Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cat. Organ. Rainbow. Song.

Hello there. How are you doing?

Me? Well, I was doing great. Was. Until I saw this. Now I'm sort of a mixture of nervous, nauseous, and...and...

Now it's all just darkness.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hospital Gowns and Jesus

I wake up to a sharp jabbing sensation taking place in the direct vicinity of my ribcage. I peek out of one eye and immediatly recognize the culprit as Eva, my friend Jennie's four-year-old daughter. "Wake up! Wake up! Ashchleee, WAKE UP!" she yells as she continues to stab me with her tiny (but freakishly strong) hands. I roll over and groan. I"m beyond tired and my head is pounding. Eva's lucky she's cute, I think as I roll off the couch and onto the floor.

I eventually stand up and drag myself into the kitchen after groggily fist-bumping my little alarm clock. Eva is freaking awesome. She can tell the difference between Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson songs better than I can. She's a rockstar. But I need coffee.

Jennie stumbles into the kitchen a few seconds after I've poured the water into the coffeemaker. We exchange mumbles. My roommate, Anna, is much more of a morning person than either of us will ever hope to be. We can both hear her singing to herself in the shower. I crack a weary smile.

In truth, I've spent the weekend fighting demons. I've been angry and bitter at the Church and its failures, lately. My anger is about the things that show the immature, stupid state of my own heart, things that God is in control of, and things that I need to let go of. Basically I've been struggling with the notion that everyone sucks. I know this is not okay, but I can't help but carry around a heaviness in my heart as I get ready for the service this morning. It sits as a passenger next to me on my drive there.
Marching through the church doors, I'm pleasant. This is stupid, I tell Jesus. I fake smile at the greeters, hoping to avoid talking to anyone else for the rest of the morning. I run into Jennie and she tells me about a debacle she had with one of the parking attendants, and I manage to curse about it while standing in the children's ministry area. Good job, Ashley. Classy. I make it halfway through the lobby before I look down at my phone and see my sister's caller ID flashing across the screen. It's early for her to call, and she has babies to get out the door for church. I figure I'd better answer it.

"Did you butt dial me?" I ask dryly as I navigate my way through the crowded lobby.

"Get somewhere where you can hear me right now," April orders.

Oh boy. Is she mad at me? I wonder. I feel panic and guilt rise up in my chest, my brain racing to figure out what on earth I possibly could have done wrong in the past two days.

"Okay, I can hear you," I say, finding a quieter corner in the noisy lobby.

"Don't freak out."

Panic panic panic.

"Okay, I'm not freaking out."

"Alright. Mom and Dad are in Milwaukee for the weekend, and they were swimming this morning..."

Oh my gosh my dad is dead.

"And Dad passed out in the pool. He was having pains across his chest. I don't know. But he blacked out and Mom had to pull him out and he's ok now and there was a nurse nearby and she told them that it might be a precurser sign to a heart attack so now they're in the emergency room in Milwaukee and we need to go up there."

I get off the phone and start speedwalking back through the lobby, tears stinging my eyes. All I can think about is my dad, and how he can't be old yet, and about how he's supposed to walk me down the aisle and he needs to meet my kids someday and he can't do that soon because I have committment issues and I can't find a man and my mom needs him around for forever and my sisters need him and my nieces need him and my nephew needs him and the world needs him...I think about how I cancelled on my family on Friday night to spend time with my friends, and how I am the worst daughter ever. I think a lot of other very guilt-ridden thoughts, as well.


On my way out the door I hear someone calling my name. I turn to see Anna, who's looking at me like I've lost my mind. "Where are you going?!" she yells. There are way too many people around for me to feel comfortable with this setting, but as she walks towards me I begin to fall apart.

"My dad...heart attack...water...pool...Milwauakee...Do you know how to get to Milwaukee? Can you point me in the direction of Milwaukee?! I NEED TO GET TO MILWAUKEE AND I DON'T KNOW WHERE IT IS!" I sob-yell incoherently.

Clearly I am extremely level-headed.

Anna puts her arm around me and starts walking me towards her car. "You can't drive like this. No seriously you can't. It's a bad idea and you WILL will die. I'm driving you." she says calmly. "Your dad will be fine. I promise. Let's go. And stop apologizing," she orders, referring to my half-hysterical mumbling of the phrase, "I'm sorry."
I feel awful about Anna driving me all the way to Milwaukee, but luckily my sister comes up with a better plan to meet somewhere nearby and drive together, so Anna and I have exactly ten minute in the car together, filled with her praying and my crying before I am back at my own car, driving to meet my sister nearby.

I've never felt as desperate as I do on the car ride to meet my sister. God gets quite the earful from me. I tell Him I know He owes me nothing. I tell Him I know that I idolize my dad way too much. I beg Him not to take him away. I bargain with my own life, I apologize for my own idiocy and constant sin, but mostly I just cry, and yell about how helpless I feel. I tell Him I know that my dad would go to Heaven, and I know that God would take good care of him up there, but I need him here. I beg some more. And then I meet up with my sisters.

We arrive at the hospital and scare the nurses as we storm through the halls, trying to find our dad. It feels good to be with Erin and April now. I'm positive the nursing staff thinks we're nutjobs. We find my parents in Room 6, my dad all hooked up with tubes sticking out of his arms. I feel myself wanting to cry again as my mom tells us exactly what happened. I can't get over how small my dad looks in the hospital bed. Like a little boy who's trying to be brave. He looks afraid, and wide-eyed, and traumatized, and glad that we're there. I pull up a chair right next to him and ask him if he's okay. His eyes water, but he nods. I struggle to hold it together. Dad crying is the worst.

We spend the day together as a family, and my dad cheers up more and more. He tells us how much he hates his hospital gown, which nurses are nice and which nurses are bossy, how uncomfortable his bed is, and how much he loves us. The immediate tests have all shown good things, so we all relax and talk. When I was little, we had nightly mandatory family dinners. Now that my sisters are both married, and April has four babies of her own, my immediate family rarely gets a chance to just be together. I feel thankful for this time together, even if my dad is wearing a man-dress and lying in an uncomfortable bed.

I decided to stay the night in Milwaukee with my mom. She's asleep now--she was exhuasted. I'm writing this in a pitch-black hotel room, relieved I can process what happened today. When we left my dad tonight he told me his big plan was to get another blood test and then watch ESPN. I think he's actually pretty pumped about that last part. Tomorrow they'll do a stress test on him, and depending on what they find, they'll either keep him for longer, or send him home for a follow up.

As I sit here in the dark tonight, all I can think about is how much I don't deserve the blessings that God has piled onto my family. Today was the first health scare I've ever faced with my dad, and as a result he spent the day being doted on by my crazy sisters and mother and me, as well as four nurses, a nurse practictioner, a doctor, five med students, and probably some kind of pear tree. I feel like God blessed this day by allowing us to be together and pause our lives for a few hours. I'm thankful.

I'm thankful for a few other reasons, too. You see, my dad is not a cuddly, warm-fuzzy guy. He's gentle and kind, always, but he's never been big on "I love you's" and hugs. But today made me realize that he knows, without a doubt, that I love him. I tell him I love him all the time, but today was the first day that made me realize that he gets it. He joked all day about how he knew I would be the biggest disaster when I heard the news this morning. He even called me when I was on the way to the hospital to check-in. I don't know if I'm making any sense, and I am extremely tired and more than a little emotional right now, but there's something incredibly valuable about knowing that someone KNOWS that you love them. I'm grateful.

And all of that stuff...the stuff that was stealing my joy and making me feel worthless and causing me bitterness earlier in the just doesn't matter anymore. Because in the grand scheme of things, the ONLY thing that matters is that we love each other like Christ loves us. That's it. Set the pettiness aside, set the fears aside, set our selfishness aside...the only thing in this world that matters is the love of God, and the love we share with each other. Looking at my family today, thinking back on the struggles and the hurt that we've gone through and caused each other in the past, and how far we've come, brought concretion to the reality that each day we have to start anew, and each day we are required to forgive each other, and each day we get to love each other.

And the same goes for the church. You know, The Church--that thing with those people that was pissing me off so much this morning. The people who have "failed" me in some way. It just doesn't matter anymore. We're fallen people. We're all big effed-up losers no matter how much Bible teachin' we've got. And we need to stop keeping count of one another's wrongs and making each other feel like a bunch of failures. Because if we don't, we're just simply an organized group of lying hypocrites who can wave goodbye to a unified church. I mean, right? So now I need to seek forgivness from God for the grudges and the anger I've held in the past. Sheesh. Today was a big day for me. I gotta stop saying sheesh, though. It makes me look like a nerd.

Thanks for letting me debrief from today's insanity. I'm sorry if this post makes zero sense and makes me sound like I'm full of it. I'm tired as crap. And I had a long day.