Monday, November 29, 2010

Grandma Tales

Positive Effect of Memory Loss, #1,984: Sunset, For the First Time (Again).

In the car with Linda last night. Outrageously beautiful sunset blazes across the sky. Grandma says, "Oh, for beautiful! It's never done this before! I've never seen the sky like this before!"

Negative Effect of Memory Loss, #5,399: Home, Alone and Post-Non-Event-Stress-Syndrome.

Boys and I at church. Linda's working upstairs. Grandma stirs from her room downstairs. Linda joins her.

Grandma: Where is everybody? 
Linda: They're at church working on the play.
Grandma (with that panicky voice): You mean I've been home alone?!
Linda: No, I've been here.
Grandma: So, what you're saying is that I've been here all alone?!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I Love Parent/Teacher Conferences


I can honestly say, without hesitation, that the bi-annual Parent/Teacher ritual is a blast. Last night we attended another - and probably our second-to-last - conference. We tried something new: We took the whole family.

Everyone came -- Linda and I, April (27), Jeremy (24), Gary (22), Jon (17), and Grandma B (91) in her wheelchair. We waltzed into each of Jono's classrooms and greeted the teachers. We made people groan, thinking the lines were much longer than they were. We got comments from the principal. We made teachers laugh and smile and look at us weird. It was the most fun I've ever had at conferences.

As we paraded down the halls at Freeland High, I thought about the joys of conferencing over the years. Sure, there have been a couple of rough moments, but the vast majority of these visits have been so pleasing, so satisfying, so fun, that I barely remember any little negatives. Our conferences have been blessed because our kids are great.

I take very little credit for that. Whatever brain-development-DNA spun its mysterious fabric in my kids' gray-matter did not come from Dad. Which leaves Linda, who is the smartest person I know. Everything I ever learned about learning I learned from her. Our children have acquired their amazing capacity for knowledge from their Mom.

We have smart kids who are good kids. The combination makes for quick, light-hearted, and breezy conferences. We have heard these words over and over through the years:

"Well, [BK - Benson Kid] is doing great. [He/She] is a pleasure to have in class." Glances at grade book without really needing to . . .  "Looks like a solid 'A.'  I wish every kid in class could be like [BK]. Do you have any questions or concerns about [BK]?"

Well, hardly ever. And thus ended another conference. Delightful.

Every once in a while, in a grand attempt to make sure we didn't get such big heads that we'd end up stuck in the door on the way out of the room, clogging up the entrance, a teacher would say, "The only thing I would like to see from [BK] is a little more talking and participating in class."

Actually, one year in elementary school (Linda would know the year), one of the teachers (Linda would remember her name), said about one of the kids (Linda would remember which one), something like this (Linda could give you the exact quote - I said she was the smart one!):

"Frankly, I wish [BK] would get into some trouble once in a while. It would be good for him/her to break out just a little bit."

Never thought we'd hear that from a teacher. I know my parents could only dream of a teacher saying such things about little Ronnie.

And that is why I'm thankful for my kids. Like all children, they have their "ish." But God gave Linda and me the gift of good kids. And when they all come home, and we gather around for a meal, and the banter and opinions and laughter starts flying, I marvel at the grace of God sitting at my table.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lazarus, Revisited

At the conclusion of The Lazarus Experiment, I said there would be more coming from me. It’s taken a while, but here it is.

All along the forty days, one thing kept impressing itself in my head. It’s not strange that it did, because this one theme has dogged my life. It’s always been lingering around the edges, always haunting the inner life. In fact, I have proof of the longevity of this particular mind-shadow.

I’ve posted this picture around before. It’s me at seven years old, sitting atop my brand new birthday bike. But, while she was organizing our photos this summer, Linda took out the picture and looked at the back of it. In my mother’s handwriting:

Ronnie – Looking a little chubby.

Nope. Never looked at the back. Never caught that before. Explains a lot.

So lay me out on the proverbial psych couch and let us regress!

Not really. I’m not one for digging at excuses like scabs, seeing if I can make them bleed enough to build my self-pity and garner sympathy for my oozing wounds. I’m not going to blame anyone, or cast my problems out onto the relational landscape to see where they stick. It just is what it is.

A struggle with—weight, diet, exercise, health, overeating, imbalance, emotional eating, obesity—there are so many names for the thing. For as long as I can remember, this cloud has hovered over my head.

The Lazarus Experiment forced us to ask how we live life—second life. We posed the question: What kind of things would Lazarus have done differently once Jesus called him out of the tomb and the mummy wraps were pulled away? What Would Lazarus Do?

From day one of the experiment I knew this: Lazarus would not live with this cloud. He would not live a life that was not healthy. We don’t know what killed him off, but if it was anything that was within his own personal control, you’ve got to believe that on the next go-round, on the other side of the grave, on the resurrection rebound, he would not have continued on the same weary-worn path.

If Lazarus died because of lung cancer after a lifetime of smoking, for instance, I just can’t see him asking for a cig once the grave clothes were unwound. If he kicked off because of a venereal disease, I’m thinking he would change his wanton ways after he heard Jesus say, “Come forth!” Getting another swing at life would change your perspective, I think, and motivate life change.

Add to that the realization that Jesus did this, for you, alone, to his glory, and the will to change becomes even stronger. The idea of Lazarus falling at the feet of Jesus, worshiping him for proclaiming victory over death—YOUR DEATH—seems like the motivational equivalent of a power boost button in a car racing video game. Move over, Mario! Luigi’s coming on strong!

It just kept hitting me, over and over, that Lazarus would not have stayed obese if he’d died of a heart attack or diabetes.

Now—I also believe this: Lazarus would have lived life to the full. He would have loved and learned and labored and leisured like he never had before.  He would not give up bagels. He would eat cake and ice cream. In fact, I’ve got to believe that one of the first things he did was sit down to a steak, medium rare, and onion rings.

OK. Maybe not onion rings. Maybe asparagus instead. And that’s just my point. Lazarus would have a new awareness of how to enjoy the miraculous gift of life in every way. Including health.

So, for many reasons, now is the time.

I’ve done it before. Twenty years ago, when Linda and I and three of our four kids pulled into Royal Oak, Michigan, I had just completed six months of NutriSystem and lost nearly 100 pounds. In those two decades since, I have found all of them, and enough new ones to bring me to a new personal record.

I was 35 years old then. Now I’m 55. It’s going to be different.

Lazarus would do it with grace. He would do it with the awareness of his value to Jesus. He would do it with a joy that comes from facing into the mouth of death and hearing your name called by the giver of life. It would be—fun.

I am fully aware that all of you will have advice for me. I appreciate your help. I know that you want me to succeed. I know the secret of weight loss: take in less than you burn off. Easy as pie. OK—easy as a cucumber. But the truth is I’m not after losing, I’m after living. Health gained, not pounds lost.

I also know that now you’re all in on this. So if you see me at a potluck with a mound of calories enough for a week, you can say something. Or if you invite me to lunch, steer me away from the buffet. You can steal the cream cheese off my tray, or slap the donut out of my hands. I know you’re watching me.

But now let me turn the tables on you: If you want to live your life like you mean it, like you are purchased out of the grave by grace, what would you never do again?  How can I help you? How can I hold you to it?

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Grandma Tales

The Clinic is not supposed to be about my mom, but about grace-stuff. But Mom--Grandma--lives with us, and like any two-year-old or ninety-two-year-old, she often is the center of the house. Lately, Grandma's dementia has been deteriorating, and the results are funny, sad, and weird. Some of it makes us wonder . . .

In the last week, Mom has heard singing. It's a man's voice. He's singing gospel songs. The other night she came out of her room after being in bed for a couple hours.

"Do you hear that?" she called out from the hall.

"HEAR WHAT, GRANDMA?" I shouted because she takes her ears (hearing aids) out when she goes to bed.

"Do you hear him singing?"


"That man!"

She had me go into her room, and pointed to one of the windows. She told me he was singing "Oh, That Will Be Glory For Me."

This morning he was singing again; this time, "Silent Night." Grandma sang along with him while we ate breakfast.

Tonight, after being in bed for twenty minutes, Grandma came out. "Do you hear that?"


"Yes! I can't go to sleep! Can you hear it?"


"Well, come in here!"

We walked to her room. "Do you hear him singing?"  And she sang along.
"And he walks with me and he talks with me, And he tells me I am his own . . ."
I continued to try to explain that the music was coming from her head. I told her to just go to sleep. Since she couldn't hear me, I shouted and repeated. Even when she heard me she didn't understand at all. She went back to bed and I closed the door.

Ten minutes later, she was out again, complaining about the singing. We went through the whole thing again, and I went back to her room.

"Can't you hear that?!" she asked, and waved toward the window. She was quite aggravated.


I was standing three feet away from her, and still I had to repeat myself. She couldn't hear me for anything. But she heard the song, and she sang, "And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known."

"Well, what should I do?! That's going to go on all night!"

"JUST ENJOY IT, GRANDMA. ENJOY THE MUSIC AND YOU'LL FALL ASLEEP AND THEN IT WILL STOP." She rolled her eyes, got a peeved look on her face, and shrugged her shoulders.

"OK!  Good night!"

She hasn't been out again, but the night is young.

And about the singing - Don't even ask.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Grandma Tales


After flipping every light switch in her room, in the room next door, and the next one: "How do I turn off this TV?"

After waking up at 10:00 a.m.: "Is it time to get up?"

After mixing two cans of Campbell's soup, one Bean With Bacon and one Chicken Noodle, without water: "Is there some salt I can put in here?"

"Is this Sunday?"
"Is this Saturday?"
"Is this Friday?"  (You get the picture).

"Is tomorrow hair day?"

"So, I'm going to have to be all alone all day long, the whole day?" (Grandma's hardly ever alone).

Peeking out of her room at 5:00 a.m. (and 5:23, and 5:58), "Are we going to church today?"

This is getting rough.