Getting Older, Balder, Frailer, and More Like My Dad Every Day

Happy Birthday John Denton! Not the one who founded Denton, Texas. The one who is my dad. He turned 70 this month. That may seem older by some standards, but it’s seeming younger and younger to me. Why? Because in more and more old family pictures, my dad is younger in them than I am now. This is the stage when I thought he was old. Now I look at him and think, “He’s a young, active 70!” I know he has days when he doesn’t feel quite that young and active, but then again, so do I. In fact, I’m having one of those weeks right now. 

I’m on a little bed rest for a couple days. More like “chair” rest. Isn’t this what everyone dreams of? Not me! First, I’m ok. Nothing serious to worry about, but I want your prayers. It seems that since my appointment with the doctor about 10 days ago my blood-oxygen levels have dropped another five points, and I’ve actually lost six pounds. (That weight loss wouldn’t be bad if I could say I was eating better or exercising more strenuously.) It turns out I’m pushing through the day and by the time I get to the evening I’m getting so little oxygen it leaves me weak and lethargic. After other tests and x-rays today, the doctor is giving me another round of more intense drugs to clear my bronchial pathways and get generate more airflow. I’m supposed to be non-strenuous for a few days to allow all the oxygen to get where it needs to go and not depleted by energetic work. (Since we all know how physically demanding my job is — not, I’ll be back in the office Thursday and try not to lift any pianos or chop wood.)

 It’s good a pastor can work from home if need be. So, I’ll work in my home office or in my big chair again tomorrow while I take my meds that make me drowsy and twitchy at the same time. On top of that, I got my bifocal glasses today. One of my children stood on the stairs asking me a question tonight and I had to move my head around trying to discover where exactly they came into focus in my progressive lenses. My son took off with a “Thanks,” and I realized he thought I was nodding affirmatively. I’ll have to get those figured our quick before I cause a real communication problem. And not only do my bifocals make me think of my dad, but with all the ‘retro’ styles available right now every pair seemed to make me look a little more like my dad. You’ll notice in the picture above we have the same dark tops with clearer bottom rims. Everytime Deana would hand me a rounder pair, I’d say, “These look like the glasses my dad wore in the 60s!” The picture above is when he was in the Navy and was taken in 1961. (Just in case you thought he was one of the original Village People – YMCA!)

I was gonna try and butch up my image a bit with some Harley Davidson glasses frames, but Deana vetoed them because they had skulls on the sides. I thought it would be cool to ask someone if they wanted to go to heaven or hell, then slowly tilt my head to the side to reveal scary skulls. VETOED! So, she’s shot down my request to own a motorcycle AND to even own a pair of motorcycle glasses. I guess she loves me in all my asthma geekyness.

The French have always been a little off center. How about a turtle burger?

But, back to my “taking it easy” situation…this afternoon I read about the rise of walking in Europe as a form of recreation. I guess before motorized transportation there wasn’t much motivation to take a stroll through a park. I guess, if you had to walk everywhere you went, it didn’t seem relaxing to walk more when you got home to rest. In fact, recreational walking was part of the impetus to increased development of public parks in which people could walk. This recreational walking was initially popularized in France, where it became popular to take a slow animal with you to set the pace. You were considered walking at a proper leisurely pace if you matched your walking pet. And, what do you think that pet was?  It was a turtle. Yes, a turtle. Lots of weathly French people walking around, demonstrating how relaxed they were trying to be by letting their pet turtle set the pace for their walk. I’m assuming the walks were no more than a block in length if they were going the speed of a turtle. And, if you got a snapping turtle, it could serve as your guard turtle too!

I feel like I’ve been slowed to a turtle’s pace this week. I’m struck at how a physical struggle that slows you down also can help you focus a little more and observe things usually passed by in haste. With little to no voice and often closing my eyes to rest while still awake, I find myself listening to what my kids are saying – even arguing. Likewise, it changes the pace of the people around me. If they want something from me, they have to come talk to me face-to-face and listen carefully for my answer. They have to seek out my answer right now, because I can’t force it upon them.

There are lots of people around us who are going through their own slowed-down season for one reason or another. It could be loss and grief, or physical pain, loneliness, fear, overwhelming financial concerns, anxiety or one of any number of things. Because of that experience, they’re sitting alongside the road, unwilling to engage anyone. They don’t know what to say or how to start the conversation or maybe they just can’t. We are rushing by them or being rushed by and miss the blessing of pausing to stop, listen, listen some more, speak slowly, feel and understand what they need to say. Does anyone care?  I do. I care about you. If you feel you’re being rushed by or ignored by the masses, let me know, email, send a text message. If you call, all I’ll do is listen since no words are coming out; and I may even doze off. Or if you’re typically rushing around like I am, maybe you should take some time to ask God to open your eyes to the moments when you should stop, sit down, ask a question and listen – really listen – to the answer. Not to solve all the world’s problems, but listen to demonstrate you care.

Plus, if you take time to listen, you just may become the better for it. Proverbs 19:20 says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.”

I know you’re wondering, what did the French call someone who walked in a relaxed manner with their pet turtle? They were called flaneur. Thank you Mary Alice Morrissey for making me learn this word 25 years ago in English class. And now you know something with which you can amaze your friends.

The Unexamined Life and All,

Posted: March 23, 2011 
Filed under: Grandparents, Humor, Jeff, Pictures, Spiritual
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