It was the first Sunday of September when Mariah and I decided to visit a small church located at the end of our road. For several months we had been unable to attend the church we had been attending since Mariah was 5 years old. The church is located about 30 minutes from our home and due to limited funds, and physical limitations on my part, it was time to decide. We either needed to find a church that was closer, or stop attending all together. To be honest, I am not a die-hard, every time the doors are open kind of attendee. I enjoy Sunday mornings, and sometimes Sunday night, but that is about it mainly because of my physical limitations. I have a rather bad case of rheumatoid arthritis and degenerative disk disease in my back and it tends to limit my “away from home” activities.
We were welcomed with open arms that Sunday morning, and that was nice, but what really caught my attention was when the singing began. I went back in time, back to a time when life had joy and innocence, and no physical pain.
It was 1965. We lived in Bandon, Oregon. The church we attended, Bandon Community Church, had no permanent structure. We met south of town at the Dew Valley Clubhouse.
The Dew Valley Clubhouse, which is still standing and being used to this day, is a building with incredible character. At that time it had the old asbestos square green tiles. Dark paneling, or in select areas, dark wanes coat on the bottom half of the wall, and fluorescent lighting that flickered while one or more of the fixtures hummed.
Our family usually arrived early so dad could start a fire in the old pot belly wood stove. By the time the stove was good and hot, and the chill in the air was gone, other families began arriving and we all helped set up the wooden benches for the Sunday service.
The wooden benches were hard to sit on. There was no padding on the bench, nor were there any back rests. Looking back they were horribly uncomfortable, but at that time no one seemed to mind. After all, we were not there for the benches, but rather for the fellowship.
As a child setting up for the service, and standing by dad as he greeted every one as they came in, was rather boring. The real fun would take place when the song service started. I loved the songs we sang and I loved to sing!
There were no new songs to sing back then, not like today. All of the songs were hymns. Hymns that I love to sing even to this day because they soothe my soul, and due to the escalating pain level in my body, and extenuating life circumstance these days my soul has needed a good soothing. Sometimes life circumstances cannot be personally controlled, manipulated or changed.
You see my dad has been in the hospital, and now he is in a rehab facility. He has had a bad case of pneumonia. No small issue for a man who is 80. Yet even with my dad’s failing health when I look at him I see the man I remember from days gone by. I see a man who has always been larger than life and the strength to back it up. I see the man I knew as a child. Happy to start a fire in a cold building, set up benches for Sunday church and sincerely happy to welcome families as they came into the church building.
As I drove to the coast to visit mom and dad I plugged in my favorite hymn’s cassette tape, yes I know cassette tapes are old school but my pick-up is an old school vehicle. At least I don’t have an 8-track tape!
I listened to the hymns almost the entire way there. As I drove the hour and a half I thought about the last time dad was able to drive to my house.
It was two summers ago. Dad just popped in for a visit one day. We sat in my office and talked about his mom for close to two hours. I heard stories I had not heard before, and thoroughly enjoyed our visit. After our visit, as dad went to step off the landing by my front door onto the deck, he began to cry. I looked at him and asked what was wrong. He looked at me, with tears running down his face, and said,
“I use to be tough as nails. Now look at me. I need help stepping off this damn two-inch step. I am nothing more than a broken down old man.”
He began to weep even more.
I looked at him and tried to reassure him that he was not a broken down old man, but rather my hero and still tough as nails. The tears let up. He grabbed me and gave me a huge hug, while kissing my forehead. It was an action I never expected from my dad. We talked for a few more minutes before he loaded up in his truck and headed home.
I thought about that visit as I drove to the coast to see my parents. My visit with mom and dad went well. Even though dad is still very weak a full recovery is possible.
Watching your parents get older and become weaker is not easy to watch. As the family tries to come together to help mom and dad with this new transition in their lives character is revealed, and you know what has been seen? We are all tough as nails.
I wish I had a nice clean cliché to put at the end of this piece, but I do not. All I can say is
“Quick recovery pops, your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren need you to get well so you can be around for a few more years. Show us how tough you really are.”