Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Shameless Pandering for Sympathy

Dear Lord, what are you trying to teach me?

The past week has been filled with all 6 of us having some form of the stomach flu--B and I were mild, but the kids were all puking. We called it the "two pukes" flu because pretty much they all puked twice and then were done. Cait had it Monday, Karin and Jay Thursday, Ethan Saturday. We were all doing well today except for Cait who is still blowing out her dipe several times each day. Ten o'clock tonight and Brian and I were just about to collapse on the couch from a loooong Christmas day of exhuberant/demanding/hopped up on sugar/crazy-happy/crabby kids when Karin came running to the top of the stairs yelling, "Caityin baufed!" AGAIN!! Eight days after her first round! After a bath and some new jammies she promptly pooped up her back one more time as I wrestled the retarded but clean cribsheet into submission once more. I almost started to laugh.

Seriously, Lord, what is going on? We spent last night at home, away from my family so as not to risk getting PaPa sick, and now we're having to reschedule the reschedule. I feel like we're racing against an unseen clock, and I am so tired of washing puke and poop laundry and sanitizing everything in creation.

I don't know what's going on, but I do feel like you're trying to teach me something. I know I can't do this on my own, so I need to get with you, soak in your Word and promises, and rest in your grace. Enough for today. New tomorrow morning. OK. I'm going.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

PaPa Update #1

"I grew up on tales of chasing bandito's in Haiti and Nicaragua from my Father, so there was no other choice but the Marines for me. I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 1, 1941...

Boot camp was up before dark and to the Mess Hall for breakfast. Then out to the grinder for a couple of hours of close order drill and then a class on weapons that we would be using. 30 and 50 caliber machine guns, Browning Automatic Rifles, and 45 automatics. We needed to be proficient in taking these weapons apart and putting them back together blind folded. There were also courses in chemical warfare, general orders and the rank of various officers in the US Marines and their counterparts in the Navy.

I am afraid that Hollywood would have been disappointed as there was none of that sadistic crap you see in the Movies. Oh there were some dropped rifles that were slept with at night and some learned the difference between their rifle and their gun, but that was it. Only one incident that I can recall that was out of the ordinary. One night about 11 or 12 pm Corporal D-- fell us out in our underwear, winter overcoats, rifles and bare feet. He then marched us down to the beach and marched us back and forth for about an hour. The next morning the Gunny notices some of us were limping. The sea shells on the beach had cut up some of the feet pretty bad. The Gunny marched us up to the sick bay and had our feet treated. We never saw Corporal D-- again until couple of months later when we were at Camp Mathews Rifle Range. We all noted he was now a Private."

--from Papa's account of his time in the Marines during WWII

Thank-you all for your love and concern for my PaPa. It's been a tough week. A week ago today my mom took him to his doctor appointment with the oncologist. When he learned the news he said that he thought that something was going on with his body, but he was a bit shocked at how little time they said he has left. Since then he's been going through a bit of denial, wondering if the diagnosis is correct. Today he went to meet with his regular doctor who was hopefully going to be able to answer those questions and give him a clearer picture of the situation. I should hear soon how that appointment went.

A few days ago PaPa signed on with hospice care, so he'll be able to stay in his own home even until the end. But he's realized that Gramma cannot stay long with him. She is getting to the really difficult stage of Alzheimer's--incontinence and combativeness, which will just be too much for him very soon (I'm not sure how he's managed this long, actually). So, yesterday he and my mom found a place for her at Presbyterian Homes in Arden Hills. We will be moving her in the day after Christmas. I think this will be really hard.

PaPa is definitely getting more tired, my mom says. And that's how it will go. No pain, just greater and greater fatigue. We just don't know how long it will take.

The first several days were tough. I would get through the day and then cry at night (the kids still don't know what's happening, so I have to be careful). My fuse was nonexistent, so anything with the kids set me off. The past couple of days have seemed more normal as we prepare for Christmas and get past the initial shock, but every time I think about Christmas Eve I want to cry. It will be our last Christmas Eve with PaPa. How am I going to handle that? Even just thinking about it brings the tears again. I'm not ready to say goodbye.

If you would still keep us in your prayers I would so appreciate it. I got a note today from one of my former youth who reminded me that "our God is more than able...no one or no thing is beyond His grasp." For some reason, perhaps because I've prayed for so long, it is hard for me to believe that right now. I am afraid his hope is based not on Jesus Christ alone, but on his own righteousness as a "good Catholic" or a "good man". I'm afraid he won't "get it" in time. Lord, help my unbelief!

Also, my poor mom is overwhelmed with the responsibilities of doctor's appointments, cleaning out the house, finding a nursing home for Gramma, preparing to move her after Christmas and continue to visit and support her while PaPa is dying, helping PaPa grapple with his prognosis and impending death, as well as her own heath concerns. I am also concerned for my kids, especially Jay, if and when we tell them about PaPa. They love him dearly.

I will post more as time goes on, as well as more of PaPa's own stories from the War. I wish you all could know him...thanks for letting me share some of him with you.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Please Pray for My PaPa

It's just been a few hours since I posted last. But tonight as I was making dinner my mom called to tell me that my PaPa has leukemia and may only have several weeks to live. I hung up the phone and started to cry, then called Brian to ask if we could go see him tonight. PaPa still doesn't himself know the news--he'll find out tomorrow at his appointment with the doctor. So I wanted to go over and have one last "normal" time with him and Gramma--before everything changes. I wanted to see him one last time unburdened by this knowledge and free to just enjoy his great-grandkids. I hoped to bless him by our time and hugs.

I'm so glad we went. My kids laughed and played with PaPa and Gramma. They sat and played the same organ that I did as a child during so many visits; they rang most of Gramma's bell collection and looked at as many things as possible under PaPa's enlargement machine that he uses to do the NYT crossword every day. Cait crawled around on the floor and rolled a ball back and forth with him. Jay brought an army helicopter toy to show him and PaPa examined all the guns to see what caliber they were. Then the boys asked him if they could go see his trains downstairs. I followed and snapped a few pictures as he showed us his plans for his next train setup and the model buildings he's been constructing for it. Not that he has much time for it, he explained to me, pointing to the lines of hanging laundry he's been doing as he daily cares for my sweet gramma with Alzheimer's.

It was a perfect time. Jay said on the way home how much PaPa and Gramma mean to him. Karin said it was so much fun to go to their house. And I quietly thought of how glad I am that he's gotten to meet all of my babies.

I haven't lost someone this close to me--I've never known a day without my PaPa's existence. As the child of a single-parent working mom, I spent so many hours at their house, stayed overnight with them, went to the cabin in the summers with them. It was PaPa who taught me how to fish and how to play solitaire, who let me run the model trains even as a small child. I think I was the apple of his eye--his only granddaughter for 13 years. It's one of those things where you can't imagine life without someone.

Thanks for listening to me ramble. Somehow it helps me to write this down and let the tears come.

But why I started to write all this was to ask for your prayers. I don't know where my PaPa is at with the Lord, and I am NOT OK WITH THE THOUGHT OF NEVER SEEING HIM AGAIN. He is a faithful Catholic and an amazing man, but I still don't know if his faith is in Christ alone or in something else. I have written to him about this in years past, but he never replied. My mom said he was confused by my letters, that he didn't understand what I was asking.

Will you please pray with me for him...contend for this man whom I love with all my heart? I have prayed for years. Can God use these next few weeks to answer them? I confess, by faith is weak right now. Will you please pray that this goodbye which looms so near before me will not be the end? That I might have another chance to speak with him about this and that he will understand? Oh, God--help me trust you. Help PaPa trust you. Please pray for him as he hears the news tomorrow...what will that be like? Please pray for my Gramma who will now almost certainly have to go into a nursing home--alone for the first time in almost 65 years. Please pray for my mom who bears the burden of all these decisions as well as her own grief over a father whom she loves immensely.

I hate this. Porter was right--there is nothing natural about death. It sucks. I want to scream. I want my PaPa.

Crim Family Unplugged

Wow, guys, we've taken the plunge! For so long I've known we really needed to cut back on tv around here, but I've never had the guts to pull the plug. I've rationalized it endlessly, reminding myself of the good sides of a few minutes of relaxation and entertainment. Nevertheless, I've felt like we were missing out on better things--like reading good books, talking together, time in the Word, wrestling matches, games with our kids, and SLEEP. I had the nagging feeling that our lives were being slowly stolen from us by that hypnotic blue light...

On our vacation in October up to a little cabin in the woods there was a tiny tv with 2 channels. It stayed off the entire week, and it was one of the best weeks we've ever had as a family. We played endless games of cards, checkers, Uno, and chess. We set up a firing range outside and took turns pummeling coffee cans with an air rifle beebee gun. Brian took the 3 oldest on a ride in a rowboat while I putzed around in the shallows of the frigid lake wearing hip waders. We took walks and cooked s'mores by the wood burning stove. The kids went to bed not so late, and Brian fell asleep in a chair while I worked a crossword puzzle. We came home after 6days completely refreshed and much closer as a family.

We decided to continue our time without the tube. Monday through Friday around here is no-tv-land, although we do still have our Monday movie night (a tradition) and we sit down together to watch "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader" on Thursday nights. But no more cartoons in the afternoon or "Raymond" after the kids go down. I figure we've cut at least 10 hours of tv out of the house, between us and the kids.

The result? I have more energy. No kidding! I, who many days felt like I could barely make it until I could just relax on the couch and watch Oprah while the kids napped, am now not so tired in the afternoons. And when I still am, I take a nap. We are talking more, enjoying each other more, doing stuff together more. Our family feels alive, more joyful, and less bored. The kids have hardly asked for their old shows. And we enjoy the select few that we watch even more for the treat that they are.

I'm not preaching against tv here. It's not bad in itself. But what we've learned this past month is that it can steal away some of the really good stuff in life. The stuff that really matters. For us it has been a good trade.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

5-year-old Punctuation

One day this week Ethan and I were sitting down and working on his ABC's. To practice writing them we have a plastic container with a bit of salt in it in which he uses his finger to form the letters and then "erases" them by shaking the tray. We had just finished reviewing several letters, both capitals and lower-case, so I told him to finish by drawing a smiley face. He did so and then quickly added a smaller smiley face. Then he looked up at me and said, "Look, Mom--a capital and lower-case smiley face!"

I love that kid!