built couldn't protect me at all.

Suddenly my time was spent wondering how he'd make it to the next day. Casual conversations with my mom and sister were replaced with daily summaries of symptoms. Forget about questions between my dad and I that are unanswered, move that to the back of the line. Life has taken on a new urgency. Anything that resembles what used to be "normal" has faded. It's quite possible my questions may never be answered.

I handle the circumstances as best I can. God is with me, which is no small thing, considering that I told Him to leave me alone. It is a walking testament to the faithfulness of Christ in spite of me trying to squeeze Him out. His love baffles me at every turn.

Unfortunately, there are times when grief washes over me and it just plain hurts. It's my dad - what daughter would want to see her parent suffer? The bottom line is that I wish I would have listened to God in the first place. Isn't that always the way? Hopefully next time I won't wait for the screaming circumstances to drown out His whisper. I've lost too many minutes already.

Next week I am going with my parents to hear my dad's full diagnosis. The hurdle has been knowing that once I hear what his doctor has to say I can't hide any more. The statement "My dad is sick" will be changed to "My dad has ________." And though he isn't confined to a label or a diagnosis, there's the reality of uncharted waters ahead. My heart swells at the thought. But at least I will be there, with them. No matter what happens, I can pick up from here and move forward for the duration. And that is exactly what I plan to do.

I don't know where you are in your life. You may read my story and move on. Or maybe you're tinkering with wasting your time, ignoring your family, or being resistant to God. Take it from someone who has walked a similar path: Nightmares can happen to anyone. Anything less than fully investing yourself into those around you is a waste of time. Don't wait until someone you love is in trouble - sick or even walking a prodigal's path - before you get to know them. I mean really know them. Let God show you the way. Trust me, regret tastes nasty. Spit it out while you still can.

10 comments:

Nick the Geek said...

Stacy,

I feel for you. I have never had a separation from my family due to family problems, but I was separated from them for years due to physical distance. My dad was in the USAF when I went off to college and he received orders to leave the country when I was going to college. They didn't move back until after I was married and they were in another part of the country.

In fact, we were in the middle of the country, my wife's family was on the west coast and my family was on the east cost. It made it very difficult to visit with family and also difficult to pick which family we would move closer to.

I hated being apart from my family and doubly hated it when we started having kids. They couldn't be there for any of the special moments in our kid's lives, so we decided to move closer to my parents a couple of years ago and put the house up for sale. We have finally moved out here and I love being with them. I worry about a small handful of things. Watching my parents go through a serious illness or worse dementia is in my top 5 scares of life.

I'll be praying for your father.

tarajackson said...

Stacy,

Hi there! I'm a reader from over at SCL. LOVE your blog, and more so since I was born in Louisville. :) (In fact, I'm one of those pesky Southern Gospel artists about to invade L'ville for the National Quartet Convention. Yee haw.) ANYWAY...I just want to let you know that you'll be in my prayers. And try not to live in the past or keep reminding yourself of your regrets regarding the relationship with your dad. He's still here, and God is giving you time. It might not be exactly what you want or the way you want it, but it is something that you can hold on to.

Prayers are with you!!

Tara Jackson :)

eastern ky pastor said...

Stacy,
my heart is so heavy for you. Please know that we are here for you too. We're here praying and ready to leg drop satan, if we can. Tara's advice is good. Don't let satan use your regret to steal away the moments you have now. And remember that the stories you don't get to hear now, can be told in eternity. I think that is going to be one of my favorite parts of Heaven, sharing our stories.

Candace Jean July 16 said...

Been there too. My dad was the one who kept his distance - I was the one who would pry and ask and wonder about his life, but it was something he never wanted to share so much. Tension, for sure. When he got Alzheimers, it was a blessing of sorts. In the early stages he embraced my queries, opened up to me, and we had a few brief months of bonding before he slipped away, and then died about 3 years later. But during those 3 years, I kept talking to him as though he were still "with it" and I know he knew that. His demeanor was entirely different when I was in the room as opposed to anyone else. That was so redeeming, and those are the times I remember. Some of my family says "we lost him 3 years before he died" but not me. I knew him all the better. I was sometimes the only one talking, but his eyes told me he knew what I was saying. It's never too late to mend a "fractured relationship" so I pray you will carry on as you have boldly begun. It will heal you both in ways you can't imagine. I think in healing and growing any relationship, there's someone who has to be leg dropped. Maybe it was Dad, but it doesn't matter. God did his thing with our relationship and I am forever grateful for that. I've been the leg-dropee a few times myself.

As far as "nightmares" - I have had several dreams since my dad died and HE WAS RIGHT THERE IN THE ROOM. It was so real. I literally felt his touch. It was so spiritual. And every time I have one of those, I'll pray I'll have another very soon. It's an "awesomeness" that is impossible to describe in words, and I awake not saddened because he's no longer here, but just so peaceful and happy that he was my Dad and we'll talk again someday.

Praying for you, Stacy.

Robin said...

Stacy,
First let me say that you and your family are in my prayers. Second, as long as he's still breathing, you have time to renew your relationship with your dad. My mom died when I was 13, some 40 years ago. As she was going into heart surgery my brother and sisters gave her a hug and told her they loved her but, being a teenager, it wasn't the cool thing to do for me. I know she knew I loved her because I was the biggest mama's boy alive but the fact is I didn't tell her. She never regained consciousness after surgery and died three days later. I have lived with the guilt of not telling her for 40 years and not a day goes by that I don't think about it. So, while there is time, do what you must to heal old wounds.

Princess Bride said...

Praying for you, Stacy. I'm so sorry. I watched my mom and aunt struggle with my grandfather's illness a few years ago, and they are still struggling almost 3 years after his death. Praying that God will give you the words you need, and give you comfort and peace.

Shaybplus3 said...

Stacy,

I hope and pray that it isn't something serious but in case of the opposite I pray that God can give you peace and ease your troubles. I pray that you find time to fill those gaps and rebuild bridges. I pray that you are granted time and that you can forgive yourself. Most of all I pray that your father is healed.

Sincerely,
Shay

Misslisslee said...

This was the situation I was in four years ago. Don't let any more days get by you - there's really not any warning as to which will be the last one. My dad passed away four years ago in November, and I'm so glad I could help care for him in his illness. His weakness stripped away many of the barriers between us, and I'm so glad for the conversations we did have. May God grant you strength and time.

Avian said...

Stacy,
What a difficult time you must be going through right now. I am praying for you and your family. I pray especially that you will be able to cherish the time you have with your father NOW and be free from the "should have's" from the past.
Cheers,
Avian

Christianne said...

Hi Stacy,

Sorry I'm getting to this post so late after you posted it. I'm so sorry you're facing these things and feeling such regret for the time that has passed in the interim. I can only imagine how it must feel to be walking in your reality right now. And your post hit home for me because there are definitely a few people in my life that I've been keeping at bay and thinking, "Someday, just now right now." What you're facing brings things into real focus.