doctor visit

April 4, 2013

Yesterday found me going to my urologist for an annual checkup. I left the appointment determined that I was going to find another doctor the next time. By the time I got home, I had reconsidered.

Like in my own field, the ministry, we tend to require that our doctors be all things to all of us. We want them to be friendly, helpful, cheerful, competent, positive, assertive, good listeners, and on and on. Since no one yet has become all things to all people, we have to choose the particular competencies that we need and maybe want.

I’ve concluded that this particular doc is one that I would trust to tell me the truth about my condition, and would do all in his ability to treat me should the need arise. Never mind that he is, at times, sarcastic. Never mind that he is not the friendliest doc in the clinic. Never mind that his accent is at times difficult to understand.

I wish he were friendlier, more cheerful, more evidently happy to see me. But he is not those things. What I suspect he is is that he is a highly competent physician and surgeon.

I think I’ll stay with him. I hope that I will need to see him very seldom in the future.


October 29; Crash and Good Memories

October 29, 2012

October 29. My Dad’s birthday. Had he lived to today, he would be 100 years old.

Unfortunately for me, he did not live to see his 90th birthday. Dementia and its attendant barriers weakened his mind and body to the point that he just ran out of energy and the will to live. He took to his nursing home bed and did not rise again.

Dad and I used to make an interesting conversational connection between his natal day and the great Tuesday, October 29, 1929, a major day in the collapse of the American Stock Exchange. As today’s installment of The Writer’s Almanac recounts the day:

On this day in 1929, more than 16 million shares of stock were sold off in a panic in the stock market crash known as “Black Tuesday.” Thirty billion dollars disappeared, 1,300 banks closed within a year, and almost 30 percent of the workforce was unemployed. Within four years, 11,000 of the 25,000 banks in America had failed, and the Great Depression was in full swing.

Not a great birthday for anyone.

He was, on that very day, a senior in Charleston High School in the city of the same name, the capitol of West Virginia. I suspect that he and all his classmates were wondering a similar question. “What will become of us?” Very few, giving their ages and appropriately optimistic outlooks, could have foreseen the domestic sufferings of what was to become the Great Depression.

It was the custom in those days to write a few lines by the classmate’s picture and description of course of study with a few lines. Bob Norcross’ words were these:

“Industrious and frugal; one who has already made a start in the world.”

No question about the industrious frugality. He made stuff and saved some money. That early start in the world became an economic necessity as he was to drop out of his freshman year at the University of Cincinnati to help bring in a paycheck for the struggling family.

Many people have wondered about Bob, beginning with me who called him Dad and his grandchildren who called him Papper to of course his wife (my mother) of over 60 years who often could not figure out what was going through her man’s head.

In spite of his public appearances, Dad was painfully shy, a total introvert. Never mind that he wound up as a lobbyist for the coal industry in his home state of West Virginia, forcing him to meet hundreds of people and say the right thing to each one, and to press the flesh on behalf of an industry that would make any thinking person hesitate. But he was stuck in a job that demanded that kind of work, at least when the state legislature was in session. Imagine if you will the inner conflict of a man who must be a legislative lobbyist who would have given anything in those days to have been home with a good book or out walking a mountain trail.

There is so much of him in me, and I grow more aware of that closeness every day. Like him, I can put on an act when necessary, but doing so wears me out and I must seek solitude to recharge my strength.

I’m sure he was a puzzled by me, his only birth son, as I of him. At some level he wanted me to be a normal, red-blooded, athletic, strong, popular all-American boy. Until age 14 I was a weak runt, perhaps Momma”s boy, afraid of dirt and cold and water, more sick than well. Somewhere at about puberty I got enough of being held down by all that infirmity, and made up my mind to be healthy. Band music was my savior. I’m sure Dad breathed a sigh of relief and thanked his God and lucky stars (both) that I just might turn out ok.

I sure didn’t choose a profession that would have made him proud. I’ve often wondered whether his lack of chosen profession might have put him in a position to live his hoped-for life through me. We never had that conversation, and many others.

I trust that you rest in peace, Dad, and that if there is a life beyond this one, you find happiness and contentment and joy and full acceptance. Perhaps we shall meet again, and if so, oh boy it will be wonderful to see you.

Sports fan?

July 29, 2012

I have never been one to watch sports on tv.

I’ve always had something else to do while Monday Night Football was on. I’ve always thought the World Series to be a drag, slow and boring. I’ve always found something else to do when the Super Bowl was played. New Year’s Day found me taking a long walk in the South and having a big dinner in the North.

So what has happened to me? I am glued to the tv during the London Olympics, beginning with the open ceremony yesterday and continuing today with swimming and volleyball, both court and beach. And I’m loving every minute, allowing for my blessed mute button through the commercials or fast-forwarding when recorded.

Much of it is the international and global flavor of the Olympics. While our congress gets stuck with partisan politics, and conversations about the world economy are just that–talk with no action, the Olympic games represent the best of our youth and younger generation.

I also admire the amateur nature of the participants. These thousands of people who strive to do their best aren’t being paid a penny beyond their expenses.

Guess I’ll have to reevaluate myself. I’m thoroughly enjoying myself, and am willing to admit that my admiration for the young people I see on screen lifts my hope for a global future.

Thank you, participants in the London Olympics. You have gotten me watching you, and I very much like what I see.


Yikes! Just ret…

June 12, 2012

Yikes! Just returned from a lovely cruise through the Baltic capitals plus St. Petersburg. What a wonderful part of the world.

Not so great is the loss of my personal data assistant, sometimes known as a Palm Pilot. I must have left that pocket of my pack unzipped, and the device fell out in an airport lounge or possibly jammed under the little space under the seat in front of me, as directed clearly by the flight attendant.

What a lost feeling! All my life is in that thing! All my appointments, conferences, names, addresses, phones and assorted other things that I MUST KNOW.

Whoa. I’ve in an instant deleted all the people that I don’t have reason to talk to any more because the need has passed. They are gone, and I don’t have that twinge of guilt or regret and removing them.

I can truly start over, and there is something very refreshing about that.

I’ll just have to get a new device and start with a clean slate. Isn’t that what new life is about, anyway?



Religionless faith? Or faithless religion?

April 3, 2012

I hear a lot about those who claim to be spiritual but not religious. Maybe this is an assertion that is especially prevalent in my part of the country. The Pacific Northwest is widely known as an unchurched corner of the country. Apparently more people stay home from church, or never join a church, or state that they grew up as a (whatever) but have exchanged church going for hiking or camping or traveling or sleeping in followed by a tasty brunch.

I do not, however, hear much from those who say that they are big on religion or church but low on spirituality. Maybe the lack of conversation about this option is because it’s seen as unacceptable. It’s all right, even preferable in some circles, to be big on spirit but low on church. How about those who may be big on church, but have questions about the validity of spirituality, especially as popularly defined and understood?

If there is a continuum between high church on the one side and high spirituality on the other, I suspect that I fall on the church side. I love the church’s liturgy (done reverently and well), the church’s fellowship (when graceful and forgiving), and the church’s sacraments that cover life from conception to death and beyond. Many spirituality questions are frankly over my head. It’s like when I’m sitting in a men’s group, and someone reads a poem, and everybody but me goes “hmmmmm.” I (silently) go “huh? What was that all about?”

I’d love a conversation about this.


Plugged-in age

December 5, 2011

Today is, I think, a first. I have plugged in and am now recharging:

  • my mobile phone
  • my Kindle pad
  • my PDA (personal data assistant)

What makes this so remarkable to me is I can remember a time when I never plugged in and recharged anything. Today, I am charging every battery powered communication device that I own.

Makes me wonder when the day will come that I will plug myself in and recharge my battery, giving me another six hours of limitless energy.

There are about fifty wires hanging about in my grandson’s house, so this is nothing remarkable to him and his wired generation.

Call or email me later. I’m busy recharging.




Here goes the memory

June 19, 2009

This morning, as I warmed up my shower, my wife, Sandy, knocked on the door and reminded me that I had showered the evening before.
Nothing particularly remarkable about this. Sometimes I shower twice a day, especially if the weather is hot and I have been outside and worked up a sweat.
The weather is not hot, and I didn’t go outside from yesterday evening to this morning.
The fact is that I forgot that I had showered recently.
Is this an early sign of Alzeimer’s or dementia? Or did I just plain forget?
More likely, it’s just a lack of noticing. As long as Sandy is around, her noticing (keeping track, knowing exactly what I do and when I do it, everything but putting little “x-s” on the calendar) will provide enough notice for both of us.
In the meantime, I’m especially clean today.

Postpone Christmas?

December 23, 2008

I’ve been a priest of the Episcopal Church for 40 years. Not once in those decades have I missed a Christmas Eve midnight mass. This year, I will.

Portland, Oregon, where I live and work, along with much of the rest of the Pacific Northwest, has been socked in by a week of freezing weather with big snow accumulations. When I read this morning that another, albeit weaker, front was due in on Christmas Eve, I cancelled all services for Christmas Eve and Christmas day, and moved them to the following weekend whose weather is to be rainy and mild.

There is no biblical or theological reason that Christmas has to be on December 25. The early winter choice was made by prelates who wanted to convert some pagans away from their worship of the sun gods just after the winter solstice. There is no historical reason to think that Jesus Christ was born on December 25. The day has become engraved in our minds by tradition and by commercial interest.

What is supremely important to the person of faith is the INCARNATION: the belief that God became flesh. We’re going to worship the God who becomes person when we can. For us, in this place, it’s not going to be December 24 and 25.

It still feels funny. Whatever will I do on Christmas Eve? I will enjoy my home and family and solitude, remembering that calendars and schedules are human inventions to help bring order to our common life.

Maybe we could do with less calendaring and scheduling. More on that another time.

A funny time for churches

December 22, 2008

Here it is two days before Christmas Eve, and here I sit at home, comfortably marooned by ice and snow and freezing rain and general all around genteel misery, wondering what Christmas is going to be like for this parish priest.

In spite of the (usual) heavy demands on my time in the days and weeks before Christmas, known in my tradition as Advent, I love the Christmas services. People actually sing in church because they know the carols. People say they love the sermon mostly because it’s short and to the point. I know that many people at the “midnight mass” (now moved two hours early to accomodate the stress of staying awake that late for our aging faithful), have had a drink or six before coming to church, dulling their critical senses and giving a false sense of congeniality.

Having said all that, this year I wonder. The recession is hitting home to everyone. Working class people are being laid off, and comfortable retirees are refusing to open their monthly and quarterly retirement fund statements. The mainline denominations, of which mine is the most mainline (Episcopal) are generally losing people and therefore financial support.

I’m almost 67, the time when a generation or two ago, my ancestors were either well retired or dead. I wonder what’s ahead in the next few years.

Chances are, I will keep on doing what I’m now doing, assuming that my respective employers don’t tire of me.

I wish for all the world peace, prosperity, freedom from suffering, disease, and want, and for a sense of completion at something in your life and the challenge to get up and work another day. Merry Christmas.

Hello world!

January 18, 2008

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