#Tales from The Retirement Home
December 29th. This has been a very difficult week for me. And an unbelievably joyous one.
Because of our final divorce agreement, my ex and I have the two weeks of Christmas vacation arranged differently from the rest of the year: regardless of the rest of the rotation, we trade each year as to who gets the children Christmas week and who gets them for New Year’s. Sometimes it coincides with our regular weekly rotation, and sometimes it doesn’t.
This year it doesn’t; I had the week before Christmas AND the week of Christmas, two weeks in a row (so she’ll have two in a row – New Year’s plus the first week after the two-week break) with the needs of my four youngest children foremost in my mind.
The first week was the last week of school for them; normal difficulty levels for me. (I also got to see my three youngest each advance in their karate rankings; we now have two yellow belts and a brown belt in the house.) But from last Friday on, when we started at home all day plus shopping, cooking, wrapping, visiting,…
While my own family is few and far between these days, my new wife has her six grown children with their blossoming families. Besides the two eighteen-year old twin daughters who live with us, there are four boys of varying ages and stages of life. We often see the youngest, 20-year old Trevor, and his girlfriend of five years; they live nearby, and came through four different evenings last week. We only visited with the 22-year old and his new but serious girlfriend via Facetime this week, but for a change the two oldest sons both came through with wives and sons in tow.
Her oldest is a 33-year old chiropractor in southern California, and in 2 1/2 years as a couple I’ve only met him and his wife and seven-year-old son once before this week. Because of circumstances, we were afraid we wouldn’t see them at all this week despite them being at her parents about an hour away, but we got the opportunity to spend most of a day with the three of them yesterday, to our surprise and delight.
And her second son is a cook in Boise, two hours away, and he and his wife have been blessed with a son now just five months old, one my wife has seen many times in Boise but because of my travel restrictions I’d never met. We were fortunate to have them spend more than two full days with us, ending yesterday afternoon.
So, over the last several days, between all the time spent with our combined families and the lack of “down time” I had, there were two different times when I simply fell asleep on everyone. On Thursday, while the entire family had (one of our many) Christmas dinners and game nights, I slept in the living room, having dozed off the moment my pain medicine kicked in, and stayed asleep for five hours or so.
I woke up disoriented and in pain.
It took most of the hour to come back completely into both coherence and capability. I felt embarrassed by my frailty, but as the Holy Spirit guided me through my ponderings, He helped me to understand how my frailty brought out the Glory of God.
You see, by viscerally reminding her (mostly non-believing) children of my physical condition – the TAM, the myopathy that forced me into retirement at 54 and greatly limits what I’m able to do – God was able to remind them that the joy they see in my manner throughout their visit is despite the pain and fatigue I feel, and that joy comes not from without but from Within – the Holy Spirit which lives in me (AND their mother, which is also key), and is something that is within their grasp as well.
So, thank you, Lord, for my frailty. Thank you for my exhaustion. Thank you for giving me the strength to be joyful when I’m awake and alert, and the ability to recognize Your Hand at work when my strength can.