Wednesday, September 26, 2012

An Apprentice and His Master

“A box, inside of a box which is inside yet another box”, he explained to me with a dispassionate stare.  He made no broad gestures with his arms, no sweeping movement of his head, not even a raised eyebrow came with his discussion.  He wasn’t about to whip himself into a Pentecostal fury nor was he going to deliver his case with the conviction of a Southern Baptist preacher.  He simply stated the undeniable truth about his organization’s place within the overall structure.  He was both powerless and unwilling to change “the natural order of things”, and while he knew he was important he also knew he not essential.

These last few months have had me thinking about his cold commentary, his “box-in-a box” metaphor and his admission of importance minus the component of essentiality.  Sherry and I have no doubt of our importance in Bethany’s life nor do we question the importance of hers in ours.  What we wonder about is the “essential” part of the equation; Her life seems to far outpace ours in essential impact.  Bethany is the small spark that seems to generate huge fires in the world around her.  Sometimes, she proves a lightning bolt, other times she’s more a result of instantaneous combustion and in both cases the downstream fire is both catastrophic and essential.  She manages to burn out all of the “dead wood” in the lives of those she comes into contact with.

She no doubt had an impact on the old lady that she’d slammed up against the glass wall in the mall.  She surely had an affect on the cop who thought I was kidnapping her during a meltdown on a public sidewalk one day (he even got out of the car to see what was going on)!  She’s had an amazing impact on the hospital staff where we do our all too routine “exams under anesthesia”.  They keep her picture hanging on the wall in the nurse’s station and I assume its because they somehow love her beyond casual explanation?  It could be because we’ve impacted the way they administer anesthesia to combative patients or it could be simply because her particular cluster of ailments have allowed us the distinction of being “silver patrons” for the finance arm of the hospital.  Whatever the reason, they’ve felt the warmth of her little glow.

She’s the essential component in all these interactions; we simply play a supporting, yet important role.  She carries no pride in that lead role, doesn’t ask for special treatment, requires nothing from us beyond simply finding, feeding, and fixing things that have gone awry in her world.  Her particular “box” is one that defies logical placement within the other stacks of boxes.  She’s the Matryoshka doll that happens to have so much decorative fuzz that it defies being “nested” like the balance of nesting dolls do.  She’s the box that doesn’t easily fit within all the other boxes.  This is her gift to us, her testament to a far more grand design in which wisdom is foolishness and foolishness is wisdom.

Her positive through negative influence was felt when she pushed a small child backwards and down onto his rump.  The parent stood screaming at me on a city street about God only knows what.  All I recall is his face in mine, the color of red, a good deal of screaming and much frantic arm waving as if I’d intentionally had Bethany strike out at his child.  It came so fast that it was done before I realized it was happening; the star in the drama was acting “in the moment” and I was left to deal with the consequences.  I’ve learned it best to simply look away, gather up Bethany and move on – I’ve tried explanation; I’ve tried “sorry’s”, I’ve even tried simply smiling and moving on only to find that none of these approaches assuage the anger of the parent.  The kids are usually fine given that they’re clad in 12 layers of clothing and diapers; my only interest was to get Bethany away from his screams.  No one deserves to hear those words, even if as words they carry no understandable meaning. 

So, where does the positive come from then?  It came through the old couple standing 20’ behind all this, quietly watching the whole scene unfold.  It came with her gentle admonition, offered as I scurried to get away from the upset parent.  “I can see what happened”, she said as she looked at Bethany with a deep and immediate understanding.  “That little boy was fine and that man had no right to say what he did”.  Then she went on to look me in the eye and say “God bless you and this child”.  Five seconds of conversation.  In less than 15 total seconds, Bethany had somehow managed to both change and affirm three lifetimes worth of experience. 185 years of combined learning, all touched and rekindled by the spark of Bethany.

Her touch in the lives of people is essential and the beauty of it is, you’ll never know why – you just know it is. Technically, she’s a “burden on society”.  She produces no tangible goods, produces no economic impetus (other than for the hospital), hence she’s what’s known Biblically as “the least of these” in our society.  She’s a challenge for those who work with her, an anomaly for those who medically define her, and a royal pain-in-the-ass for school administrators.  She defies a clear categorization and is a career-wrecker for those who feel gifted and directed to move into areas of social work, education, and therapy.  She destroys their hopes because she defies all the expectations we’ve devised to sort out “right and wrong, up and down, fair and unfair”.  She burns our best developed plans with induction-furnace force, leaving a clean split of molten matter on the bottom and the slag of confused dreams and plans floating in a useless mass on the top.  She refines us, and we hate her for it.   Yet she still smiles, taps her teeth with a plastic toy in her right hand while reaching over for a good, hard pinch of someone’s boobs with her left.  Bethany was essential in life – we, merely the enablers. 

As enablers though, we have the experience of being important not unlike renaissance art apprentices, working under the master.  The apprentices were given the opportunity to see the intricacies of how the master worked.  The master didn’t explain anything, they just “did”.  The apprentices learned by watching, by trying, by failing.  As apprentices, Sherry and I fail frequently.  We’ve been watching for the better part of 15 years, as did apprentices.  They watched the master, how [he] lived, how he thought, how he dealt with anger, confusion, joy.  They watched how he landed new business; they saw how he was regarded, whom he loved and whom he despised.  They watched and learned a language that has a value greater than gold.  We too keep watching and keep trying and in some ways, I think we’re on the verge of becoming masters, like Bethany is.  We’re tired, nearly broken but now have the eyes of a master and if we can hang on a bit longer I believe that the master will release us – move us from important to essential in the lives of those around us.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Suffocating Weight of a Starry Night

Stepping out onto the side porch, I can’t help but notice the billions of clearly defined stars in the midnight sky; so rich and vast they are that the visual weight of it nearly suffocates me.  The clouds cleared out and it looks like it may frost after all, this causes my heart to sink a little as I didn’t take time to cover the flowers.  An early season frost will clip my hopes of a beautiful fall array and while I’ll miss that glorious requiem, I find that deep in my heart, I little care.  I have no time to feel sorry for flowers; I’ve bigger things at hand and all those stars served to do was to remind me of how little in control I really am. Perhaps that’s what really was suffocating me.

It wasn’t until I noticed the breath vapor beginning to fog my view that I decided not to walk out into the yard for a broader view; between the cold of the night and the sudden realization that I’m in only my underwear - I simply dump the diapers into the pail and head back indoors.  I no longer care about the flowers, the frost, nor the magnitude of the view I just witnessed; I’m more troubled by another night of inexplicable manic behavior. 

It has the makings of yet another all-nighter and again we’re both at the breaking point.  This time our anger is more unguarded more focused and dangerously aimed at each other.  What started at 10 pm as a typical hollering up the stairs to “be quiet” has become a fearful melee of cuss words, threats and moments where I fear a dark deed of aggression is happening.  The taunts from Bethany are a little to direct, our responses are a little too violent for comfort, the fear of “crossing some bizarre line” flashes into my conscience.  Listening to it all on the downstairs monitor makes me feel a little like a radio listener to the original 1930’s, H.G. Wells’ presentation of “War of the Worlds”.  It’s too real, too convincing and for a moment, I forget that it’s not a radio show; it’s really happening.

She laughed the fist time I yelled up the stairs at her; you’d think it a long-standing joke between us.  The words of my grandmother floated through my head just then, Frances, being the mother of 10 farm-raised kids knew trouble and had the ability to call it out with accurate terms.  Bethany was being in her vernacular, a “little shit-ass”.  Now, a few hours later, the warm humor of that phrase has evaporated like the frosty breath before me did outdoors.  The radio show on the monitor has me numb with fear, “is it real”?

I barely recognize my wife’s voice on the monitor and its clear to me that she’s suffering from a type of deep-tiredness; the type that comes from a decade and a half of unimaginably small and unendingly constant, bombardment of things that have no answer, no logic and no end.  Like the stars I looked at in the frosty sky, no one dot is the specific problem – together they all make one suffocatingly oppressive weight.  In her tired and broken state, I don’t even recognize her; I simply listen and grow increasingly numb with disbelief.  I don’t know what to do; don’t know how to do it – so instead, I sit there numb and dumbfounded like a deer in the headlights.  I’ve gone up there in the past, did the “husband in control” thing, hoping to give her some sense of security an in the process cause myself to believe that I could make it all better and show her my love by doing so.  That too ends up an epic failure; I don’t know what to do and end up showing that I’m not in control.

She comes back down the stairs and crawls into a dark bed in a dark room, I can feel it shake as she silently cries in a hopeless, downward spiral.  I can feel her falling and can do little more than offer her my hand.  I can’t stop the fall; and while I can dry the tears I have little power to hold her together.  I lay there as she cries that deep-tired cry, listen to Bethany as she screams upstairs, I think about the number of stars in the sky and the number of tears we’ve shed in this effort.  The weight of it all is suffocating the both of us and no one on this earth seems able to stop our downward spiral.

The “evening wolves” of doubt and fear are circling Sherry, Bethany and myself again.  They glare at us with hungry eyes and taunt us with the soft, logical question of “where is your God now”?  They long to devour us, and we like sheep feel powerless in defense.  As a man, I must openly admit that I am powerless.  I can’t fix Bethany, I can’t reach Sherry, and I certainly can’t help myself.  I need appeal to a greater father, a more caring husband, and a more perfect physician to cure those ills, mend those hearts and display that love.  My prayer is that the rest we so desperately need will also come from that source, that His plan will include mercy and compassion for my wife and I as we struggle to hold together what we can.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Stranger than Chicken Salad

He smiled and looked around the room, clearly he wasn't one of the locals.  He was related to no one, had only seen one of us before today, had no roots in this area and yet he was one of us just like the rest of us. 

He started his story with a laugh and a tear.  The tear came before the laugh I’m sure, but I didn’t know that till after he’d spoken.  He was at the age where you typically give more advice on living than you get yet somehow his life had to go through a dark night before that privilege was truly his.  In those later years of his life, he explained, there was a failed marriage still to come.  There was confusion and estrangement still to come.

When they came he dealt with them like any of us might.  The pain and depression of all this collapse gets coped with though anti-depressants, rightfully administered.  Then more, still rightfully administered, then the ones from friends that were thoughtfully administered.  Later still came the personally administered combination of those drugs followed by the blending of those personally administered medications with the professionally served alcohol.  By this time the pain in his life was strong enough that a mild ignoring of the warning labels on both of those thoughtfully, professionally and rightfully administered inhibitors was by choice, by accident and in some ways by design.

He spoke of the point where the numbing combinations no longer proved of any value and how as that value diminished, so diminished his hope for reconciliation.  He’d always been in control, in fact both of his parents were dead by the time he was 10 years old so taking matters into your own hands was (I believe) his life long legacy.  By this time however, his own hands had failed him.  There was nothing left.

He said that in his despair, he decided to head off to the mountains; to take a walk that would allow him to either sort things out or resolve the entire issue once and for all – a walk that in some ways was probably more like the ancient Inuit ritual of heading off to the ice flow.  It wasn’t a conscious decision to end his life, more of a convenient result of his decision.  Were he to conveniently fall off the mountain, die of exposure, or in some way be victim to a force greater than he; so be it.  He explained that he was gifted in playing the role of the victim, so much so that he had even convinced himself so were he to perish that too would make him a victim.

He threw some of his hiking gear into his truck, tossed in a can of beef stew and can of Spam (both items that emotionally pulled him back to his childhood) and headed to the trailhead.  He said it would take him a few days to get from there to a town, should he make it that far.  It’s interesting to note that the reason he said, “if he made it that far” was based on his decision to give everything up.  He gave up the pills, gave up the booze, gave up water, gave up eating, gave up everything not the least of which was hope.  So, he walked. 

When he finally decided to eat he came to the quick realization that a can of anything requires a can opener.  He had given up everything and was now hungry emotionally, physically, socially.  He was at that point where some strange line is crossed, a line that defies explanation.  Medical science will tell you it’s the combined effect of dehydration; a time at which at the level of the cell, the moisture has been reduced to the point where the body can no longer sustain normal function and all energy goes back to preserving the “core”.  Brain function, vital organs, the real essential portion of our bodies – the portion that gets things done; those were all failing.  Some of the medications he gave up were specially designed to support exactly those functions.  Blood pressure medications, heart medications, even something as elemental as sun block were all gone – all abandoned and in their places were two cans of food which he was helpless to open.  His body was clinically in danger of catastrophic failure.

The other science though, the one that’s not really a science at all but carries even more influence was being affected, but in far more positive way.  The science surrounding his spirit was in the process of re-engagement, of actually being rekindled.  That science relies on catastrophic failure of the physical body as the fundamental building block of success.  That science is the science of God.  Power is displayed through weakness and success is identified through failure, the poor are rich and the rich are poor.  My new friend was now learning that fundamental “God” science thing that says, “its not until you’re completely broken and useless, that I will do great things through you”.

After some time of wandering in a rapidly disintegrating state, he stumbled upon a campground parking lot.  30 years ago while walking the Appalachian Trail I learned all about campground parking lots and what I called the “hungry hiker” look.  You learn how to slide up next to a tourist and play the role of the victim.  How you talk, how you strike up a conversation about anything that interests them.  Their cute little dog (that for all intensive purposes looks more tasty than cute), their awesome choice of campgrounds, the marvelous smell of coffee, even their shoes.  Anything that gets them talking about themselves while highlighting your great taste in their great taste.  Pretty soon they trust you, then they like you, THEN they feed you.  Its not uncommon to do this 5 or 6 times a day, till in a gorged state with fried chicken grease running down to your elbows, you slink off into the woods to continue the journey northwards.  My new friend was no different.  He met a man, who would not only feed him but also feed him with food he’d seen but never tasted.

The one man in this room full of strangers that was not a stranger to my new friend was the man who had offered him a chicken sandwich.  He was the camper with the cute dog, the choice campsite, and the marvelous taste in campgrounds.  And through the process of building trust, aimed at feeding the stomach – he told his story.  He spoke of his misfortunes, he spoke of his substance abuse, he spoke in a watershed moment that was a combination of catharsis and confession.  It was an odd blending of victim and victor, of ending and beginning.  His time in the wilderness both physically and spiritually were being directed towards a compassionate ear, which having heard the story of the can-with-no-can-opener, knew that this man needed more than a chicken sandwich.  He needed the Lord.

Its always funny to me when I hear of these intricate stories of how the Holy Spirit moves lives in criss-crossing patterns that we tend to call “fate”, or “luck”, or “serendipity”.  That criss-crossing was no accident and it literally saved that man’s life in multiple dimensions.  He went on to check himself into the hospital rather than die a victim in the mountains.  He chose to accept the Bible that the man with the chicken sandwich felt so moved to go and leave in the hiker’s truck.  He chose to accept the food that the camper offered his spirit: “have you thought about asking the Lord into your heart”? A bold and crazy question that was asked in perfect sincerity.  A question that in today's world only a fool would ask.  A question that was perfectly timed, perfectly appropriate and perfectly balanced to change what was a death-spiral into a thing of beauty.

 A funny thing about the physical diminishing of cellular structure in the human body; it induces activity from other systems; one is the nervous system the other is known as the limbic system.  Within those systems of action-reaction type physiological activity, those drying and damaged cells send a message to the thalamus, which then lets you know that you hurt.  Your legs feel pain, your hips hurt, you knee swells, and your stomach and head are on fire.  All of these signals mean something; physiologically they mean you’re on the road to dying. Spiritually, they mean you may be on the road to healing.  My new friend was on the road to healing and that obscene question was the starting point.  He accepted Jesus in a way that made Him not only tangible but also essential, he learned that not until you’re broken are you healed.   

He spoke of standing up after the prayer of acceptance, he spoke of standing and feeling no pain – it simply no longer “was”.  The demons were vexed but not gone, they were now to be challenged by hope.  His story on this morning gave me hope; it gave me the realization that meeting him was no accident, no convenient fate, no serendipitous and lucky collision.  His being there at that point, sitting next to me was fully intentional and it scared me to death.

His discussion of his victim’s walk “into the wild” resonated in my soul with an alarming clarity.  How many times this week had I hoped for a personal, convenient victimization?  A quick snap-of-the-neck in a tragic accident?  Perhaps a speedy death from some bizarre aneurism while swimming and I’d be free of the pain and grind of watching Bethany as she seems to decline, from watching Sherry slowly die from the stress-with-little-relief of her life?  I had even gone so far as to wear my ID bracelet on my wrist as I got into the pool so that they could identify the body quicker (not much space for a driver’s license in a Speedo!).  His story was my story; the alcohol, the pills, the pain, add with it the stress we feel as a couple and his story is indeed, all ours.

At the end of our time together, we all had the chance to pray over this newfound friend.  We prayed just as the guys had done for me only weeks earlier and the blessing that came from that then, carried the power to sustain me through my trials.  The blessing now was being extended to another and now I was laying hands on him, praying on his behalf, praying that “evening wolves” of doubt, fear, temptation and confusion, (all hungry after an unproductive day and desperately hunting before nightfall), be sent off in the name of a loving God thus enabling this man to continue growing. 

He healed my new friend and made rich, productive use of his completely broken life.  Through that brokenness, his story reminded me of the celebration of brokenness that I live within.   That I being broken, living with broken, and having a compassionate ear for broken - have a special hope that great things will be done (through all that brokenness), to His glory! 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Why Don't You Listen to Me!

Why don’t you listen to me!  I have such a small vocabulary; the least you could do is listen closely!  I don’t know your words, and you pour them out so fast that they sound like running water in my brain.  They carry no meaning, they offer me little hope and they don’t help me get what I need.  All I want is my backpack.

I’ve said it so many times, but can’t count and I don’t understand time, but I do know that I can’t sleep unless I’m complete and you’re not listening; all I want is my backpack!  I said it going up the stairs, I said it over the bedroom door, I yelled it but you got mad and then you got angry with me.  I don’t know why I thought it was funny, but it was; and it was sad because in your anger, you refused to listen to me; all I want is my backpack.

I changed my clothes because that’s what 16-year-old girls do.  I do it because it’s the only choice I have in this life of mine.  You seem to question me on everything and I can’t even understand what you’ve asked before you’re on to the next question.  It frustrates me so I just ignore you – it doesn’t mean I’m stupid; it just means we’re not speaking the same language.  I still need my backpack.  I gave up in the pants choice, I found ones I liked and I thought I could switch them on my own while you went up the stairs (talking as usual) but I don’t understand how they work.  I like these ones, the smell, the feel, and the weight.  How was I to know it was a vest?  Why did you scream at me about it anyway?

I lay down in the bed because I was confused and I feared I wouldn’t be complete.  The nights are bad enough for me, hazed in the drugs you give me and in my dreams, I have no voice, no ability to run, no one to comfort me.  I don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong and even worse, the language is all wrong!  The stress I feel is unimaginable for in your world, you control everything.  In my world, everything controls me so the best I can do is stand up and smash against the wall, kick down on the floor, or at the very least hit myself till I feel no pain; only the coolness of the cut or the numbness of the bruise.  That’s all I control and it makes me sad.  I just want my backpack.

When you came back up the stairs and turned the bedroom light on, I was on the floor, flat on my back and you laughed at me.  I don’t know what you said but it was in that tone of voice that makes me feel like a baby.  I’m sixteen and I’m angry and you’re not listening.  The light was so sudden but it was sparkly in my eye and I like that so I laughed.  Then you opened the door and said something and left - and honestly that made me mad too, not because you opened the door but because it was your idea, on your terms and because it probably was done to make you feel good. Yes, I hurt your thumb and had I known that twisting it like that would get your attention I’d have twisted harder.  Next time I’ll break it cuz’ I’m that mad.

I wanted food when I came down. I’m sixteen for Pete’s sake! I need food and you have all the cabinets and the refrigerator locked and the medicines you give me make me so hungry.  I’m happy when I eat, why would you deny me that single joy?  I want mom, she listens most of the time.  She cries a lot and I don’t’ like it but she listens to me when I try to wipe the tears away.  I have a hard time finding her eyes but I can feel the wetness on her cheeks and it confuses me.  When I came down the stairs you were sitting on the sofa and all I wanted was mom, I was so mad that I ran out the door.  I was sure mom would be there but as the door slammed shut behind me I saw no light.  I forgot about mom and I felt the wetness on my face and head.  My feet were cold and wet and I didn’t know what to do or why I’d do it so I stood there is the dark silence.  Why did you grab me like that?  Then you laughed and changed my socks.  You put dry ones on my feet but I hate them; I hate the ones that fit below my ankles – they don’t make me complete so I peeled them off as quickly as possible and tried to say my words but you weren’t listening.  You chose different ones for me and I’ve grown tired of the struggle.  I let you put them on me.

When mom comes home, she’ll understand what I need, she and Miss Kim are pretty good with that but you don’t get it.  I like riding in the red car and you keep trying to put me in the green one.  I like the rumble of the red one.  I like the seats but again, you don’t listen.

One day, I’ll be the one talking and you’ll have to listen to me.  I’ll explain to you in my language what this all means and you’ll be subject to my terms, my wants, and my needs.  When that day comes, you’ll be the one running out in the rain looking for mom to translate your needs to me because maybe, just maybe, I’m smarter than you, you know why?

Because I’m listening!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Obsessive Compulsion and the Notion of Sleep

It starts with a nearly inaudible whimper that sounds faintly like “nu-nih”.  “Are you ready for night-night B?” I ask her.  She may repeat the plea “nu-nih” or she may just burst out in laughter and go back to tapping the plastic toy against her upper lip.  Sometimes she just stands there with a blank stare and an emotionless expression on her face, and other times she simply makes a high pitched squeal which forces you to ask the question again; "are you ready for night-night"?

Here begins the nightly dance that could take 10 minutes but more likely will take the entirety of the evening, even into the early morning hours.  We get her ready for the night; upgrade her brief to include multiple layers of absorbency; prepare the proper layers that comfort her obsessive-compulsive tendencies, brush her teeth and pray things go smoothly.

In preparation for bedtime, she layers herself like the flaky crust of a baklava starting with a camisole.  Not just any camisole, one that smells just right.  It may come from the folded laundry in the basket, it may come from the dresser drawer, it frequently comes from dirty clothes hamper and is always given clear approval by a toothy smile that makes her eyes disappear.  Once the camisole is in place, the same process is followed for the pink tee shirt.  Not blue, not green, pink.  Occasionally she shakes it up a bit by requiring two tee shirts, no reason that we can see  - she just requires “deep pink” and the only way you can get deep pink is by adding layers. 

Next comes the denim vest with the cut-off sleeves. Originally she had a special therapy vest that was designed with 20 lbs of weight, velcroed into the lining of the vest.  The intent is that the weight gives a sense of gravity to the child, calming them is some mysterious way.  I always thought it just made her stronger, like carrying 30lb barbells around all day long so that after a year or so you end up with a set of biceps that even a pro wrestler would covet.  We ditched the weights, in part because is was summer and the weights just made it hotter for her, in part because her voracious appetite has caused that vest to grow tight.  The same issue surrounding the camisole and tee shirt follows the vest even though we wisely accumulated three nearly identical vests, she can sniff out the preferred one.  Vest secured with all buttons engaged, we can move on to the harness.

I’m not sure at point she decided that she needed to wear her four-point, webbed bus harness but once it was deemed essential, no amount of logic could sway that.  I’ve had nights where at 10:30pm I’ve loaded her in the car and drove to Sherry’s work to retrieve the vest that was accidentally left in her car.  The harness, secured over the denim vest, over the deep pink tee shirt collection, which is over the camisole…is followed by the backwards-applied backpack. 

The backpack is not just a backpack; it’s a backpack with a lunch bag, a notebook with a specific weight of paper in it and freezer pack from the refrigerator.  The notebook has to be arranged so that the hinge is situated to her left, the opening to her right.  It must be settled upright in the base of the bag.  If it’s not perfect you’ll spend the next hour zipping and unzipping the array of zippers.  Nothing will change but she’ll sense that it is… You’re captive and you can't "pull a fast one" on her as the backpack is worn backwards, on her chest.  She watches your every move.

If these items are correct in her mind and if you were fortunate enough to have the selected the correct pair of shorts on her now “double-bagged” bottom, you may proceed to the bed-socks.  Ankle height – only.

You find the array of hand held artifacts that she needs, things like the thick waxed paper that is tied in a knot in the middle, the crocheted dishrag (which she insisted one night that I cut in half).  The remaining torn quarter of a Nerf ball, ripped with her teeth during a fit of rage is the final obsessive accessory that gets positioned.  With all these particular and peculiar items in place – it’s not uncommon for her to now change her mind about the whole affair.  False alarm.

Like an old dog, searching around the kitchen before turning a specific number of circles on the bed before finally plopping down with a disgusted groan, so Bethany follows her routine.  I don’t know why she does it, how she gains comfort from it, or if she does it only to dive us insane with her never-ending combinations of obsessive priority.  Even should you be lucky enough to get her all aligned and in bed – it’s not uncommon to have her crash around screaming and laughing.  The screaming usually indicates that she’s mad.  The laughing usually indicates that she’s now naked, her room peppered with wet synthetic pellicles of impossible to pick up matter that was once known as a diaper.  We typically double up the diaper at night; this means you now have two diapers worth of matter to reclaim.

The clothes, so carefully chosen an applied - now lay in the hallway and down the stairs.  She throws them over the half-height “Dutch door” with the zeal of a discus thrower and the laugh coming from the dark is both devious and delightful.  Reaching over to turn the light on and seeing the full fury of the mess I need to clean, I can’t help but love her more.  Honestly, I want to strangle her with the bus harness that is still half-draped over her bare stomach with the camisole somehow twisted around it in a knot.  That devilish, 16 year-old Korean smile that causes her big, round cheeks to momentarily displace her eyes is the second thing I see on a disheveled girl standing there naked in a room full of exploded diaper. 

One day I’ll cry when this is all but a memory.  One day, I’ll hear the Lord tell me “I did well” in spite of myself and he’ll tell me how He kept me from strangling her one night with a bus harness after she’d made a mess (the zipper was jammed).  One day, the upstairs will be silent, the house, empty and proper.  One day, my special purpose will be fulfilled and I’ll be released from this responsibility and all these tears of frustrated exhaustion will be replaced with tears of lonely memory.  Hearing her snore deeply up stairs, I’m relaxed and a bit numb, thinking of what I should be doing while she sleeps, yet I do nothing.  I’m as deep tired as she is clad in deep pink.  I relax a bit knowing that for for the moment I’m safe. The 6 - 10 trips up and down the stairs with her to confirm that lights are off, certain doors are shut and others are open, and everything in-between is "just so", finally yielded a level of content that would allow her to sleep.  I pause and listen to the ticking of the old mantle clock, praying that she stays sleeping through the night.  As I pray for a deep sleep for her, I hardly notice the state I'm in and while I form the words of intercession in my mind, slowly, gently, peacefully, I fall asleep.