About My Dad · family · Life

The Bad Ones, Too

My sister, my father, and me
Taken on Father’s Day 2012 at Jerry’s Place

The other morning, when I was praying for my sister during my quiet time, I thought about the text she had recently sent.

“Heat index of 113. No wonder I’m dripping.”

She lives in Florida. Heat index must be like the wind chill — one of those weather statistics you look at and groan. I have no idea of what the heat index has ever been in Cooperstown.

Anyway, I was praying for my sister, and the heat in Florida, and thought, The good thing is that she doesn’t have to go outside and she has air conditioning. 

I stopped myself. She DOES have to go outside. She recently got a dog, and a young active dog at that.

Oh, the things we do when we are responsible for another living being! Dog owners must take their dogs out in all kinds of weather. Cat owners scoop kitty litter. New parents get up in the middle of the night. Parents of older kids make that awful trip to the Emergency Room for one reason or another.

I remember the first time the parent-child paradigm shifted with my father. I was staying with my parents off and on over the summer probably 10 or 11 years ago because some of my kids had jobs in Cooperstown. In the middle of one night, I heard my father heading down the hall to use the bathroom. I was only half-awake until I heard the thud of his body hitting the floor. I ran to find him collapsed in the hallway and unresponsive.

One of my kids called 9-1-1 for me and watched for the ambulance to arrive, while I tended to my father. As he came around, I told him to lie still and that we had called the ambulance. He was distressed, though, not because he had passed out but because he had wet himself.

“I need you to get me some dry clothes,” he said.

I ran down the hall to his room where my mother slept through this whole thing, grabbed some clean clothes, and ran back to him lying on the hall floor. While children slept in nearby rooms and another child waited at the front door for the EMTs, I helped him slide off the wet articles of clothing. I cleaned him with a washcloth, and then helped slide the clean clothes on. The whole time, he kept saying, “I’m so sorry. This is terrible. You shouldn’t have to do this. I’m so sorry.”

His dignity was important to him so I made sure he arrived at the Emergency Room clean. I never said a word about it to him, or anyone else for that matter.

Andrew Peterson, in his book Adorning the Dark, tells the story of a woman asking him to write a bit of song-writing advice for her when he was signing a CD. “Don’t write bad songs,” he wrote. She then took the CD to one of the other musicians who performed on it and asked him to write his advice. He saw what Andrew had written and wrote, “Write the bad ones, too.”

I was thinking about that the other day when I shared one of my hair-brained ideas with some friends. They gently pointed out the flaw in the idea, and I felt bad, but only for a moment. Because my heart was saying, “Don’t share dumb ideas” but God was whispering, “Share the dumb ones, too.”

It’s so easy to be crippled by the bad, whatever shape that may take — a bad song, a bad idea, a bad moment in time.

With that bad moment, it’s important to remember them. Not to dwell on them, but to remember.

Remember the time you walked the dog in 103 degree weather.

Remember the trip to the ER.

Remember sharing bad advice or a dumb idea.

Some day, you’ll be able to use that precise moment to encourage someone else.

Some day, you’ll remember how much you loved that somebody and doing that thing wasn’t a chore but an expression of love.

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