Slip Slidin’

When did this happen?

How does time just seem to accelerate with each passing year? Hell, with each passing day!

Not so long ago, it seems that he was still as sharp as a tack. Sure, his gait is a little slower, he falls asleep in his easy chair and he needs a hearing aid but that’s to be expected for a man in his seventies.

Now he’s in his eighties. He’s a little more hunched over and his gait is slower still. But now his memory is rapidly dimming. He must really work at remembering where he put his glasses or his coffee mug or his pad and it takes him an increasing amount of time to do it.  It has progressed beyond repeating stories of events that happened last year.  Now it is talking about an issue we discussed not ten minutes ago.

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When did he become so “old”?

Did this happen suddenly? Probably not. It was more like a slow drift into the rocky shoals. The further in we go the more the boat gets banged up and takes on water.

I can see with my own eyes how much time he spends retracing his steps, looking for clues, grasping for the elusive thread that will lead him back to the place he was before. And I’m not just talking about the misplaced cell phone; I’m talking about the place when his memory was still pretty sharp.

His frustration is palpable. He used to pride himself on his wits and his memory. His memory would compensate for his less than sterling organizational skills. But no more. Now he places important papers on a pile and then cannot recall on which of the many piles he put it.

I’m not inside his head but I’d bet there’s a good deal of fear mixed in with that frustration. He knows he’s slipping and the rope is covered in grease. This is not going to get any better, he thinks. What will happen to me when I cannot remember to feed the dog or pay the bills; what will become of me when I can no longer remember my kids or my own name?

If a man doesn’t have his memories, is there anything left of him?

box-memories-nostalgic-5842“I am so sorry for having to put you through all this. I’m sorry I’m such a burden to you.”

“I seem to recall dragging you through my hell about 12 years back, dad. This is no burden. We’ll get through this.”

I count it a privilege to be able to be of service to him now and to be there for him in the future.  I think he takes comfort in that; at least that’s the feeling I get from him.  Maybe it’s a sense of not being alone and perhaps just a little bit less afraid of walking into the darkness knowing that someone is going through it with him.

I have no illusions about the long, hard road ahead. There are going to be some very difficult conversations and decisions in the coming year. He knows it, too.

“Forewarned is forearmed. We’re a lot alike.”

Yeah. I know.

The Gift of Serving

It is Christmas Eve and it seems like Thanksgiving was yesterday. Our “go-go-go” world seems to pick up the pace to breakneck speed this time of year. All too often we can get caught up in the “busy-ness” of life and become blind to the needs of our neighbors during the time of year when we are supposed to focus less on ourselves and more on others.

This past Thanksgiving, members of NorthBound, a comeback community, embarked on their first community event. NorthBound sponsored a community-wide, home-cooked meal held at the East Bangor United Methodist Church. The community meal was open to anyone who was homeless, family-less, friend-less, in recovery from addiction, and anyone who wanted to share some time with strangers over a meal. During the course of the three-hour meal approximately 60 people graced us with their presence and shared conversation over a hot meal. But much more than a meal was shared.

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So many memories are created over a meal. Food is such an integral part of who we are. It is cultural. Perhaps that is why kitchens seem to be the one room in the home where families congregate to reconnect, regale and revive. Kitchens are the place where we pour our hearts and souls into meals to be shared with the ones we love. Thanksgiving and Christmas have become holidays where meals create the backdrop for family and friends. We catch up with relatives, we recall family stories and relive traditions.

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As with any event, it takes many people and no small amount of time and effort to put it all together. NorthBound’s community meal was no exception. Rev. Dave and the people of East Bangor UMC graciously allowed us the use of their kitchen and community room. Jennifer and “La La” worked tirelessly at gathering community support and cooking. Kate, Gerry and I helped plan the menu, garner food donations and also cooked. Dozens of friends cooked desserts, rolls and side dishes for the meal. We all took turns serving up deliciousness and love to everyone who attended. In the end, NorthBound prepared over 100 pounds of turkey, 25 pounds of carrots, trays of green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, stuffing and lots of corn pudding. Leftovers were delivered to Safe Harbor shelter in Easton and they were very appreciative!

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The takeaway from all of this? Food is the gateway through which connections are made. Through this meal we made some headway in making life a little bit better for our neighbors. Through this meal we developed a better understanding of what they mean when they say “it is better to give than to receive.” All of us at NorthBound became regrounded in what is truly important in life – not politics or opinions – but service and caring. By giving of our time and efforts to others we regain a toe-hold on the bedrock of our existence – loving others.