November 10, 2011

a very expensive shelf

There is no eternal purpose to the story I'm about to tell. It's just a story; a story that stares at me every single day. It's about a bookshelf that fills my heart with laughter, contentment, deep sadness, and a shake of its head. (that is, if a heart had a head to shake)

One day, about 11 years ago, I asked my dad to make a shelf for my cookbooks. I had an ulterior motive for this request-not only did I want a place to stuff my cookbooks, I wanted something from my dad. Something he had made specifically with me in mind. Something I could look at every day and picture his large, warm, rough hands creating.

Well, I got my wish, but it came with a price.

When I asked dad for the shelf he asked for something in return. He wanted a pair of slippers crocheted by his one and only daughter. Okay, thought I. No problem. It's a deal.

So, we set to work; dad went to his workshop, found a beautiful piece of oak, and carefully put together my shelf.

I went to my yarn, found some, and carefully crocheted his slippers. There was only one problem. Dad wore a size 13 shoe. I had no idea how large to make those slippers, but I knew they had to big. As I crocheted, I kept holding them up to my husband's size 10 foot for comparison. I finally decided to make them a couple inches longer than a size 10 and hope for the best. I'd like to tell you now, guestamation isn't a wise idea when you're making slippers for someone. They were not slippers. They ended up looking like small canoes. Dad was sweet enough to say he loved them and he actually wore them.

Okay-so, now fast forward about a year. My dad has lung cancer and is in a literal battle for his life-it was a losing battle.

Early in December of that year I got an email from my dad. He just wanted to say hi and give me an update on how everything was going. He felt fine, had a lot of energy, was still active and busy except for one minor problem-that stupid cast on his foot. I whipped out a reply: Cast on your foot? Dad, what happened to your foot??

Oh, it's not a big deal. Those slippers you made are just a bit too big and I tripped over one, fell, and broke my foot.

Great. Not only is my dad dying of lung cancer, he has to do it with a cast on his foot? Because of me??

Now fast forward to December 21 of that year. I was having a normal, busy day with 4 boys in the house. We were doing school, baking Christmas goodies, crafting and doing all the other normal things a family does as the holidays approach. Suddenly the phone rang. It was one of my brothers.

"Judy, I just wanted to let you know I think...I think dad's dying. He's going fast. If you want to see him before he goes, you better get up here soon."

About 8 hours later my husband and I were at my dad's side. I'm not going to tell you everything about those last few hours with my dad. They were precious, but obviously it was one of the most heart-breaking times in my life. What lightened it up for me was that cast; that silly, stupid cast.

Dad was laying on the bed, not really coherant, but not completely gone yet either. He was literally, carefully balanced between two worlds. Sometimes it seemed as if he was leaving-fluttering away from me....then suddenly that heavy cast would pull his whole leg off the bed and dad would return, growling and grumbling, completely ticked off by the fact that that cast was there, pulling him back, causing pain.

All through that night I sat by dad's side, in the dark, crying, talking to him, praying for him....waiting, watching....and, occasionally soothing his ruffled feathers when that cast would pull his leg off the bed. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get that leg far enough from the edge of the bed to prevent the whole falling thing from happening. Dad was just too heavy for me to move.

I don't know how to tell you this, but each time that cast did its thing, I laughed inside. It wasn't a wicked laugh, or a huge laugh. I just knew that was dad's last little thing he had to go through and it was amazing how annoyed he got each time it happened. He liked to be in control, and no one likes pain...and I know each time it happened it hurt. But his face...he looked like an annoyed little boy and I kept thinking, dad, you're about to be ushered into the prescence of God...eternity is literally here, now, in this room with you, just moments from taking you away....life and all it's everything, including that stupid cast, are almost over for you....

Do you understand why I find the whole cast thing amusing? Or am I warped? I wasn't the one dealing with the pain or the dying. I had a bird's eye view of the situation and, along with the heart break, I had incredible peace about it.

There was one bible verse that came to mind that night:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)

I just kept thinking wow, my dad is going to be with Jesus any second. He's going to see Jesus, finally and face to face....

Thinking about that put the cast and the pain of a broken bone in perspective for me and I was able to be amused.

So, the story is over but never forgotten. I still have that shelf, and every time I go into the kitchen I see it. I see large, safe, rough, warm hands; I see a man I loved with all my heart going Home; I see a cast on a leg annoying the daylights out of someone, and I see a silly pair of slippers and I laugh, but only inside...along with a few tears...

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