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When the roof caves in….

This summer is NOT going down in my book as one of my favorites.  Things were difficult enough with a hefty work load, which was mangled up by having Mom break her femur and be in rehab all month.  And while things were settling into a new normal, it wasn’t a great normal.

And then the roof caved in.

Literally.

Last Saturday there was a storm in my mother’s neighborhood, one of those surprise, amazingly violet storms.  And at 10pm I got the panicky call from a neighbor…a tree had smashed into the house.  My heart sank, my body trembled, my anxiety and fear escalated.  I went out Sunday morning to see what it was…and was shocked.  A 30″ tulip poplar had uprooted and smashed through the roof of the master bedroom in mom’s house.  Holes in the roof, broken joists, demolished soffits along the entire length of the house, broken windows.

Oh. My. God.

Now, in addition to dealing with Mom, I have insurance, recovery, and all the rest to deal with.  Ugh.  UGH.  I’m really not prepared.  I feel like my blog-friend in BeautyBeyondBones who is going through her own mess with a parental illness and rehab.

And yet….there were two points of amazing blessing, and evidence of God’s provision.  First, Mom wasn’t home when the tree came down.  If she had been, she’d have died of the impact, or a heart attack, or the fear from being in the dark and storm and debris all alone.  So a broken femur saved her.  And then, she was supposed to have been evaluated for discharge on the 8th, but had it postponed by a transportation problem.  If she had made that appointment, she likely would have been discharged this week — but with no place to go.  Now, instead of having two panics in three or four days (starting the house process, and finding her a new place to live with assisted care) I have time.

I’m not always in tuned with God, and His plan.  But I sure see His providence in the timing of the last month.  And am grateful.  Still stressed, still scared, but at least grateful.

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McCain….and Mom

This past week, Sen. John McCain received a lot of attention, or notoriety depending on your views.  Like a modern-day  Caesar Rodney (look him up 🙂 )

rodney  He rose from his diagnosis and returned to Washington to cast an unexpected, deciding vote on a piece of healthcare legislation. Captivity, campaigns, cancer….at 80, he certainly is a determined fighter.

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Mom is a determined fighter too.  Older than he is by a bit, she continues to battle back from the broken leg.  Her determined cry is “I’m going home, to see my cat.” She means it.  She’s doing everything she can in rehab to walk and move again, including eating every day to keep her strength going.  She’s seen the patient who didn’t want to walk, returned to the hospital.  She wants no part of that; she’s going home.

I have to admire her drive, her determination to get better.  I’m not sure I’d have had it in her position.  I’m not even sure I had it in my position looking at her when this started. It certainly would be easy to get depressed and defeated in the rehab center.  It can’t be a lot of fun, particularly sitting and waiting for therapy…food…everything.  And yet she perseveres.

Some people are just born with the streak of spine, backbone, gumption that pushes them forward.  Mom has it, and I’m glad.  I doubt I’ll be that strong, should I find myself in that position.  Maybe I’ll surprise myself.

Or not.

 

Broken. Hip.

Is this the time?

Or the beginning of the end?

A fall at her age

so often is the start of the end.

Surgery so stressful,

as is the break

Will she fight through?

Or has she had enough?

I sit and wait,

and wonder.

 

These were my thoughts two weeks ago.  My mother fell.  It happens at her age, and as so often happens, a hip breaks.  I wrote the portion above while waiting for her to come out of surgery.  She did…rod inserted, nailed into place.  Such an impositions on an aged body.

I’m most surprised by her attitude.  She says she’s going to walk, and go back home to her bed and her cat.  Now I can imagine that even if that happens, it won’t be the same.  But we’ll see.  I think she will push through, walk again, go home again.  And I’ll be thankful.

It makes me wonder about me, though.  She, for better or worse, at least has me.  When my time comes, will I have anyone to be a visitor, to be an advocate, to be a link to the outside world?  Someone who can research rehab centers, assisted living facilities, medical payments, take care of the house?  I was surprised that I had so little time from the surgery to find a rehab facility.  It was only a day and a half.  Not a lot of time, no good capacity to research the numerous facilities, their ratings, their rankings, their capabilities.  Still, she seems to be doing well.  But I have to wonder about her.  After all….

she likes the food there. But not well enough to stay any longer than necessary.

Unregretted decisions

Historically I have a difficult time making decisions because I too easily see the other side of an argument. Which is an unusual problem, because too often people are unable or unwilling to consider the other side of an issue! But there have been two decisions I have never regretted, never looked back on, never had second thoughts about.

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The first was a decision to surrender my appointment to a service academy. I was appointed out of high school, and went through the bulk of that first summer. Truth be told, I was admitted by virtue of mind and test tacking abilities, and the body was never, EVER, as good or good enough. The decision to leave was difficult, mostly because of the reaction I would face back home and the need to get into school someplace that fall so I wouldn’t be trapped at home. But although it was difficult, I have never, in all the years, regretted the decision. I still think I could have made a good military officer (more Al Haig than David Petraeus), but I’ve never wished I had stayed, never was sorry I hadn’t pursued that path.

The second decision that I never looked back on was the decision to have a family. Alright, it was a very small family, just one child, but the decision to do it was a long time coming. It took me years to get to “yes”. In fact, I think my then-wife despaired of ever having a child because of my reticence. And yet, once she arrived in our life, I never regretted, never looked back.

It’s interesting that these are the two decisions I have the most confidence in, because they have had very different outcomes.  The decision to leave the academy meant I ended up in a school that would take me rather than one I had selected.  It meant my major was decided through a certain randomness of taking copious ‘introduction’ classes in my freshman year rather than the history/political science/oceanography major I to which I had aspired.  And the major lead to all sorts of ramifications in my career path when an accident (TMI) and politics (Reagan recession) substantially altered my planned paths.  But all has turned out acceptably, as I have found a passion for environmental sustainability and planning that I would not have expected.

The decision to have a family….ah, now that’s a different outcome.  The divorce and subsequent estrangement from my progeny has produced years of sadness and pain, and even a nervous breakdown. That’s just from my side of the divide, from my perspective. I have to imagine it’s at least as bad from the other side, to grow up in half a family, to have life so dramatically changed.  And yet….and yet. I still don’t regret the decision.  Even through the emotional distance and disconnect, the love, pride, joy, hope that I feel for her outweighs the pain I’ve felt.

Two decisions.  Two turning points in life.  Neither regretted.  I suppose that is something  for which I should be grateful.

The Exodus

I love how this is presented, how it challenges some of my thoughts, and confirms others. And how well it is written.

Dave Barnhart's Blog

Frans Francken I. Hans skola: Den rike mannen och Lazarus. NM 429
I have seen your religion, and I hate it.
I have heard your doctrine, and I loathe it.
Take away your empty praise songs,
your vacuous worshiptainment.
Your mouth is full of religious words,
but your proverbs are salted manure.

“The sick deserve to be sick.
The poor deserve to be poor.
The rich deserve to be rich.
The imprisoned deserve to be imprisoned.”
Because you never saw him sick, or poor, or in prison.

“If he had followed police instructions,
if he had minded the company he keeps,
he would not have been killed,”
You say in the hearing
of a man hanging on a cross
between two thieves.

“People who live good lives
do not have pre-existing conditions,” you say,
carving these words over the hospital door:
“Who sinned, this man or his parents,
that he was born blind?”

“It is the church’s job, not the government’s,”
say…

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Flagging Memory

As I come into the gathering hall before church, it looks quiet colorful.  all the low, round coffee tables are decorated with numerous tabletop flag stands, holding flags from all around the world.  The flags are part of the months focus on world-wide ministry.

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The cause me to smile, because they remind me of my youth.  I used to be quite fascinated with flags.  I knew the flags of all the nations, even the lesser known ones of Africa.  One of my fondest souvenirs was a set of paper flags from the United Nations and a trip there.  I remember gluing the flags onto little wooden sticks.  They were so treasured that I had them well into adult-hood….in fact, up until the Great Purge of the last couple of years.

Times have changed.

Names have been changed….Upper Volta, Ceylon, Burma.

Countries have gone….Yugoslavia, USSR, United Arab Republic.

And now there are a slew of ‘Stans, a Balkan’s full of little states, new island states.

And a flagging memory for recognizing them.

M&M Engineering….Metro and Monument

Coincidently, this post gets published during National Engineer’s Week in the US. That wasn’t my intention when I started writing this, but it seems to have worked out appropriately, if not well.

This past year has not been a good one for engineering in the DC area.  While a major accomplishment goes unnoticed, two serious failures have rightly captured people’s attention.  Why aren’t things going better?

The good news story is the drilling of the DC Clean Rivers Project.  Two tunnels, 48″ and 108″, drilled under the city, will keep stormwater runoff from flooding the sewage treatment plant and contaminating the Anacostia and Potomac rivers.  An incredible undertaking of engineering and construction, it has been practically invisible to the public.  And it is going well (almost complete!).

Not so the other denizen of tunnels, METRO.  Nothing seems to be going right for them, and hasn’t for years.  Inspection not performed, repairs not made, maintenance left undone; from policy to execution nothing has gone right. When in the middle of the very-public, very-massive safety push you have train operators who still almost hit the Federal inspectors on the tracks, you know you have problems.  Surprisingly (and I am very surprised, as the horror stories keep coming out) no one has been charged criminally for the years of running a system that has apparently been so woefully unable to complete even simple task. Years  of falsified records and billed-but-unperformed tasks and no one has been charged?  Really?? Unbelievable.

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Commuters wait for their train at the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in Washington. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

And then there’s the other major monument to problems in the engineering world, the Washington Monument.  Closed for almost 3 years to repair damage from the earthquake of 2011, it opened in mid-2014. Almost immediately it had problems with the electrical systems and elevators. The elevator problem is so serious that the Monument will now be closed until 2019 for repairs.  So in an 8 year period, our National Monument will have been close for almost 6 of them.  Not a very good track record, not at all.

I understand complex issues, interconnected problems, deficits of money, time, and manpower.  But to have to such major problems at the same time is a sad state of affairs.  Maybe some of the infrastructure money being promised by the administration can help both of these out.

I hope so.

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Dennis Cook/Associated Press