Monday, February 25, 2008

The Miracle Man of Kentucky

The phone rang tonight. As I answered, a boyish voice laughingly said, "Hello? Hello?"

I answered again, this time with the universal sign of welcome in telephone etiquette, "Who is this!"

My eighty-something year-old father-in-law was on the other end of the line, laughing. He gave his name, and said he didn't think I could understand him. When I asked why, he replied that he didn't have his teeth in, and he had a hard time understanding himself!

My sweet father-in-law is a wonderful miracle man. He and my mother-in-law have been wonderfully kind and gracious to our family, especially our children. But my father-in-law is an amazing example of God's provision for care, healing, and recovery.

I first met my father-in-law before he was my father-in-law. Obviously. As I recall, it was a cold February weekend when I drove to Western Kentucky to my girlfriend's home. He was in a recliner, with a 4-pronged cane, recovering from yet another surgery on a leg injured in a motorcycle accident.

While riding to work one morning, he was hit by a car while turning onto a side street. His right leg was crushed, his ankle a broken mess. By the time I met him, he'd had several surgeries on his leg and ankle. For a time, the physicians were sure he would lose that leg, but the Providence of God offered him care that was not planned by mortals in this life.

My FIL (lazyhand for 'father-in-law') was scheduled for yet another evaluation for the removal of his leg at famed Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN. While there, a visiting surgeon learned by happenstance (?) of his case, was consulted, and was secured to perform an unusual and limb-saving surgery, including titanium rods and pins, in my FIL's leg. And then he was gone, on to his next assignment.

My FIL has had multiple surgeries related to his leg. He has survived heart valve replacement and bypass surgery; hip replacement surgery; he has had concrete forced into his spine to bring relief from back pain; he has an aortic aneurysm on his heart that may let go at any beat; and has had brain surgery where he had to learn to talk, eat, and walk again. He has been written about in several medical journals, and is a walking miracle. I have seen my FIL model a quiet strength and determination through all his medial trials.

And now he is joking about not having his teeth in. He has a wonderful spirit, an easy laugh, and is faithful to his church and his family. I have spend a lot of time thinking about my own father in these last weeks of his life, but he is not the only man in my family for whom I have great respect and admiration. I am a blessed man.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

On Living and Dying in Tennessee

To borrow from Mark Twain, "reports of my father's early demise are greatly exaggerated".

Several of our church friends have asked about my father's failing health these past few days. I sense that they incorrectly believe his health is worse than it is, and so I hope to set the record straight.

Dad's health is declining slowly, but steadily. He is now in constant pain, but the pain is generally manageable. Since his normal pain meds are not bringing the relief he desires, he has turned to morphine for his pain management.

The quality of his vision is dependant on the amount of swelling in the back of his head, a location where the evil cancer has taken hold. Most days my stepmom reads his bible lesson and scripture to him. It also affects his ability to sleep; so he now takes advantage of a high dosage sleeping pill. His coughing and severe congestion will eventually necessitate the use of a suction device that helps clear his airways. He will begin breathing treatments soon to help alleviate the congestion caused by the cancer in his lung.

Hospice care has begun their regular visits. Dad complains that they only come at dinnertime; they have eaten several pounds of his last batch of "Bob-e-que", to his consternation. He also believes their care is "premashure", but appreciates the medication they afford.

Dad still drives the 4-wheeler at the farm, mops the tile floor, grills pork shoulders for family and friends, bowls two days a week (111, 117, 186 last week...). He tires easily, watches lots of John Wayne westerns and Tom and Jerry cartoons. But he is still going...

While these are difficult days, I must confess that my dad and I are blessed! We are 500 miles apart; he has (the docs say) only a few weeks- months at best- to live, and yet Dad is living every day to its fullest, with as much energy and humor as he can throw at it. We have become very close these last dozen months, and have said what fathers and sons should say to each other before their time together ends. And I have the privilege of watching my dad face eternity with courage and dignity. I am so proud of him!

Tomorrow morning, dad is sharing what he has been going through with a group of men in his church. He- my DAD!!!- wants to help them prepare for their eternity- to find completion, to find peace. Peace with their families, with their Lord.

Bob the Evangelist!? Who knew?

I am privileged to walk this journey with my dad. He is living before us, with grace and humor, the final days of a follower of Christ, doing it so all around him can see how it is supposed to be done. I'm watching Dad- and someday I hope to be as good a model for my children as you are to me. Well done, Dad!

Take a pill.... get some rest.

Friday, February 22, 2008

My Kids Are Growing Up....

As I type, my son is walking out the door to get in his own truck to go over to his "friend-girl's" house (I still can't say it...). He's 17, and a great kid. Very respectful, a bit lazy, but a wonderful son.

I seem to remember him getting his driver's license, and his first day of school, but what happened to all the time in between? I have noticed that I have gotten older, what with my AARP applications, bifocals, and blood pressure pills, but....

Where did all that time go?

My newborn daughter is now 8 years old, taller than my 5'2" wife.... She loves basketball and Webkins... and her Daddy. Tonight she and her mom are re-arranging her bedroom. Again.

Let's see... I remember bringing her home from the hospital, and now she is sharing clothes with the love of my life?

Where did all that time go?

More importantly, what will I do with the time I have left.....

Thursday, February 21, 2008

FNP-9: Personal Defense Handgun

My concealed carry weapon of choice is the FNP-9 manufactured by the renowned FN Herstal Company of Belgium. FNH has manufactured firearms for the militaries of many countries for decades.

I find my FNP-9 quite comfortable in the hand, and its controls are easy to find and manipulate. This firearm utilizes an interesting fire control assembly that makes field stripping easy and fast; however, if you want to disassemble for detail cleaning, that is a different story.

I love to shoot this gun! I have just under 700 rounds of 9x19 in multiple flavors with -0- malfuntions of any kind. I realize this does not a classic make; but it sure makes me feel good about this gun.

I carry it IWB with an Uncle Mike's #5 IWB holster. I will purchase a VMII or Summer Special when they become available, but the UM works for now. When carrying OWB, I use the Blackhawk SERPA with retention. Locks in tight, and sturdy as steel. Well, almost. It also "locks" into the belt and waistband- it is a booger to take off; but I find comfort in that a BG will not take it from me.

Accuracy is dependent on the shooter; if I do my job well, the gun will do its job well. While others share differing opinions, I find the FNP-9 to be an exceptional firearm value. And fun, to boot!

My Dad Has Cancer

My dad has cancer.

He was diagnosed with lung cancer at 74 hard years of age, following a 45-year career of cigarettes that he gave up in 1987, when he was ordained as deacon in my home church (“a deacon shouldn’t smoke, I suppose” Daddy said.). There was really no surprise in the diagnosis; but the journey following the declaration has been unavoidably tumultuous. As of this writing, Dad still feels pretty good and does mostly whatever he has the stamina to do; however, the docs say he only as a few months before the cancer takes him.

I have grieved and mourned for a year now, and there are times when I think so much about the end of Dad’s life, that I forget about all the years leading up to the end. And that idea has spawned a fresh sense of urgency in me to share my relationship with my Dad. It is probably a fairly typical tale of fathers and sons, thicker than water, and at the same time, oddly funny. And I find myself remembering events, odd and funny things that can only happen to a father and his son. And while I love my sisters and my mom (who died in 1996), it seems to me that the really funny or poignant memories revolve around my dad. Maybe I only remember it that way; maybe his impending death has my subconscious focused on my relationship with him; either way, I cherish my days with him, past and present.

As I write, I find myself at times laughing so that I can’t type; sometimes, wiping tears from the keyboard. And I find myself referring to my dad as both Dad and Daddy- sometimes one or the other seems to be more appropriate. I can’t tell why or which to use consistently, for he is both the more formal “Dad”, the one who reads his Bible and his Sunday School lesson every day and delivers Meals on Wheels and prayers at church, and the familiar “Daddy”, who reads the comics, enjoys action toys from Cracker Barrel, who yells at the University of Memphis Tigers and Atlanta Braves on television, and who reminds me has lived a full life and he is ready to go; that he is proud of his kids, of his grandkids. Of me. Pardon me while I get some Kleenex.

Blogging Without a Thought

I have considered blogging for quite a long time, and have never had the nerve to get started. I want to improve my writing skills as well as share some insights and thoughts with.... well.... maybe, nobody.

Anyway, here we go....