Category Archives: Questions with no answers

The Curse of Dementia…or is it?

For the past couple of years my family has been watching as my dad slowly slips away from us. He has dementia. This condition has reduced a once strong and independent man to a shadow; a wispy wraith trapped within a failing mind and body. I cannot think of a more insidious jailer than this. It has robbed him, and us, of life and liberty and locked him in a cell that is growing darker and smaller with each passing day.

A Bit about Dementia

For those unfamiliar with this condition, let me share a bit of what I’ve been able to learn. Dementia, according to one source, is not a true ‘disease,’ but rather the symptoms of various kinds of brain disorders. There are several underlying causes for dementia. The one that, I believe, effects dad is a type of Vascular Dementia. I had the opportunity to speak with a neurologist who had done an MRI on dad. He explained that the scans revealed evidence of many small strokes. This, coupled with his coronary disease and other risk factors, had ultimately led to his present condition. However, in our day when medical science can ‘fix’ many things, dementia is not one of them.

Back Story

Without going into a detailed, biographical sketch, I’d like to share a bit about events that have led us to this place. As I stated above, dad was predisposed to this condition. Eventually, it was destined to overtake him. But, I believe, there were life events that occurred which caused the disease to grow and flourish. This process has not been proven clinically. It is simply the fruit of my observations.

My parents were married a long time. 62 years. My mom was dad’s life. He adored her. He was the faithful vassal to his Queen. When she became ill, he doted on her. You could not find a more devoted care giver. Ultimately, though, she became too frail for him. We had to find a place where she could receive the skilled treatment and watchful attendance that she required. While this was a difficult adjustment for dad, he adapted. He spent every available moment with her. He sat at her bedside. When she was able, he would take her for rides in the car. His life and hers developed a kind of symbiosis. Maybe, that’s what the Scripture meant when the writer inscribed the words, “and they shall become one flesh.”

In 2010 mom passed. Her weak body, wracked by many infirmities, simply could not carry the life within her any longer. For dad…he lost his Beloved. Many prayers and hugs and tears were shared in those days. Dad slipped into a deep depression that lasted for months. We took him to counselors. His doctor prescribed anti-depressants. We spent more time with him, trying to console him. No, to distract him. But, the only thing that we witnessed was the dementia driving an ever increasing distance between him and reality.

End Game

Within one year the dementia became problematic. Dad’s memory was failing rapidly. He started to forget to take his meds. He would forget to eat. The fragments of memory that he could retrieve became more disjointed and confused. We were able to get the V.A. to provide some in-home care. My brother and I began to go over daily to see that he ate and took his medication. But, even these efforts could not impede the relentless progress of the dementia. Like a tsunami it pushed further and further, drowning and destroying the person that was our dad.

Ultimately, we had to acquiesce and make arrangements for him to live in a skilled nursing facility. As much as we would like, we simply cannot care for all of his needs. We enlisted a local hospice to oversee his medical needs. We had to face the realization that his sojourn would soon be over.

Blessing in Disguise?

A few days ago I was with dad. In the midst of his semi-coherent ramblings, I noticed he made several references to mom as if she was alive. She was just in another room somewhere. At first I was sad that he was becoming so confused. I was angry that he had been reduced to living in such a broken and fragmented world. One of the hospice nurses had explained to me that people with this condition try to access any pieces of memory, no matter how small or disconnected, in order to make sense of their world. Dad was finding the memories that made his world acceptable. Perhaps, in the small room that is his world, he built a place of solace. His sadness and depression have passed. In this world he has as many experiences available to him as a kaleidoscope has shapes and colors. His broken mind randomly juxtaposes the fragments of his memories to create a world, while unreal to us, is very real to him. In this world he has peace. In this world the pain and loss are whisked away. In this world, his Beloved is just in the next room.

Our Common Human Frailty

This is not the post that I have been planning to write. That one is going to take another couple of days to prepare. But, I’m really having a difficult and emotional moment right now. You see, my dad is getting up in years. He’s 84. That’s ok, I guess. But the real issue is the dementia that has robbed him of his life. I just came from the rehab center that is his current home. He had surgery to remove his gall bladder a couple weeks ago and has not been able to return to his ‘normal life.’ I understand that dementia redefines ‘normal.’ But, I was totally unprepared for what I saw today. I will not go into details, but suffice to say that the light…no, the fire in dad’s eyes has been extinguished. I remember playing tennis with him way back in the day. He never had mercy on me, even though I was some 26 years his junior. He wanted me to learn! Today I looked into his eyes and saw…well…nothing. They are pale blue and lifeless. He even told the nurse present that his wife was gone and I am gone. He knows. The time for exiting this life is ever so near. I am preparing a eulogy. I think that God the Holy Spirit know that Bill’s life is nearing its culmination. I pray that I can do justice to the life of this man. Formed in his mother’s womb, grown up in the sight of Yahweh, and passing in the grace of God through Yeshua Ha Mashiach.

Two plus Two equals Five

I have finished Orwell’s 1984. Having grown up in the 60’s, I can see a lot of what he wrote reflected in the mentality of that era. We were neck deep in a cold war with the USSR. Vietnam was exploding on our televisions and rock-n-roll was my language of choice. We saw in the so-called ‘establishment’ an attempt to control our thought and way of life. Ok, so maybe we were a tad paranoid about that. But, that era prepared me, and countless others, to accept the new orthodoxy of Christianity. I was a Jesus Freak. I grabbed onto the tenets of that movement with both hands. Over the years I became convinced that we were right and everyone else had missed the mark. The biggest proof that we had was communicated in our own language. We had ‘chosen’ to be ‘born again’ through ‘faith’ in the ‘gospel,’ whatever that was. We had our own music and culture. If something wasn’t “Christian” it was suspect. That leads me to this quote from Orwell’s work.
The character O’Brien speaking to Winston:

You are here because you have failed in humility, in self-discipline. You would not make the act of submission which is the price of sanity. You preferred to be a lunatic, a minority of one. Only the disciplined mind can see reality, Winston. You believer that reality is something objective, external, existing in its own right. you also believe that the nature of reality is self-evident. When you delude yourself into thinking that you see something, you assume that everyone else sees the same thing as you. Bit I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and  in any case soon perishes; only in the mind of the Church, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Church holds to be truth is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking thought the eyes of the Church. That is the fact that you have got to relearn, Winston. It needs an act of self-destruction, an effort of the will. You must humble yourself before you can become sane.”

Ok, I took some liberty with that quote. I substituted “Church” for “Party.” In the evangelical, neo-reformed church there is an understood command to not question the party line. We are told what to believe and how to express that belief. When someone, (me for instance), begins to question things, we are told to hold to the ‘orthodox’ faith or face some kind of retribution. Mostly, this involves being ‘shamed.’
I’m sorry if anyone is offended. But, I simply DO NOT adhere to any teaching that is exclusivist or patriarchal. I don’t buy into the fundagelical literal belief that requires anyone to believe exactly as the ‘party’ does. I must live in a world where questions are welcome and faith is allowed to grow in ‘real time’…for real people.

1984 was a very, er, Interesting Year

I’ve got some kind of virus right now. It’s kicking my butt. So, I really am trying to take it easy. But, I was checking some of the posts out there in the blogoshpere and came by one by James F. McGrath. The only reason it jumped out at me is that I am currently reading 1984 by George Orwell. (For the first time. Ok, I’m a little behind, let it go.) Most of the time when I read fiction I find myself transported into the world that the author has created. For C.S. Lewis I find myself in Perelandra, Malacandra or Narnia. Tolkein takes me to Middle Earth. With Orwell, I find myself in Oceania. However, McGrath makes the point that “Orwell has written a book that seems like it ought to change the world.” This I find interesting. More than making a political statement, he was making a critique of society and culture at a very basic level. Classism, racism and any other social construct came under his scrutiny. I appreciate McGrath’s insight on this. I may have to re-read the book with my own worldview placed under the microscope.

I wish that I could be a Worker-Bee

There are times when I wish that I could just be a worker bee. Give me a task and let me do it. No thought. No reflection. Just action. I’d be happy just to do my job and fulfill everyone’s expectations. But, I’m not. I require reasons and some kind of purpose to do things. I expect some sort of fulfillment in the work that I do. I cannot simply do what I am told. I don’t respect authority that cannot prove that it has a right to exist. Titles, (like pastor, elder, senator, president), mean nothing to me. Rank, be it class, race, or gender is a useless designation. For me, respect matters. Servant leadership by peers matters. Goals matter. Money, prestige and power will automatically turn me against the source. No, I’m no worker bee. I’m an adversary.
There are some folks can simply choose to follow the rules and live a “godly” life. They go to work every day and live quietly and, I guess, contentedly. Then, there are those like me. We are agitated. And, we agitate. We do not have peace. We are driven to excess. We are not satisfied. (Please, don’t come to me with any kind of status quo argument. You won’t even get a hearing.) But, for many like me, there is no clear direction. There is no place for our energy to go. Consequently, we are the frustrated ones. We are depressed. We are the ones that folks talk about when they say ‘melancholy.’ And, all too often we let that paralyze us. With no clear direction, we sit…and, not very patiently. What I do know is that as I sit here with no outlet for the passion that God has built into me. A passion that roils and churns like magma looking for a weak spot to vent. If I can’t find such a place, I am in danger of exploding with catastrophic results.
Those like me drive fast and live hard. We read the scripture and see God’s passion and relentless love on the pages. We do not ‘get’ the forensic crap that many of our fellow travelers take for granted. We certainly DO NOT view the scripture as some kind of “users’ manual.” To reduce the Word of God to such a utilitarian ‘to do’ list is quite simply bull-oney. We see Jesus willing to heal. Jesus, the One who accepted women and lepers and pharisees and tax collectors. We can see ourselves in the Good Samaritan. Now, there was a person who disregarded the conventions of the day and did what was right. We get ‘pissed off’ at people who want to quote some kind of dogmatic position that makes someone…anyone…seem less than human. We don’t buy into ANY legalistic position that doesn’t take into consideration the fact that we are dust and, somehow, Yahweh still loves us.
I don’t know why God has made me, as a fellow traveler described, a Poet & a Lunatic. Someone who sees faces in the clouds and who takes a sideways glance at the supposed solid things in the cosmos. Someone who enjoys a good problem to solve and a taste of good Irish triple distilled. But, one thing I am quite sure of…I am not a worker bee.

Thoughts…

Humanity marches ever onward.
Tho there are no more lands to conquer,
No people to displace,
No new territories to plant our banners,
No fauna to drive to extinction,
No minerals to exploit and deplete,
No place left to spread our disease.
Gone, the proud people of the Land,

Gone, the free Range,
Gone, the mighty Bison stampeding o’er the plain,
Gone, the trees and woodland creatures,
Gone, the innocence of this place.
O, virgin continent!
Lost to the ravishing of the rapist who overpowered you
And took Your virginity.
Exploited for a moment’s gratification…
Left lying in your own blood.

1st Nations and White Privilege

Over the years I’ve had numerous occasions to reflect on what the colonial mindset has done to the American continent’s indigenous people. Yeah, I grew up with cowboys and Indians, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, and all of the other evidences of white privilege in this country. But, something never quite sat right in my heart. The First Nations people were human beings. Their world was invaded by outsiders. How were we right? So, like a good little White guy, I started looking at some of the humanitarian and philanthropic ways to “help the poor Red Man.” Little did I know that I would one day run head long into Randy Woodley. Nor, did I anticipate the effects of Dr. William Myer on my worldview. These men, along with Rev. Jennifer Crumpton, Caryn D. Riswold, and the bloggers at Womanist Musings have stretched me to the point of breaking. In fact, I have broken. I’ve broken with the white patristic ideal of America. I’ve broken with the idea that White makes Right. I’ve broken with the idea that God has ordained males for the divine work on Earth. These things make me wish that I was NOT a White Male.
But, I am. I can’t change that. And, for whatever reason, Creator saw fit to make me this way.
However, back to my original thoughts.
Some folks think that humans came to this continent some 10,000 years ago. From these original travelers came the indigenous people that Columbus and the Mayflower, and perhaps the Norse met. I’ve read some blogs and other sources written by Native Americans that indicate that they KNOW that Creator gave them the land. This land. The land that we call ours. In fact, from Columbus to Cortez to the Jamestown community to every White European to set foot on this continent, we have said that God gave US this land. It was God who led the explorers west. It was God who allowed the Conquistadors to triumph. In our arrogance we have interpreted the seeming military successes of our forebears to mean that we were/are right. Everything that we have done in this hemisphere has been god-ordained. This country is God’s country.
Bull.
What if……
The First Nations people are right. Creator gave them this land to live on. To live with. What if those roots were allowed to grow deep and produce much good fruit because Creator Yahweh ordained it so? And, what if God did, in fact, lead the Europeans here? We have been taught that God sent the Europeans to this continent to bring the Gospel. To bring civilization. But, what if Creator brought them here to learn? The indigenes knew the land. They knew Creator. They knew the true reality of life here. What if that’s just what the Europeans needed to learn?