Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

If I Could

The oldest granddaughter is sick.  She is congested and has a slight temperature.  At a little over two-years old these sorts of things hit a little harder than for those who are older . . . so, there is a little concern.  The concern is that the granddaughter is not her usual exuberant self, chatting away at a hundred miles an hour and making everyone smile.  She is sick, but doing well; yet, there is concern.  Her momma doesn’t like seeing her child sick and it concerns her . . . she just doesn’t like seeing the little imp sick and feeling yucky.  She has said, “If I could, I would be sick for her.”

I think that is the unspoken sentiment at the Keener homestead this week . . . if I could.  It has been a long week filled with lots of long conversations, some laughter, lots of tears, and a whole bunch of “presence” for one another.  Our daughter has been battling post-partum depression for the past couple of months that creates a lot of anxiety for her.  To top it off her husband, our son-in-law, is on duty flying a helicopter back from the New York area for the Montana National Guard . . . so, the daughter is going through all of this and doing single parenting all on her own.  She and the two granddaughters have been spending a few nights at the homestead as her medicine adjusts.  It has been a long, long week for everyone involved.  Through it all, though the wife and I have never said it, we have thought, “If I could . . .”

It has been a joy having the daughter and two granddaughters staying with us.  Each night when I get home from working at the university in the big city, the oldest granddaughter—the sick one—has been waiting at the door for her grandpa to go for a walk around the neighborhood.  For four evenings she and I have cruised around the neighborhood . . . played in the autumn leaves . . . walked on yard ledges . . . picked crab apples . . . chased after bunnies . . . and, she has held my hand as we walked.  Actually, she has my finger because she is still a pretty petite little lady . . . talking the whole time.

Our daily walks tripped a memory switch.

When my granddaughter’s mother was the same age she, too, waited for me to come home from work so that we could go for a walk around the neighborhood.  Actually, it was to give her mother a break.  Together the two of us would walk around the block.  We would check out the neighbor’s ducks.  We would jump over the cracks in the sidewalk.  We would pick flowers out of neighbors’ gardens . . . and, she would hold tightly to one of my fingers and yak all the way around the block.  Now, over two decades later, I was being blessed once again with the second generation’s presence.  Déjà vu. 

Yesterday and today, I cannot express the depth of the love I have felt in these leisurely strolls around the neighborhood.  The depth of that love cannot be expressed in words as it is a feeling deeply embedded within my heart.  I think that it is best expressed in hugs, laughter, and tears.  It is a love that makes me think that “if I could . . .”

If I could . . . I would remove the anxiety of post-partum depression that grips my daughter’s heart.  I would take it upon myself to remove the pain and loneliness of it in her life.  I would take away the dark clouds . . . the uncertainty . . . and, the anger.  Anger that this presence has cursed her life and made her sad.  If I could . . . I would take it upon myself.

If I could . . . I would receive the virus or whatever it is that is making my granddaughter sick.  I would take away the temperature . . . the runny nose . . . the aches and pains.  I would remove the tiredness.  I would receive the illness in order for her to be back to her old self once again.  If I could . . . would take it upon myself.

I think that that is the prayer of any parent or grandparent . . . if I could.  The problem is . . . we can’t.  We cannot take the place of our children or grandchildren in their time of pain and suffering . . . in their time of hurt and illness . . . in their time of need.  No, we cannot.  All we can do is to offer an encouraging word . . . the whispered prayer . . . and, our presence.  That is what we have done this past week as parents, grandparents, and family . . . to our daughter and granddaughters.  We have held them tightly.  We have offered encouraging words.  We have shed a few tears.  We have laughed.  And, we have taken walks . . . magical walks that only a grandpa and a two-year old granddaughter would ever understand.

This evening the daughter felt the strength and desire to head back over to her place and give it shot at being “home” with just her and the girls.  I admire that determination and strength . . . she is a fighter.  Yet, I miss my little imp standing at the door waiting . . . waiting to go explore the neighborhood with her grandpa . . . it is such a magical world filled with lots of chatter and laughter that only grandpas and granddaughters understand . . . after all, grandpas and two-year old grandchildren are pretty close in age.

I love the moment as it draws my granddaughter and I closer together . . . as it builds a foundation of trust, but more importantly love . . . as it flips the memory switch and reminds me of times when I walked with her mother, my daughter, in a similar adventure . . . as it open the world up for me to see with new eyes—two-year old eyes—to see how magical this adventure we call life really is . . . to see what a blessing it really is.  And, it has reminded me of what “love” really is . . . love goes beyond words.  As hard as the human race has tried to describe “love” it has never fully succeeded in putting it in terms that truly reflect what it is.

What it is . . . it is a person whispering, then proclaiming . . . if I could.  If I could . . . I would do anything for the sake of my child, my grandchild . . . if I could.  Yeah, I love my family in sickness and health.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Even Death has a Heart

For the past couple of years we have had a doe and her two twins hanging around the ol’ homestead feeding off of the flowers in the garden and the bird feeders in the yard.  About a year ago the doe had another set of twins . . . now there were four children running around with Mom . . . same pattern of wiping out the flowers and eating up the seed in the bird feeders . . . and, occasional chopped apples secretly thrown into the yard by the wife.  Consistently they were entertainment for the wife and I . . . the wife more so than I as she had developed an emotional attachment to the little Cervidae family of critters . . . thus the illicit chopped apples  because “they need to eat, too.”

This evening, about 5:30PM, the mamma deer was hit by a car just down the street from the homestead as she was attempting to cross the highway.  Apparently the driver caught her in the rear, severing her spine from her legs, and leaving her on the side of the road as her four spawn watched from the other side of the road.  The wife did not see the encounter . . . she just happened to come across it on her way home from the town grocery store.  And, yes, it upset her . . . upset her quite a bit.

To make a long story short, the local yokel police came and shot it to put it out of its misery.  The four babies stood off to the side watching . . . watching and waiting . . . come on, Mom, get up!  The officer left it on the side of the road and went off to call the wildlife authorities to come and pick up the body . . . and, the babies waited.

Any critter hit by a car breaks the wife’s heart.  This was a special critter.  This was one she had grown attached to over the years and to see it laying there suffering . . . and, then later dead . . . shattered the heart.  I must admit though, she has hung in there and not started to cry despite the waver in her voice as she spoke about the whole thing.  The death of the does was hard, but watching the baby deer waiting was even more difficult.

Several weeks ago I hit a deer with my car . . . over $6,000 worth of damage of the car . . . needless to say that I am not a fan of deer running across the highway in the dusk of the evening as they have a tendency to run into motor vehicles like mine.  I have a few choice words for them, but in all honesty, I really lament whenever I have hit a deer.  Like some wimpy liberal I think about what is left behind . . . did I leave a bunch of orphans . . . cut a life short?  Of course, my logical side tells me it is just a deer . . . dime a dozen here in Montana (which is probably why we rank in the top ten in hitting deer every year).  Yet, I cannot help but to think . . .

. . . think about those four orphans left behind after the doe was hit by a car. 

I think that is what got to anyone who watched Walt Disney’s classic 1942 movie, Bambi, when his mother gets shot by a hunter while she is teaching Bambi how to find food in the winter.  There was nothing sadder than seeing Bambi lying next to his dead mother in the snow . . . our hearts were broken for the little fawn.  How was he to ever survive?  Isn’t that what ran through all of our minds . . . how was Bambi ever to survive the death of his mother?  As much as I liked that movie, I am not sure I am ready for my granddaughters to ever watch it . . . it has a lot of sadness in it.  They do not need such sadness in their lives at their age.  But, the bleeding heart liberal I have been accused of being thinks about that sort of stuff even if the darn deer ran into my car!

There is a sort of there is a sort of melancholy to this whole thing.  I feel bad for my wife because she really cared about that little family of deer that kept popping up into our lives.  I feel bad about the fact that the deer got killed . . . she really was a beautiful creature and a great mother to those four fawns.  I feel bad that there are now four orphans left behind to fend for themselves.  I wonder, will they survive?  To say the least, it is a sort of gloom that seeps into the mind . . . and, those gloomy thoughts go beyond just deer, it goes into one’s own life.

Who among us hasn’t thought of “what if?”  You know what I am talking about . . . what if I have an accident, die, and leave behind a family . . . what if I my spouse was to suddenly die or disappear or want a divorce . . . what if something happened to one of my children or grandchildren . . . what if . . . what if . . . what if!  We have all done it in our minds and hearts leaving behind nothing but melancholy thoughts and feelings.  It is amazing that a little doe being hit by a car can flip the switch and make us think, “What if?”

Unlike my wife, I did not go and look at the carnage of the deer/car collision.  Unlike the wife, I did not go and witness the somberness of the orphans left behind . . . waiting . . . and, waiting . . . come on, Mom, get up!  Unlike my wife, I did not go down to witness the doe lying dead beside the road . . . shot through the head.  No, I chose not to go because in my mind’s eye . . . within my heart . . . I already knew.  I already knew what would be running thorough my heart and mind.  The sadness had sunk in without even witnessing the scene of death.  The “what ifs” were zooming through my mind . . . it was a scene I had already played through my mind a hundred times . . .what if?

There are no promises in life.  Poop happens as our friends at Alcoholics Anonymous say.  Death does not make appointments.  We are often caught off guard despite our best preparations . . . and, we think . . . what if?  I have a deeply seeded need to protect those whom I love . . . a deeply seeded need to know that they are taken care of . . . a deeply seeded need to know that they are not hurting or suffering . . . a deep need to know that I am taking care of my loved ones.  The thing that frustrates me over and over again is the fact that there are no guarantees that I can protect even one hair on their heads . . . or that I can provide for them in their times of need.  That reality . . . that fact . . . breaks my heart.  It breaks my heart over and over again because I can see four orphan fawns, standing off to the side, waiting . . . waiting for Mom to get up and everything to be okay.  It just does not happen that way.

No, a cop comes by and puts a bullet through the brain and the orphans are left to fend for themselves.  Such is life.

In my mind the situation for the orphan fawns goes in both directions.  On the one hand I would hope that there is a Prince of the Forest (Bambi’s father) who steps up to take care of and provide for the four; but, I know better.  Theirs will be a hard life as they strive to survive on their own.  Which is the complete opposite end of the spectrum.

It is so easy to slip from deer to one’s own life and family.  Like many others, I pray that I have done what I can to do if such tragedy ever happens in my life . . . that my family will be taken care of in their time of need.  Yet, there are no promises written anywhere . . . there is only hope.

I know that in the days to come that the wife will wander out into the street and look . . . she will look for those four orphans.  I know that in the days and weeks to come—as winter breaks through the fragile shell of autumn—that the wife will sneak out extra bird feed and illicit apples . . . after all, they all need to eat.  I know that those four orphans will not be forgotten . . . that they are not just critters.  I know that both the wife and I will keep ourselves abreast of the continuing story of the four orphans.  I know because both of us, in our own ways, has been touched by the death of this doe.


Because . . . “Death ends a life, not a relationship.”  (Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie)  Life hurts because of relationships.  We care when it comes to relationships whether it is a little doe getting hit by a car or those who are closest to us . . . we care.  Caring hurts.  Even death has a heart (Markus Zusak, The Book Thief).

Saturday, October 11, 2014

What I Hate

Hate is such a powerful word.

Hate is a word that the wife and I attempted to never use around our children as they were growing up . . . it was a word that we did not want them having in their vocabulary.  It was a word that was forbidden in our household and, if it was used by one of our children . . . we clarified what they meant when they were using that word.  We did this because more often than not they did not "hate” whatever or whoever they were ranting about . . . it was usually something else.  Most of the time is was because they had been hurt, not filled with hatred.

It is a word that should not be used lightly, thus I try really hard not to use it at all.  In all honesty I cannot think of anyone or anything that I “hate” . . . that includes politicians during an election year.  I can think of lots of things and people I do not “like”, but no one or nothing that I detest to the point of hating.  It is just too harsh of a word.  Makes me cringe whenever it slips over my lips and out into the world.  No sooner does it slip out that I regret ever uttering the word.

So . . . I have to also admit that there is something that I do “hate”.  I hate Epilepsy.  I hate the Epilepsy that my number three child has been inflicted with since he was around the age of seven.  I hate the Epilepsy that has wracked his body for years with seizures that can strike at any time and in any place.  I hate Epilepsy that has caused him to endure years and years of chemical restraints in the hope that the seizures can be controlled . . . chemical restraints that have beat his internal organs to a pulp over the years . . . and, yet, nothing works.  I hate Epilepsy for all the surgeries he has had to endure leaving scars on his head and body . . . surgeries that failed to make a difference other than to scar his body.  I hate Epilepsy for making him to unexpectedly fall down causing bruises on his body . . . causing him to have stitches to close wounds on his body . . . causing him to be hurt.  I hate Epilepsy because it has made his world so small . . . so lonely . . . I hate Epilepsy because there is nothing I can do or his mother can do, that anyone can do, to end this unpredictable madness and pain. It hurts to be a witness to such a disability on a daily basis.  It breaks my heart and makes me angry.  Angry because I feel so helpless in protecting my son.

I HATE Epilepsy.

For the most part . . . most of the time . . . I can pretty much contain my contempt and hatred for Epilepsy.  After a while you kind of get used to it and learn to roll with the punches.  But the truth is it is always there.  Today was just the straw that broke the camel’s back . . . and, the peculiar thing was I had a hunch something bad was going to happen.  I just felt it in my bones, but I played the odds.  Instead of staying home and waiting for something to happen I went about doing a few errands around town . . . probably was gone for less than twenty minutes; but, that was enough time for my son’s Epilepsy to rear its ugliness in his life.  He had a seizure while getting out of the shower, fell down, and hit his head on the toilet creating a huge welt and bruise by his left eye.  This was the eye that I hauled him to the emergency room a couple of week ago for stitches when he had a seizure and fell.  Luckily—this time at least—there were no cuts and blood to be cleaned up.  Outside of the bruise and swelling mostly his pride was hurt . . . and, as usual he was embarrassed and apologetic . . . always apologetic for something that he has no control over.

Finding him sitting in a chair with an ice pack on his eye when I got home . . . well, something snapped.  Something snapped deep down inside of me and overwhelmed me with a great anger . . . anger at the damn seizures that keep pounding his body . . . that keep pounding his soul.  Anger at the Epilepsy.  It was hate seeping—no, spewing out.  It was hate . . . not a strong dislike like when I have to eat some exotic vegetable the wife tells me I should try . . . but, hate.  If I could grab the Epilepsy that inflicts my son . . . grab it with my own two hands . . . I would beat it to death.  But, alas, I cannot . . . which makes me hate it that much more.

I guess this is my attempt to clarify that word “hate” since I have used it.  Like the wife and I tried to do with our kids.  Clarify what I am feeling.  I am feeling frustration and helplessness . . . there is not much that anyone can do but to be there for our son.  I am feeling anxiousness as the experiences of this day is usually a “marker” for the fact that our son is entering into a period of seizure activity that will keep everyone on their toes for the next couple of days.  I am feeling sadness in the fact that as a parent my gut instincts are to protect my child and there is not a thing that I can do to protect his short of wrapping him up in bubble wrap and tying him to his bed.  Sadness in having to witness the way that this disability has shrunk his world and made it such a lonely place.  Sadness for the way that people treat our son as if he has some sort of dreaded virus that will rub off on other people . . . thus, he is “hands off”, ignored, and treated as someone who is less than everyone else.  The last I knew, Epilepsy was not something that could rub off on other people like a common cold; but, you would not know that by the way people act around our son. 

As clarification of what I feel, I think that this probably only begins to scratch the surface of what is running through my mind and heart.  When all of this is stirred up—like it has been today—it is more than my mind or heart can handle.  The lid explodes off and the hatred comes spewing out . . . I hate Epilepsy.

My mother always told me “that this too shall pass.”  And, it will.  It will because I will scrape up all the remnants and shove them back down where they came from.  I will lock them up and sit on the lid.  I will ban the word “hate” when I talk about it . . . until the next time it becomes unbearable.

Thus ends the rant . . . the clarification.  Epilepsy is a nasty disability of which doctors and researchers estimate that the cause cannot be identified in at least 75 percent of the cases.  Some estimate that it is even higher.  Epilepsy is nasty as there is not any known cure or one way of treating it . . . it manifests itself in many different ways in people . . . it as unique as the people who live with it.  Some people get lucky, others not so much.  Some live normal (whatever that means) lives, while others become incapacitated with lots of folks in between the two.  Epilepsy is not one of the premiere disabilities or diseases that has the money pouring in for research, but it affects a heck of a lot more people than most of us realize.  Epilepsy is just a nasty condition and disability that screws up the lives of those who have it and those who love them.  There is nothing about Epilepsy that makes it even “likable” . . . it has earned its place in the Hall of Hatred.

And, there is nothing anyone can do . . . except what I try to do.  I pray for my son and all those who suffer from Epilepsy that they have a safe day.  I pray that if something happens there will be someone there to help if it is not me.  I work hard to be present for my son as he goes about his daily life, but I know that I cannot be there 24/7.  I pray that I can find the strength to continue to be a witness in what seems like a hellish way to live life . . . never knowing when a seizure might hit . . . never knowing it there will be an injury . . . just never knowing.  I pray that my son, and all those who suffer with Epilepsy, continue to have the hope that one day there will be a cure, that life won’t be so difficult, and that things will be so-called normal . . . and, if not, that they all make the best of it with the love and support of those who care for them.

For now, that is the best that any of us can do.  I love my son . . . but, I hate the Epilepsy that terrorizes his life . . . at least for today.  Hate is a pretty strong and powerful word, so is Epilepsy.  They deserve each other.  

Gimme a Break!

“I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.”
(Mother Teresa)

Okay . . . what did I do? 

What did I do for God to trust me so much?

I think that Mother Teresa, in all of her honesty, asks the question many of us—the faithful—ask.  We wonder why . . . why in the world . . . if God does not ever give us more than we can handle . . . trust us so much with the load that God dumps on us.  You’ve got to admit that the little nun asks the question a whole bunch of us do not have the guts to answer . . . why does God trust us so much that we feel as if we have had the whole world dumped into our laps?

Now I am not Mother Teresa by any stretch of the imagination . . . not even close.  For one thing, I am not a Catholic . . . but, I am one who professes to be a follower of Jesus . . . which makes me a “Christian”.  I have not dedicated my life to helping those who are less fortunate than me as Mother Teresa did.  Shoot, I have not even made a vow of helping those who are in the middle class . . . so, why does God seem to think that it is okay to trust me so much when it comes to life?

Yeah, I have a few laments . . . or complaints.  The past month and half have been a little bit more than I can handle.  It starts out with the oldest son having his car stolen.  It is followed by me hitting a suicidal deer . . . ran right into my car.  Followed by the wife getting all religious and heading off for a ten day retreat far, far from the homestead.  The daughter having a sort of melt down.  The University of Nebraska Cornhuskers getting whipped in a football game.  The son having his stolen car found and returned after he was all set to buy a newer and more improved car . . . disappointment.  Getting a warning ticket for speeding.  The wife’s truck costing a hefty sum for some old age problems.  And, the fact that I feel overworked and tired.  Not to add to the lament, but two Dachshund that ignore me and think that I am nothing more than a mere servant to their dietary and bathroom needs.  Yeah, I have a few complaints, or laments, that make me wonder why in the world the good Lord seems to think that I can handle whatever life throws at me.

I mean . . . I don’t want to complain; but, why does it seem as if God is piling it on?

I like, no, love God.  I appreciate having Jesus as an example as to how one should be faithful and how to live life.  I appreciate the beauty of where God has allowed me to live.  I appreciate all that God has done for me.  I picture myself as a fairly faithful person who takes the time to study the scriptures, offer a few prayers throughout the day, and even take a moment or two each day to be more “Christ-like” in what I am doing.  I picture myself as a fairly faithful sort of an individual.  I picture myself as one who should receive a heck of a lot of more blessings in life . . . but, what I get is more heartache and problems.  It is like God is dumping on me!

I think that God over-estimates me when it comes to what I can handle.  Of course I know that God designed and created us each as unique individuals; but, I wonder if God has any idea of what it means to be any of us.  I wonder if God gets that life is pretty difficult without the added extras of life.  What does God think I am . . . some sort of a saint?

Well, if that is what God believes . . . I have God fooled!  I am far, far from being a saint.

Where do I begin?  When I drive I am far from being a saint.  I use sign language to express my displeasure of other drivers as a symbolic expression of a verbal barrage that the other driver cannot hear.  It used to be a one finger salute, now it has become a thumbs up since sarcasm is such a powerful expression of discontent.  There ain’t much saintly about my driving.
Maybe it is the way that I handle people who come across my life as being imbeciles . . . especially at meetings.  I really try to show respect, but I cannot help but to roll my eyes whenever I find an individual wasting my time.  Since I find most meetings to be a waste of time, my eyes get a major workout on a regular basis.  I bite my tongue.  Nothing works.  I am wired to roll my eyes whenever someone comes across as being a total waste of time . . . .the last I saw my eye balls they were somewhere in Utah.

It has been said that we save the best and worse for those we love.  It is with those I love that I find myself being pushed to the limits.  Rolling eyes . . . biting the tongue . . . nothing seems to work.  I get frustrated.  I get grumpy.  I get sarcastic.  Nothing changes.  Yet, these are the people I love.

Stolen cars.

Cars hitting deer and causing thousands of dollars of damage.

Warnings for speeding.

Wife abandoning me to be religious and loving towards her mother.


Mice in the garage.

The Cornhuskers losing a game.

Yeah, God does not give us more than we can handle!  I’d switch places with God at the drop of a hat!  So far, God has not accepted my challenge.  As much as I love God . . . I could use a break.

I know a guy down the road who could use a little heartache and adventure dropped his way to give me a little relief.  He doesn’t have a whole bunch going on in his life . . . God could do a Job number on this neighbor.  It never happens.  Instead God seems to just keep on piling it on.  As I said, I could use a break.

Yet, I know . . . I know that God will keep adding to the list of heartache and problems that inflict my life.  I know that God will keep on piling it on . . . keep on adding on to the little miseries that God seems to think will make a difference in discovering who it is that God created me to be . . . sadly, God and I do not see eye-to-eye on this one.  Yet, it is God’s will in my life that I am pursuing.  I just wish God gave a clearer set of guideline.  It would sure be sad if I ended up in some jail just because I thought that God was piling it on.

I am asking God for a break.  A break in which I can entertain my daughter, son-in-law, and two granddaughers in the simple things about life that most of us miss because we are too busy living life.  I ask God not to trust me so much . . . try to remind God about all of the snafus I have . . . and, to squander all the blessings God has sent me in these times of trouble.  But, I am getting older, wiser (the jury is still out on this opinion) . . . the eyes roll easier . . . the sign language seems to be working . . . but, I still wish God did not trust me so much.

So, what is one to do when God trust him or her too much?

I am not sure.

On the one hand, I appreciate God’s faithfulness to me; but, on the other hand, God needs to give me a break.  I would take no stolen cars . . . no cars hit by deer . . . a wife who stays home . . . vehicles that do not break down . . . and, just a simple, plain life.  I just wish God did not trust me so much.

But . . . God does.  God trusts me.  Within these adventures God calls me to return home . . . to be in relationship with God and one another.  God sticks to me despite what life throws at me.  If God is willing to stick by me . . . well, I guess the worse I could do is to stick by God.  Things are going to change; but the one constant is God’s trust in me. It does not matter what I do . . . God is going to still love me.  It is here that I grow.  As much as Mother Teresa understood what it means to be faithful . . . so do I.

Gimme a break, Lord.  A couple of easy days just might do the trick!  In the mean time . . . Give me a break!