The Hippie of the Long Gray Hair

On my way into the store for dog food and sour cream I stopped and took in the last call of the sun. You know, when the magnifying glass of the horizon burnishes the great circle before it drops below the surface. A man was trying to capture the image with his phone a few spaces over. Futile. I thought of Elton John.

“Don’t let the sun go down on me.”

Isn’t it funny how the greatest metaphors are so easily dismissed, or just missed? Lately, when the sun is a bit weary and heads under the covers, I think of my sister Ellen (The oldest hippie I know.). She sundowns every evening. Jack, her husband, texts me updates a few times a day. More like downdates after supper. Sundowning is a term attached to people with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Sundowning turns my sister from forgetful half sentences (Of which no two fragmental sentences cohere.) to an obstinate curmudgeon. Curmudgeoness?

When dementia began defacing Ellen’s brain at a more rapid pace earlier this year, it was time to get more help.

“Help! I need somebody! Help! Not just anybody!”

Her kids, my siblings, gave Jack some respite. Needless to say it’s a lotta work to manage a person who can no longer manage. Applause and thanks go out to all!

So, I found myself in the same living room that held my mother sitting in a lazy boy wondering who I was. It’s been almost ten years ago. The other day I stopped by to visit Ellen and sat across from her on the same couch. She says I’m still her boy. I’ll put that in my pocket!

Don’t cry Mare, this was your idea!

The crazy thing about this dementia is the teeter-totter aspect of it. Like my other sister (Mare) said it’s like Ellen doesn’t just become like a little child. In fact, as I’ve observed, a stutter step of doing life took over. Stubborn and snarky. Frustrated and fun. Up, then down. Jack texts me often…”She’s back!” As we come and go, she doesn’t know if she’s coming or going.

“I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello.”

Ellen, the hippie of the long gray hair. Those who love her pluck the petals of she loves me, she loves me not. Mostly, Jack wonders what petal is it today, this hour, this moment?

“Love, love me do. You know I love you.”

For now, we who know Ellen hold on to her memory for her. I’ll remember for her the time I jumped on her like a flying squirrel after a long absence. I was just a kid, but the memory is as fresh as dew. Like I said somewhere else, round and round her memory goes, but this time it spins out of control. The centrifugal force peels her fingers off the stories which once were milestones of her identity. We do what we can but still feel…

“helpless, helpless, helpless, helpless.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m still calling her Ellen, we all are, for good reason. Her spirit, soul, and body are still spouting her humanity. It’s her mind that has wandered off because her brain keeps misfiring. C.S. Lewis once stated “We don’t have a soul. We are a soul. We happen to have a body.” I wonder if God sent most of her mind on ahead to scope out heaven and left little half thoughts with us to try to decipher. Easy there Jer.

“It’s a long and winding road to your heart.”

The other day I walked in, grabbed the reaching tool thingy, you know, the one with the trigger you pull, and on the other end it clasps things you can’t get at. Anyway, Ellen was wearing her winter hat with the ball on top. She kinda looked like a cone-head. I grabbed the ball with the tool and lifted up the hat to check under the hood as it were. She smiled. I smiled back. Such a simple thing. Showing teeth. Curling the mouth. Revealing dimples. I’m sure Jack would tell you it’s the little things that hot-wire hope in the midst of hopelessness. Small gifts.

“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, life goes on, Bra.”

I don’t know what a bra has to do with it, but life is going on, even in the small significant world of Ellen and Jack and attendants. I believe a Big God sees what’s going on there. Ever present, maybe a bit more present when worship music fills their little living room. God isn’t watching from a distance.

Back to the sundown metaphor and how it reminds me of Ellen. How about this? The sun can’t set without getting up there first. Up. Down. Just like the hippie of the long gray hair. Life.

Sure,

“Yesterday, all my troubles seem so far away.”

But,

“Here comes the sun, do and do do.”

This has become a song that reminds me of Jack and Ellen

Up There

Maneuvered by metaphor,

sashayed with clichés,

I looked up and it was still there,

that sun pasted between

a cobalt wall

with translucent clouds

brushing in the fore.

A golden pill hung

before I ever was

and hanging still

when my blip bleeps its last.

I relish every age spot

given by its graces,

and return its due

respect after

tender shoulders

absorb aloe vera.

A light by which

I see.

A warmth by which

I feel.

A presence by which

I love.

The Heights of Humility

Recently, I went to the mountains in Colorado. The camp was nestled at 8600ft. It took my breath away in all respects. Such grandeur. The day before I returned to Michigan, a group of us decided to go to the crosses another 1500 feet up. Three crosses mounted on a bluff of the mountain begged attention. I thought of what I might say when and if I got there. “I’m the king of the world!” De’Caprio

Well, after taking many breaks to catch my breath I reached the desired summit. My my my… How I was humbled. Words were few and I felt adequately small. This was a holy moment, and I felt a bit more whole. There is something, someone way bigger than me, and it was okay.

It was as if God was saying, “I got you. I Am mysterious and majestic, and I see you.”

This was more than a bucket list check-mark. This was transformation. Such mercy and grace. I felt much of my abandonment issues melt away.

As I looked at the three crosses I thanked God for putting skin in the game.

Monday Muse 2020

First Monday. We’re alive. I’m writing and you’re reading. Grace has lifted us once again. How shall we respond?

I write. It’s a compulsion. Sometimes words illumine a way out of a thought jungle. Worry; the great canopy of blocking the light of day. Vines, creepy-crawlies, and unknown sounds and furies. I gotta admit, and I have, that the older I get, the more I am prone to worry. Anxiety strangles the heart, mine at least.

The heart is the matter. What’s the matter with my heart? That question’s been dogging me for quite some time now. So, on the first Monday of this decade I broke out my bible app and entered ‘heart’ in the search box. The verses pertaining to the heart are many, and the conclusion is God cares about hearts. More than ‘likes’ on social media. More than the 24 hour news cycle. More than information and opinions and bowl games. If you have a bible app, look for yourself.

Listen to these verses with your heart…

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

Philippians 4:6 and 7 The  Message.

What is the center of our humanness? Our hearts of course! God’s desire is for our hearts to be wide open with Him. This doesn’t come naturally to me. Often I get flamboozled into thinking I can’t trust God with my heart. The realization hits only after I’ve stonewalled God, and am deep into self-protection mode. Think of the reasoning in that! I need to protect myself from God? If there’s a need for protection then I might as well join AA (Atheists Anonymous). I’ve said before ‘If God isn’t good, what good is God?’

Make no mistake, if the verse says fret not, God knows our tendencies. God knows where our hiding places are and He is perfect at hide and seek. Once God even sent Jesus to look for us.

This I pray:

That our hearts will be flung open to the goodness of God. That like water to wine, worry will turn into praise because of Jesus, our only hope. Amen

God Is

I’m a bit lost.

Nothing new.

Walker Percy gets it. (Lost in the Cosmos)

It’s not that I don’t know where I’m going.

I see where I’ve been too.

Forth and back.

It’s the momentary.

The present places shift around.

Shift happens I suppose.

Here is there a lot of the time.

Neil Diamond sung about

Being neither here nor there…

“I am, I said, and no one heard,

Not even a chair.”

God’s Name isn’t ‘I Was’.

God’s Name isn’t ‘I’m going to be’.

God’s name is ‘I Am’.

Actually ‘I Am that I Am’.

This echo reached all the way to me.

Here. Now. Thank God.

Statements

The straightest point between

Two lines a short distance.

 

The scenic route is

Lined with roses.

 

All roads lead to

Roaming.

 

The unimpeded stream

Is speechless.

 

A waist is a terrible

Thing to mind.

 

Many proofs are

At the end of the day.

 

Love conquers all,

But often woos.

 

If I beg for mercy,

Grace is thrown in.

 

Thankfulness is one

Root of goodness.

 

A gift received,

A gift given…that’s life.

 

The fear of the Lord

Is the beginning of wisdom.