Coffee With Alyssa

If we were having coffee, I would put my hand on your arm and tell you that I’m sorry.

Sorry that we didn’t spend more time together.

Sorry that I didn’t seek you out for a quiet tête-à-tête on Friday or Saturday.

Sorry that I didn’t thank you enough for giving up the concert on the first night so you could watch me eat chicken and corn-on-the-cob (which I didn’t actually eat). Or thank you enough for the beautiful gift you gave me.

I could give you all my excuses — a whole litany of them. Regarding my dad, and my husband, and my kids, and my situation, and a dozen other phrases that begin with “my”.

My litanies do not belong in any liturgy

I used to joke that my spiritual gift was worry. I am really good at it. But I won’t make that joke anymore. It’s not funny.

Worry is a thief. It robs me of the moment I am in.

It robbed me of the sweetest part of the weekend, of being fully present with people I love, people like you.

But this weekend opened my eyes to a deeper meaning of Jesus’ words — “Be not anxious for this life… but seek first his kingdom, and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:24, 33)

I’m a slow learner.

But I’m learning.

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Shimei

When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually. And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. …

Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.” But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David’, who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’… Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing today.” So David and his men went on the road, while Shimei went along on the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went and threw stones at him and flung dust.

And the king, and all the people who were with him, arrived weary at the Jordan. And there he refreshed himself.

 2 Samuel 16:5-6, 9-14 (ESV)

I have my own personal Shimei.

He walks beside me from a safe distance and throws rocks and insults at me. Some hit and hurt; some miss. The whole thing is exhausting.

He struck again the other day, a sucker punch that caught me by surprise. It knocked the wind out of me.

Whenever this happens, my emotions run the gamut of Abishai to … well, I never quite reach David. My friends similarly run the gamut of Abishai to Aaron and Hur, Moses’ companions, the ones who held up his arms.

I had wanted to put Shimei behind me.

I had wanted to reach my Jordan and find safety and refreshment.

I had wanted to focus my energies on my family.

But God, well, He had other plans.

One evening after the latest insult/rock-throwing episode, I went for a walk, griping at God — Can’t You see that I’m trying to do something good here?

Then St. Gregory spoke up (in my devotional book).

The highest, the only proof of love, is to love our adversary.

St. Gregory, quoted in Aquinas: Catena Aurea

It’s easy to love my father.

Of course, any caregiver can tell you that it’s not always easy. Sometimes he argues and is confused and doesn’t believe the things I tell him. But, at the end of the day, when I lay my weary head on my pillow, I love my dad.

Shimei, on the other hand — he’s another story. His words hurt. His stones hurt. His flung dust gets in my eyes and I can’t see.

A while ago, I began praying for my Shimei by name.  Oh, Lord, help me to love this person!

I don’t know what that love looks like because I’m not there yet.

I’m just so tired and longing for the Jordan.

Emergency Room

The giving of thanks maketh entreaty on behalf of the feeble before God.

The Paradise of the Fathers

That was the reading in my devotion book this morning.

I read it over and over and over. My brain was feeling fuzzy. Like it needed the glasses my eyes need to bring things into focus.

Last evening, Dad complained of a headache. I gave him some ibuprofen and that helped. Before bed, he asked for another dose of ibuprofen which I gave him.

Around 11:30, I heard him rattling around downstairs and came down to check on him.

A few nights before he had gotten out of bed in the wee hours of the morning and “couldn’t find anyone.”

“We were all sleeping, Dad,” I told him.

“I suppose so,” he said dubiously. “But it was the darnedest thing. The whole house was quiet. And it was dark. And I couldn’t find my room again. So I slept on the couch.”

In a later telling, he slept on the chair. Couch .. chair.. makes no difference to me. It wasn’t his bed and that bothered me.

So last night I heard him up and came right down.

He was holding his head and grimacing. “This is terrible,” he said, obviously in a great deal of pain.

“I think we need to go to the emergency room,” I told him, and he agreed.

The ER turned out to be a wash. Blood work, CT scan, x-ray all came back with the same answer. Nothing was amiss.

The waves of pain continued. I watched him grimace and grab the rails of the bed as he rode out the pain.

The doctor came in to talk to him about discharge during one of the respites and my father said, “If you just wait a minute, it will happen again.” Like the doctor was going to see something new if he was there during the pain.

“It’s a mystery to me,” the doctor confessed. “I believe you, but I can’t find a medical cause for the pain. I think you need to call your neurosurgeon in the morning.”

My father had recently had neurosurgery. That made sense.

The ER gave him hydrocodone and sent him home.

At 2 AM.

I got him back to bed and went back to bed myself.

But morning — which is my time of day — came around much too quickly and the words of the devotion book didn’t make sense.

“‘The giving of thanks maketh entreaty?’ Are my thanks a prayer?” I asked God.

How can I thank Him for a fruitless midnight visit to the ER?

I tried.

“Thank you, Lord, that I could sit with my father in the Emergency Room last night. Thank you that I could be his eyes and ears (because he had forgotten his glasses and hearing aids). Thank you for the time to study his face while he rested, and that he has his mother’s nose (a strange observation, I know). Thank you that we live so close to the hospital. Thank you for the staff. Thank you for humor and laughter. Thank you for sickness and the opportunity to care for those we love. Thank you for my father, and my husband, and my children…”

And the thanksgiving felt like a floodgate opened.

Did it make entreaty? I don’t know.

But it answered the unspoken prayer of my heart for rest on a weary day.