Real Estate Disaster

“Choose whatever parcel of my land you want, and it’s yours for the taking.”

What a dope! the nephew thought. I know my business associates and his are not getting along, but what a lousy business decision! The old man’s so filthy rich he’s lost his touch for making money. Only someone senile would give me the first option. I can’t believe he’s willing to pay this much for peace! Well, why should I give him a break? If the old man wants to settle disputes by decreasing his bottom line , who am I to stand in the way? Besides, I’ve been taught to respect my elders.

“Thanks, Uncle. I’ll take the eastern spread.”

The nephew figured he could make a bundle with the choice property. Its location was perfect. Yep, he was really going to get ahead now. One day he would be richer than his foolish uncle. The upstart knew a good deal when he saw it, and he was going to milk it for all it was worth.

Never mind that S-town was down that way. So what if  it had a wicked reputation and his uncle didn’t approve of that lifestyle? He would use S-town’s resources to serve his financial purposes and laugh all the way to the bank. Besides, nobody said he had to move there. Living in its outskirts would suit his plans quite well.

But time, the entrepreneur soon learned, is money. He was sure he would turn a higher and quicker profit if he lived within the city limits. That’s where most of the competition resided, and he had to keep his eyes and ears on them. His decision to move merely meant he was doing what was best for business.

Always on the alert for a business transaction, Lot was sitting at the city’s gate the evening that the two strangers approached. Quickly sizing them up, he realized these self-confident men knew their stuff. They had a certain aura about them. Figuring they could mean a lucrative deal, he insisted they spend the night at his house. After setting before them an impressive meal, Lot’s life spiraled downward.

The males of the city, young and old, surrounded his house, demanding he produce his visitors so that they could subject them to gang rape. Instead, Lot negotiated by offering his two virgin daughters carte blanche. When the townsmen rejected the trade, the strangers settled the matter. Using their supernatural powers, they struck the men with blindness.

At dawn these men on God’s mission forcibly took a reluctant Lot, his wife, and their daughters outside the city, warning them to run for their lives and not to look back. Something dreadful was about to happen, and it couldn’t until they were gone. With sulfur and fire God then destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Lot’s wife, looking behind her at the destruction, became a pillar of salt. Why did she look back?

Was it simply female curiosity? Her daughters kept their eyes forward.

Was she longing for what she had left behind? For what she could no longer have? A nice house? Those friends? The party she was planning for the king?

She looked back because she was disobedient. Like Eve in the Garden of Eden, she did not believe God. She did not take him at His word. Lot’s wife did not think God really meant what His messengers said.

Lot didn’t mean for him and his daughters to live in a cave. He didn’t mean for his life to end up in a horrible mess. Every decision he made had been to ensure “the good life” as all along the way he asked himself “Will it make a profit?” instead of “Is it right?” Had it not been for Uncle Abraham’s intercession when things were coming to a head, Lot, too, would have burned to death in Sodom.

You may read this true story with all of its details in chapters 13, 14, 18, and 19 of Genesis in the Holy Bible.

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Father Manifestation

“What’s for supper?” my husband asked, peering into the kitchen. That was never a simple, face-value question. To me it meant I was not meeting his expectations. I wasn’t going fast enough for him. In the escalating self-inflicted irritation, I picked up my pace from sink to refrigerator to stove to counter to the cookbook and back to the stove.

That day my husband must have lingered a little too long at the kitchen bar, because he followed up with another question. “What did you think I was saying when I asked you that?”

With my eyes fixated on stirring the pot, I answered truthfully. “You were saying, ‘I’m hungry. Hurry up.'”

Immediately, I felt my husband’s body beside mine at the stove. “Judy, in our forty-eight years of marriage, I never thought that. Not once.”

How had I been so wrong for so long? Instinctively I traced the problem back to my father. In psychological terms I had been acting in the Parent part of me. According to psychiatrist Eric Berne, each of us is always acting in one of three ego states: Parent, Adult, Child. My husband’s simple “What’s for supper?” had stimulated a conditioning embedded in me by my father. Everything had to be done in a hurry. He could not be kept waiting. Even when he had driven me to a store on the morning of my wedding, my father told me to “hurry up” as I dashed from his car. (I revealed it and other father-influenced “hurry” incidents in Before the Door Closes.)

Whenever I think about having misunderstood my husband’s innocent question for almost half a century, I remember Jesus’ emotional reply after one of the apostles asked Him to show them the Father:  “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9 ESV).

What kind of Father did Jesus manifest? Stuart Townend shared his enlightenment when he composed “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.”

The Son of God displayed to the world the Father’s sacrifice of love in His quest for a personal relationship with you and me. We cannot choose our earthly fathers, but we can choose God the Father.


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Trash Triage

Trash can 2He was sixty-one and at his job when he asked the morning newspaper boy to help him throw it in the dumpster (http://tampa.cbslocal.com/2014/04/03/housing-complex-clerk-mistakes-suicide-jumpers-body-for-april-fools-prank/). The ninety-six-year-old woman’s body hadn’t appeared human. To him she looked like a mannequin. A dummy.

The surgeon made a similar operating assessment when my friend’s father had been ambulanced from a nursing home with a fractured femur. Expecting a routine consult with the doctor prior to surgery, the daughter left the hospital at ten that night and returned at seven the next morning. The minutes ticked by. One by one the heavy hours stacked up. Where was he? Why didn’t he come?

At five-thirty the daughter was beside herself as orderlies wheeled her elderly father out of the room and she caught a glimpse of the doctor. Confronted with her consternation, he explained, “I did not come by because 90 percent of patients with dementia never have anyone with them.”

All too sadly his informed statistic mirrors society’s devaluation of the demented elderly. That 90 percent of them are presented to the medical community as throwaways is a result built family by family. Child by child. Son by son. Daughter by daughter.

What are we thinking? Father doesn’t know who I am? Mother doesn’t remember my name? They don’t know me; so what’s the point?

Why do we make love conditional? Did our parents make it conditional when we did not know their names? when we could not say words? In our helplessness didn’t we sense self-worth through the security of a swaddling blanket, the contentment of cuddling, the soothing sound of a lullaby? They imprinted personal value. We did not have to do anything or be anything except ourselves. Unadulterated.

My father, too, was diagnosed with dementia. His was mania manufactured by the misuse and overuse of antipsychotic drugs. (See http://www.amazon.com/Before-Door-Closes-Daughters-Alcoholic/dp/1490808949/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1396716040&sr=1-1&keywords=judith+hall+simon.) My success in getting the mind-altering drugs eliminated did not restore the spark in my father’s voice that had belonged to him before he was made a zombie and cast off as nursing facility waste. I missed hearing that unique part of him the rest of his life.

The drugs, taking their toll, also left my father’s mental function vacillating between clear and unclear. On one of his hazy days, Daddy asked me, “Who are you?”

“Judy.”

“That’s what I thought. You’re the one who takes care of me.”

I’ll remember that the rest of my life.

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Anger Angle

“Were you angry at your father?” the woman asked during the book discussion of Before the Door Closes: A Daughter’s Journey with Her Alcoholic Father.

“No,” I unreservedly replied.

“But he beat your mother,” she whispered as if it were still a secret.

“I hated it and I felt sorry for her. But that wasn’t my father,” I explained. “My real father didn’t do that.”

Later I realized all my life I used a defense mechanism for my father’s alcoholic behavior that my mother had expertly polished: compartmentalization. A scene from my book reveals her dichotomy.

“Our arms entwined, I reflected that for most of my life I had wondered if Daddy ever told Mama he loved her. There were so many years he had abused her physically, mentally, and emotionally. Through it all my mother persevered. She had found her way to cope.

“Mama once told me as she looked through the window at my father staggering to the front door, ‘He is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.’

“That’s how she mentally sectioned her life. If Daddy was drunk, he was Mr. Hyde, embodying all that was wrong, evil, sinful. If Daddy was sober, he was Dr. Jekyll, goodness and peace and healing. While hating Mr. Hyde, Mama knew at the end of her endurance, he would metamorphose again into Dr. Jekyll.”
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