positivity vs. reality

I ask it a lot to people. “How are you doing?” It has become a greeting of sorts in most settings. It’s kind of funny, isn’t it? I see people ask it, while walking past each other, with no intention to stop and listen for a response. I guess it’s a non-question question. Kind of like when people who do answer say, “Fine. I’m fine.” What they really mean to say is, “Life stinks right now. But I’m going to tell you fine, because I would be fine if we didn’t talk.”

Up front, I am not writing this directed at anyone. So, please, all you folks out there who have gone above and beyond to show love to our family, don’t even think – “I wonder if Jason is talking about me? Have I asked him how he was but not stopped to listen? Did I tell him fine when he asked me and blew him off? Ohhhhh! My day is ruined. I am not sure if I did or not.” Seriously, I am not writing this directed at anyone, so for those who may have even leaned toward thinking that, let not your heart be troubled. 

I’m writing it directed at me.

Last night, when I was getting Dad settled to hit the hay, he was venting to me. I am good with that. We vent to each other. I had asked him earlier how he was feeling. He was answering me. Being honest about how he is actually feeling – physically, emotionally, relationally, about Mom, about guys who drive SUVs without a license, about situations that frustrate him. 

At one point, he was telling me about the pain in his legs. He had mentioned several things, and without even meaning to sound like a “PolyAnna,” I did. I retorted – “At least you can walk, Pop.”

He didn’t appreciate the comment. 

You know, if you ask someone how they are doing, them answering honestly is a good thing. Me responding with a positive, general statement, attempting to fix their perspective to see all the roses that are lying around that they are overlooking, is not a good thing. 

Dad wasn’t not being positive. He was being real. People sharing hurts and burdens is ok. I know that. I encourage it and appreciate it in all the people I do life in.  I didn’t mean to respond that way to Dad. But I did. I apologized. He accepted. We’re still friends.

Here’s the obvious lesson – when you ask people how they are doing, don’t mistake their response of reality as a response of negativity and attempt to fix them. Listen. Look them in the eye. Be there. That’s encouragement, too, and sometimes is enough.

Reality for Mom is this – she is more than likely going to be a “new Retia.” And that’s okay. It absolutely stinks, but it is what it is. I am not thankful that my kids won’t know Ammaw the way she was anymore. I am thankful they will get to know her all over again. I am not thankful that Mom will likely not hold our kids any more. I am thankful they will sit in her lap, though. And I am praying for her mind and body to be as restored as it can be following a collision with a red Ford Expedition. 

Most people don’t move much after that.

We are waiting to hear word on when her cranium piece will be replaced. Therapy continues. Progress is steady but slow. Mom is not eating much and needs to eat more. Her swallowing is getting better and better. Her bedsore has a long, long way to go to heal. Still an inch and a half deep. But it is getting better. 

Not trying to sound crude, but if you want to pray for something that would really make Mom happy, pray she will be able to sit on a potty chair soon. That would make her feel positive. For real.

Love all of you. Gonna take Dad to his favorite restaurant tonight – Drago’s. Gonna take Mom some mashed sweet potatoes from Copeland’s after that. She usually eats most of those. Who wouldn’t?

We’ll post at you later. In fact, I think Dad wants to post tonight or tomorrow. That’s always a good thing.
-jason

the boot gets the boot!!!

 

We just got out of Dad’s orthopedic doctor appointment. Last night, Dad told me this:

I hope he tells me to get rid of the boot and the walker. 

He got what he wished for. Dad’s legs are healing. Long way to go to be fully healed, but they’ve definitely come a long way. The boot is off and the walker will probably be no more by at least tomorrow if not sooner. I will have to GoogleMap a medical supply to get Dad a cane. 

I never thought he would be a stubborn, old man with a cane this early, but why not! 

Here are a few pics.

 

Dad taking the boot off.

Dad taking the boot off.

 

 

 

throwing the boot in the back of the truck!!!

throwing the boot in the back of the truck!!!

 

there it goes!!!

there it goes!!!

the boot got the boot.

the boot got the boot.

 

 

 

Well, off to eat lunch, take Dad to therapy, and then to see Mom. I’ll post again soon!

Healer.

It would be an understatement to say I want Mom to return to how she was before the accident. I believe that God can heal her and that she can recover to that point. It seems like a long way from now. A very long way. 

It feels like it is going to be as long as the DenBesten’s must have felt. Kris and Robin were shocked on Christmas Eve 2008 when doctors told them that their 9 year old daughter’s heart had calcified. It was the effect of something she had been born with – something unbeknownst to them up to that point. 

It would be a long shot, but she would need a heart transplant. She lived with a Berlin Heart for some time. Then, on April 15th, 2009, she received a new heart. That new heart took to Gracyn’s body, and she is returning to a life more like most 9 year old girls. 

Gracyn sang of the Healer God at worship gathering for First Baptist Church of Orlando yesterday. I believe, along with her, that God is our healer. He can heal Mom. I am praying to that end. Whether in the now or inside of eternity, Mom will be whole again. I am trusting either way. Hopeful for the now.

Here’s Gracyn singing a song to the Healer of her heart. I pray we will all know Him as the healer of our hearts, as well.

the week with Pop.

I am so thankful that Jen and the kids were with me this week while I was up in New Orleans taking care of Mom and Dad. It was a special time. Here are some highlight pictures. Enjoy.

God, trouble, and you.

Mom and Dad were run over by a Ford Expedition April 4th a little after 7:30pm. Mom continues to make slow progress in her recovery in a local New Orleans hospital. Dad is an out-patient now. He is working hard in rehab, and recovering well. Long road still for both of them. But we are thankful to simply be interacting with them. 

On May 31st, Dad taught again for the first time since the accident. He was asked to share at the worship gathering of Gentilly Baptist Church here in New Orleans. Benji and Jenna filmed it (thank you!). Here it is, broken into five consecutive segments. Hope it will encourage and challenge you to draw near to God as He has drawn near to us in Christ. 

(part 1)

(part 2)

(part 3)

(part 4)

(part 5)

 

I love you, Dad. Thanks for how you have always lived what you teach.

all in how you see it.

all the kids see popChildren were flocking to Jesus. The disciples began to divert them away from Jesus. Too much of a distraction for all that important Jesus  stuff. Jesus rebuked the disciples. “Let the little children come to Me.”

It’s all in how you see it. The disciples were looking at the children as a potential hindrance. Jesus saw them as examples of ones who had Kingdom perspective. Being near to Jesus and being with each other mattered to them more than doing stuff for Jesus and excluding those who “might get in the way.” Highly valuing life and togetherness and the beauty of the now seem to matter to Jesus a lot.

It matters to my kids, too. Especially yesterday, when they saw Pop and Ammaw. Caleb had been up with me to see them before. Ella had come with Jen those two days that Jen came up before Mom woke from her coma. But Katey and Abby had not seen Ammaw and Pop for 9 weeks. They were a bit excited. And nothing would divert them from running to Pop’s arms. 

Jen and I had coached them to give gentle hugs. And they did – at least as gentle as an excited, determined, full-speed child can give when they run to their grandfather. It was a sight to behold. Pop was overjoyed. You can see it in the picture. He is even smiling with teeth! He loves it when Erik’s kids and my kids are here. 

Jen and the kids and I hit the road Sunday afternoon. We drove a little over halfway from Orlando Sunday, and then finished the trip yesterday. We arrived around 1:15 and took Dad to a late lunch. Then, we headed over to see Ammaw.

Caleb was a pro, having already seen her and been around her. Katey had seen pictures. Abby said, “Hey Ammaw. I love you.” Mom replied, “I love you.” Ella didn’t say much. She doesn’t talk. 

Mom talked through her passy muir valve. Her voice has been getting better and stronger with it. She didn’t move much. Just seemed tired and uncomfortable. Then, the speech therapist came in.

She fed her some potatoes, some zucchini, and some thickened sweet tea. Mom chewed and swallowed it well, although much longer than you and I would have (if you eat zucchini). She seemed to appreciate just eating something. The kids looked on.

Katey struggled to watch after a bit. Her heart is so compassionate. She had trouble seeing Mom shrug in pain as she swallowed. She mustered up the courage to come back closer to the bed to watch and did something else that is very Katey-like. She got social. 

“I am going to be a hospital girl, too,” Katey told the speech therapist. 

Katey and I have what she calls “you and me time” from time to time. We try to have some each weekend right now, every weekend when I fly home. On one recent occasion, over hot chocolate at Starbucks, we were being silly and talking about what our dreams are. I asked her what she wanted to be when she got older. She said she wanted to be a nurse. 

It will be interesting to see how what her Mommy does (she is an RN) and what all happens as a result of this accident influences the direction of each of our kids’ lives.

The younger two kids were getting restless. Ella needed to eat. So, Jen took Ella and Abby back to the parking garage to the van. Ella ate and Abby watched a DVD. Caleb and Katey stayed in the room while I worked Mom out. Erik had called me yesterday to tell me a few exercises he had done with Mom over the weekend. I tried to repeat them. 

It continues to amaze me each time I have to help Mom do things she had done so easily before. We did wrist and elbow and knee extension and flexion. We lifted her arms and shoulders. She needed a good bit of help, but she seemed thankful for the stretching. I asked her if it hurt-hurt, or if it was just uncomfortable from the stretching.

“Uncomfortable from the stretching,” she replied.

I looked up with about two more exercises to go and realized what Katey was doing. She was over with Dad, who had been in his wheelchair resting, working him out. Repeating a lot of what I was saying to Mom, doing some of the same things. Of course, Dad followed Katey’s lead. But it was so cute to listen to her get focused and involved in it all. She was working him out hard, too!

We wrapped up the exercises and told Mom bye. Everyone told her they loved her. We washed our hands, headed out for a quick potty stop, and headed back to the parking garage to catch up with Jen and the younger girls. Overall, the kids seemed like they loved the time! 

It’s all in how you see it – just a sick Ammaw or elated to have time with Ammaw, no matter her condition.

Speaking of all in how you see it, the Taylor family is and has been for some time very close to our family. Sheila called yesterday with the news of their first grandchild’s birth. Her name is Caroline. Justin, the proud daddy (Sheila’s oldest son), and his wife Jennifer had their first baby yesterday. The new grandparents were there with them, too. Ken, the new grandfather, texted this message to us all yesterday after they had confirmed the news of some serious medical issues with Caroline:

Caroline is beautiful but has significant health issues. Surgery tomorrow. Sheila told Justin we are praying for a miracle. Justin replied that we already have our miracle.

It’s all in how you see it. 

May we all see life and togetherness and the beauty of the now the same way Jesus does. The same way those children did that came to Jesus. The same way my kids did when they saw Ammaw and Pop. The same way Justin did yesterday.  

Thanks for praying. Thankful for all of you.
-jason

a look at our week so far…

I have written it before, and I will write it again. While the time away from my wife and kids has not been easy on them or me (Jen – you are amazing. I knew that already. I am an even bigger fan now), I have to say that the time with my dad has been very, very rich. We have talked and laughed and cried and relaxed and sipped a whole lot of coffee together. We have gone to the doctor, gone to see Mom, gone to see movies, gone to enjoy great restaurants, and gone to visit with great people. All made greater because it has been with Dad. All very difficult, because we wish Mom could be there, too. 

Just to let you in on a few highlights from this week so far, here are a few pics to enjoy:

Dad began out-patient therapy Tuesday morning. Here he is in orientation:

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Dad got over onto the bike and went for a ride to nowhere. Here are two pics:

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The therapist added what should be standard on all walkers. Dad and I are considering inventing the already-equipped tennis ball walker. Don’t steal our idea, now!

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This is a pic of the legend himself, Jimmy Dukes, walking under banners of young men (Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints and Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets) who hope to one day have his kind of toughness and resolve:

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Here are some pics of Mom with two of her physical therapists the day she stood up (Tuesday):

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Here’s Mom maxing and relaxing. They stretched out her shoulders and back.

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Here’s Mom doing a hand-control exercise. She really did well!

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Here’s Mom sticking her tongue out. We wanted to see how far she could stick it out now. She is making great progress with the healing of her tongue. I also wanted her to stick out her tongue to show the kids.

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On Wednesday, as we were attempting to cross the river to go see Mom, we got stuck in traffic. We found out there was a big wreck on the Greater New Orleans Bridge (the bridge you will see in the background of some of the following pictures). We had to get gas anyway, so we decided to hop off the interstate and get gas and take the ferry across the river. I got some cool shots from the river.

Here’s us getting onto the ferry, following the truck you see in front of us:

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Here’s one of a big ship rolling down the river:

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Here’s one of a power plant and the bridge in the background and another ferry boat in the foreground:

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Here’s one of the city skyline and the bridge that I took with the panoramic app on my phone. I liked it if you can’t tell, since I made it the new header on my blog:

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Here’s one  of Dad and Steve and Amanda and David. Steve and Amanda served with Dad and Mom when they were on the pastoral team of First Baptist Cliftondale, GA. David is the General Manager of Drago’s, Dad’s favorite restaurant. Steve and Amanda were in town, and they took us there Wednesday night.

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There you go! A look at our week so far. 

Now we are off to more adventures. Dad has an appointment with his Neurologist right now. We are about to head up. XRays first, then the doctor. Then lunch. Then going to see Mom.

I’ll update again tonight.