Memories of My Father

Happy Father’s Day a few hours early. My wife and I, along with hundreds of other Richmond residents, have been without electricity since around 9:00 p.m. Thursday. So we have no Internet connection at home. We’re visiting a friend so we can shower for church tomorrow and are taking advantage of her electricity and Internet connection. I decided it would be better to post this now rather than take a chance on whether I would have the chance to do so tomorrow. We might go home and find the lights on…but we’re not counting on that, and Dominion Power isn’t even estimating when they’ll get to our neighborhood. Nonetheless, we’re fine and God is good.

SittingOnDishes0002   FatherPortrait    FamilyPicture   ParentsOlder

When I wrote a post about my mother around Mother’s Day, I realized I would probably want to do one about my father now. Unfortunately, it was easier to write warm things about her than about him.

Don’t get me wrong. Father was a fine Christian minister who cared deeply about the congregations he served. But that’s probably the problem–or a large part of it. Too often, pastors get so caught up in meeting others’ needs that they’re less attentive to the needs of their own families.

I recall a Christmas present he spent hours secretly putting together. He wasn’t good with his hands, and that was a real labor of love.

I also remember his taking me to the yard of my elementary school to ride my bike; we lived on a hill, and even the back yard sloped too much for easy riding. And I recollect the fun he had hiding a grandmother clock for my mother behind the studio couch in the den and making her search for it one Christmas. There’s no question he loved us.

But what I remember just as clearly–perhaps more so–was his home study door being closed. And even when it was open, he seemed inaccessible. Uninterruptible.

When I was a teen, he seemed to realize that he hadn’t spent nearly enough time with me doing daddy-type things. So he took me to Manteo, North Carolina, to see The Lost Colony, a well-known outdoor historical drama. Looking back now, I appreciate the thought, but at the time I’m not sure I considered it something I really wanted to do.

In 1972 I completed writing an hour-long rock opera called The Identity of Divinity. I invited my parents, who lived across the state from me, to come for the one performance. Since its production was my greatest accomplishment to date, I really wanted them to be there. But church came first. Although they sent a congratulatory telegram, it wasn’t the same.

As my parents aged and my father retired from the active ministry (he served as the interim minister of a number of churches until he couldn’t do it anymore), the three of us ended up living in the same city for the first time since college. So my first wife and I saw them on on a regular basis. And Kathleen and I now belong to one of the churches Father had served as interim pastor of.

Considering the number of questions I have about my early life–and about family history in general–I wish I’d been a more attentive listener. The knowledge of so many things I’m curious about died with him in 1993.

I have two particular memories from his final years. One was going with him to a special anniversary of his alma mater, William and Mary. He couldn’t have made the trip by himself, and I’m glad I could help him manage it. I can still see him sitting among other graduates wearing the doctoral robe he’d kept all those years. And I can still hear guest speaker Prince Charles laughing about his problems with Princess Diana, who was still alive at that time.

The other memory was of the day Mother called me at work. Father had fallen in the bathroom. He couldn’t get up and she couldn’t lift him. I drove over as quickly as I could, but I couldn’t get him up, either. We had to call the rescue squad.  I’ll always remember him on the bathroom floor.

No, life with my father didn’t leave me with a number of warm fuzzies, but you know what? It really doesn’t matter. He was a fine man and I’m proud of who he was. More important, he loved me, and I loved him.

Do you have anything you want to share about your father today? How about leaving a comment?

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

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Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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A Yearly Christmas Tradition

As I was typing the title for today’s post, it occurred to me that my wife and I don’t have many traditions. Eating pizza whenever it snows might qualify as one, but always having Sunday dinner out seems more like a habit than a tradition.

Even when it comes to Christmas, we have very few traditions. In fact, only one comes to mind. Opening presents when we get home from the Christmas Eve service at church. Without kids to wake us up on Christmas morning, it seems like a good practice.

A good practice? See? I didn’t even think to refer to it as a tradition.

But there’s one Christmas tradition my wife doesn’t have the opportunity to participate in, and I had the chance to enjoy it today (“today” is last Wednesday).

As many of you know, especially if you’ve been following this blog for a while or paying attention to the songs I post on my website, I participate in our church’s weekly nursing home ministry. Except on the second Wednesday of the month when a different group comes to conduct the service.

Our services consist mostly of our group singing hymns familiar to the residents and doing a brief devotional. It’s also a time for me to get to share one of my two hundred or so original songs.

Our group consists of two leaders–I think of them both as leaders, anyhow, even though Jeff is now the pastor at a different church–and three others who sing. Three more people come and mingle with the residents, help to bring them to the dining hall, and assist the residents in numerous other ways. They also help to stow our equipment away once we finish.

The other members of the team are people I have very little contact with at church or elsewhere, even though we have a very good relationship at the nursing home and I thoroughly enjoy being with them. I’m able to ignore the fact that five of them are actually older than I am!

My one Christmas tradition, the one my wife doesn’t get to participate in, is a group dinner at Cracker Barrel on the Wednesday closest to Christmas Day–or, as it worked out this year, one week before.

All but one member of our group participated–she had made other plans–and we enjoyed a special time of fellowship as well as a yummy meal. Considering some of the differences in age, interests, and life experiences, our ability to enjoy one another that way is remarkable. Wonderful.

One thing that makes this meal time together special for me is the realization that–even though all of us seem to be in good health–our celebration together next year might see drastic changes. Somebody might have died. Or have become seriously ill.

As weird as it feels to consider the possibility, one of us might even have become a resident at the nursing home and no longer able to participate actively in the ministry there.

That’s probably the main reason this tradition means so much to me. Although the practice of eating together at Cracker Barrel may continue for years to come, those participating next year may not all be the same ones who participated this year.

I love and appreciate my fellow team members, and I just want to thank them for the role they play–not only in the lives of the nursing home residents, but in mine.

Do you have a special tradition–related to Christmas or to something else? How about sharing a comment?

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Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

Photography–from Hobby to Ministry

AshesThree   RobinBabies   Dsc_7197

The pictures above are three of my favorites.

I started developing a real interest in photography–no pun intended with “developing”–around 1966 or 1967, when my church had a friend of my parents for a revival preacher. He was in and out of our home several times, and he became interested in my Zenith Transoceanic shortwave radio, something that had given me hours of pleasure over the years, but which I was no longer using at all then.

And he had a camera he no longer had a need for. An Argus C-3, if I recall correctly. Of course, that was a long time before the advent of digital photography. As a college student, I didn’t have much money for film and processing, so I focused (no pun intended here, either) on black-and-white photography. I didn’t go crazy taking pictures, though. I still couldn’t afford to.

But then–that summer or the next–I was working at a summer job in North Carolina at a Baptist conference center that produced a yearbook of and for summer staff. I don’t recall how the editor of the yearbook came to see some of my photographs, but I was asked to be the yearbook photographer. That meant taking as many candid pictures as I could–not the individual staff pictures–at no cost to me personally.

In fact, they not only borrowed a light meter and a tripod for me, they allowed me to keep all of the prints they couldn’t use. How could things get better than that?

Although I still glance through that yearbook occasionally and take pride in a number of my pictures, I can’t help feeling embarrassed over duds they had to include because no better pictures were available.

Skip ahead a number of years to my first mission trip–Australia. By then I was lugging around a good-sized video camera that used VHS tapes–and not a film camera. It took several more mission trips for me to realize that–although being able to show certain activities “live” was desirable–it was a poor substitute in other ways for good  photographs that people could peruse casusally.

After several years of doing both videos and still photos, I gave up the video recording. I moved slowly through a progression of increasingly nice film cameras until I finally made the move to digital.

I was hooked. I could finally take as many pictures as I wanted to, delete the duds, and print only the ones I needed prints of. I could even doctor them up electronically. How wonderful!

For a number of years I adorned my living room walls with 24×30 inch posters of some of my favorite pictures. (I’ve since downsized to ledger-sized prints in order to include more.) And I’ve posted many of them on my website as well. Check HERE for a page of them. (The pictures OF me are NOT selfies, however.)

Sometimes I’ve felt a little funny about having so much money invested in camera equipment. Not that a professional photographer would look at my gear with more than mild curiosity.  But it’s turned out that God had a purpose in providing me with the interest, the talent, and the equipment .

I may not have an official title like “Church Photographer,” but I’ve become one of several people they always ask to take pictures of special events. Events like the yearly Family Fishing Day. The Shoebox Party. Special choir events. And numerous other occasions. Being useful that way not only makes me feel good, but encourages me to keep sharpening (okay, pun intentional this time) my skills.

I’m thrilled that God has chosen to turn my hobby into a ministry.

What about you? Do you have a hobby that has turned into a ministry to other people? How about sharing a comment?

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website. Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My new novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is out now. If you’re interested, please check it out at Amazon.
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Best regards,
Roger

 

 

Each Time I Visit

JeffChadwick     Creola     RickMike     JeanDonna

Three Wednesday mornings out of four each month, you’ll see me heading out to the car with my Taylor GS-mini guitar, 40-watt Fender amp, and a backpack holding everything from a guitar cable with a built-in volume control to a bottle of water, from a hand-held digital recorder to an apple. Even though I treasure my one Wednesday off each month, each of those outings has become a highlight of my week

My church holds a worship service on Wednesday mornings at a local nursing home, and I’ve been participating there regularly since I retired five years ago to write full-time.

Our services don’t resemble typical worship services any more than the residents’ wheelchairs resemble wooden pews. Although one of the team—usually one of my church’s former pastors who didn’t want to give up this ministry when he became the pastor of a new church—delivers a five-minute devotional, our services consist mostly of hymn singing, with a special or two thrown in for good measure.

Somebody told me years ago that old folks don’t want to hear new or unfamiliar songs. Since I’ve written about two hundred Christian songs in the last fifty years—that’s slowed down since I started writing novels—but didn’t really have any place to share them, I was delighted to learn that I’d been misled. Older adults are appreciative of anything and everything our team does.

Good thing. Although our leader brings a list of the songs we’ll be using, we don’t practice in preparation for our services. But we’ve learned to work together so well that our frequent flubs don’t embarrass us anymore than they bother the worshippers.

This nursing home ministry is something I’d never expected to take such an interest in. And not just because it gives me an outlet for my music.

You see, I never felt comfortable around older people before. At least not older people who were in such wretched physical conditions. I’ll bet some of you feel the same way.

It’s easy to understand why I felt that way. I didn’t want to admit that I might end up having some physical or mental condition that would make my continuing to live at home impractical. Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t, no matter how hard I like to pretend that I’m invulnerable to permanent disabling conditions.

Consider Rick, one of our regular worshippers. He’s only several years younger than me. I don’t know what his specific problem is, but he uses a walker and moves quite slowly. He’s quite an encouragement to me.

And there’s Mike. Okay. I admit it. I’m lousy at guessing the ages of African-Americans. But Mike doesn’t look like he could be beyond his forties—and he has fun calling the rest of us teenagers. He’s recently lost his sight in both eyes. And he rarely gets to attend our services any more because his dialysis is scheduled for Wednesday mornings.

Yes, I could end up as a Rick or a Mike (well, minus the difference in skin color).

When my wife and I recently took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University at church, one of the things we learned about was the importance of Long-term Care insurance. It’s quite costly, but—if needed—it’s cheaper than trying to pay for nursing home care out of the family budget. The only thing holding us back is the “quite costly.”

Although every visit to the nursing home has its uplifting moments, I can’t keep from looking at these individuals I’ve come to love and respect—even without knowing most of their names—and wondering, “Will I come here some day to live? What kind of condition would lead to that? Ad how would Kathleen deal with it?”

And the biggest question of all…how would I deal with it?

Please leave a comment to tell me how you feel about the prospect of nursing home life. I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to the top right of this page where it says, “Follow Blog by Email.”

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing” to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Find a list of them here. Because I’ve used up all of my songs, I repost a previous post each Wednesday. If you’re interested, please check that blog out here.

Last, but not least, if you’d like to hear some of my songs from the nursing home, go to RogerBruner.com and click on the Listen tab. You’ll find a dropdown box listing the songs I’ve recorded at the nursing home, complete with flubs and background noise.

Best regards,
Roger