The fact that it snowed several inches last night and the driveway had to be plowed, and it is 30 degrees on April 23 does not take precedence for me over the fact that I am In My Father's House. Last night I slept in my old room In My Father's House, for at the moment it is important for someone to spend the night in the house with him. My sister has been here the last few nights, but yesterday she passed the baton to me. I said, "The B Squad is here."
Our father turns 90 in August, and for the most part it has been smooth sailing for him, for us. He has lived alone quite independently since Mom died 10 years ago and has done well. He has even continued some consulting work with a work trip out East planned this spring. That won't be happening. Degenerative arthritis is restricting his movement and causing great pain, and the possibility of a move from the family home to independent/assisted living is real. Adaptations are in progress. We have entered a new stage.
Perhaps you are familiar with the story in the Christian Testament (Luke 2: 41-52) about the boy Jesus being in the temple with his parents. They are ready to leave, and he is no where to be found. When they are reunited he says, "'Why were you searching for me? Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?' And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man." These are the words that have been with me the last few days. What does it mean right now to be In My Father's House? And can I, too, grow in wisdom?
I look around and see a shrine to my mother in almost every room--pictures of her everywhere, tables crowded with many of her treasures, the last pieces of her clothing, her most dressy outfits, still hanging in my bedroom closet, dried flower arrangements long past their prime, and it feels cluttered and dark and stagnant to me. I see piles of photograph albums piled next to one of his chairs and his devotional materials on a bench next to another chair. I see the braided rug, an accident waiting to happen, he has refused to have removed. I see a 50 year old house--can it possibly be that long since our family moved there?--in need of drastic updating and remodeling and know at some point, perhaps sooner rather than later, this will no longer be My Father's House. However, for now I am In My Father's House.
One knows, of course, that the days of passing the baton will come, that one's role In My Father's House will change, that a new wisdom, a new stature with new behaviors and responsibilities will be required, but why is it necessary now? I am not ready, I protest. Well, too bad. The time is now.
We talk about the losses he is experiencing, the blows to his pride, the need to face change and ways we can do that with grace, and we are amazed at how he seems to be handling these changes, but what looms over all the practical arrangements is the awareness of what is inevitable. Our father will die. And so will we all. I am not ready, I protest. Well, too bad, I don't get to choose the time, but what I do get to do is be faithful to my spiritual practices, to live with an open heart, to remind myself to relax and release, and to express my love every day I am In My Father's House.