Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Journey and the War

As a preface to this post, let me say that my bible study group just kicked off a study on spiritual warfare, which is a really interesting topic, in an EXORCIST sort of way. The basic premise is that if you believe in God, then the converse also has to be true. There is a Devil, and it’s a malevolent being that is pretty powerful here on Earth. This entity’s job is to take down as many souls as he can by making their lives miserable, breaking their faith in God. There's an active war between the two entities, with mankind right on the front lines.

OK, that sets the stage nicely for the next four days.


Last Thursday, I was in court in a different jurisdiction as a special prosecutor. On the way back to town, I received a telephone call from my sister. My dad was in the hospital. They weren’t sure what was wrong, but he was too weak to move. Somewhere in the middle of a canyon, the call drops. I hate cell phones as a general principle, but they are handy when they work. I went overboard and ended up with an Iphone. Very nice, very convenient. The GPS is handy for navigationally challenged people such as myself.

Anyway, the situation sounded bad. The flight schedule was such that I wasn’t going to be able to get out until fairly late the next day. That seemed unacceptable.

I was scared, worried, etc. Things didn’t sound good, and his condition has deteriorated from a back injury, as well as Parkinson’s, diabetes, and a heart condition. Smoking doesn’t help any of it, either. Also, he’s still grieving for my Mom, whom we lost less than a year ago.

It seemed like the best solution was to take off driving. I cleared stuff up as best as I could at work, and hit the road around 5:00.

I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in about a month. I can run ok on no sleep for awhile, but everything has its limits. I have no idea why I can’t sleep, other than insomnia kicks on big-time with me if I’m under stress, and there’s been a lot of that. A couple of hours into the trip, I realized that driving straight through simply wasn’t going to be an option. I was too darn tired. I had driven about 31/2 hours that day already traveling for work. I decided to strike out for the Metroplex, since I have friends in the area. It’s about ½ of the trip home, so that seemed like a good option. I could get a bit of sleep and get rolling early the next morning.


My body apparently decided that sleep could no longer be avoided, and I crashed hard. So hard that I slept through the alarm, and woke up around 10:00 the next day, which is about the time that I planned on being at my destination.

In the scramble to get out of town, my cell phone went swimming in a glass of water. Since Iphones aren’t naturally aquatic, this was a disaster. No cell phone, which is somewhat essential to keeping up with what’s going on the world. “Angry,” is not an adequate description of the emotions that I was feeling at the time. Were gamma radiation present, I would have gained 500 pounds and 3 feet in height, turned green, and smashed the hell out of everything around me. So those of you in the Metroplex got off light.

I make it into town finally in late afternoon. Dad is diagnosed with a hiatal hernia, and they’ve done some fixing on it during the test. He’s able to get some food down, which was a big part of the problem, and was getting stronger. He was still having problems from the back injury, which included atrophy in the leg muscles on that side. His weight was down slightly below 130 pounds, which is pretty light for my dad. He needed to lose a bit, but not that much, and not in that manner. We have a good visit in the hospital. He decided that he needed to get some intensive rehabilitation to get stronger, and thought he probably needed to go to a rehab/nursing home for awhile.

That was heartbreaking news. He didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want him there. I felt guilty as hell for not being able to take him in or be there to help him myself. I made the offer to have him move in with me, which I’d do without hesitation. But he didn’t want that, to say the least.

His mood was improving, though. He was looking at it in the right way. He was planning on using the time to build himself back up to where he could go back to work and home again. That’s a healthy step and a healthy attitude.

Late that night I head to the old house. It had been vacant a day or two, and it was dark and foreboding when I arrived well after midnight. Once I got in the house, I felt like I had stepped into a horror movie. I killed no less that five scorpions within the first few minutes. They were active and feisty, which is not the way I prefer my scorpions. However, they were no match for the old trusty 3-wood, which is as fine a scorpion killing device as I’ve ever seen.

I then had to clean the nasty little buggers up. While trying to vacuum their smashed, chitinous little bodies up, the vacuum cleaner decided it would be great fun to bog up on one, and spit it in the air directly at my face.

This is not funny. At all. I am deathly afraid of those things, having had a pair of them in my sleeping bag on a camping trip. I’m all about sharing sleeping bags under the proper circumstances, but definitely not with arachnids. After stomping the corpse into its component atoms and using words I didn’t think I actually knew, I re-holstered my little Model 60 .357, and set about trying to find a defib kit. I think the revolver was called for when zombie scorpions take to the skies to attack. That crap is terrifying.

Once the adrenaline had finally dumped, the major organs were functioning again, and all the corpses disposed of, I finally got to bed around 2am. The only scorpion free room appears to be my mom’s room, which is unchanged since she died. I camp down there for the night, with an odd sense of peace.


Nobody in town sells replacement Iphones. They’ll only do it with a 2 year contract extension, which I already signed a few months ago. No amount of cajoling or legal threats gets me anything else. They’ll sell me a Blackberry, but the data plan is different from what I had (read: more expensive).

Dad’s decided that he’s feeling well enough to smoke again. The suggestion that he’s feeling better because he isn’t smoking isn’t met with enthusiasm. The cigarette, as expected, makes him a bit sicker.

After much waffling, I get a Gophone from the local Wal Mart. I also found affordable pistol ammo, which is a good thing as well. The SIM card from the Iphone seems to work, especially after I finished drying it off. Sometime around 8 that night, I have cell phone service once again.

No scorpions are found in the house that night. Prayer and pesticide have done their work, apparently. Prayer from me, and Dad says they sprayed the house earlier that week, which must have stirred all the critters up.


I helped to move Dad into the rehab home around lunchtime. I can’t bear to call it a nursing home. I ran him over there from the hospital, having gotten there around 8:00 that morning. He’s looking better, gained a little weight back, and seems to have a positive attitude about the whole thing, which is good. Based on that, I decided that I needed to get back north for work the next day. I’m looking at 9 hours of solid driving. I figured that if I stock up on protein bars, diet Dr. Pepper and water, I can make it quite a ways before having to stop. This is not counting bathroom breaks, of course. I plan to get to the house no later than 11:00pm, which is quite acceptable. I hit the road around 1:00pm.

All is going according to plan, when the tire blows. I am on the middle of the new loop around Austin, basically in the middle of nowhere. Traffic is moving at a minimum of 80 on that thing, and there’s not much room on the side of the road to change the tire. To top it off, these tires are less than a month old.

Several years ago, I had a cousin killed while changing a tire on the side of I-35. So I’m again a bit nervous. I wait for breaks in the traffic to loosen lug nuts, put the jack under the car, etc. It’s a slow process, because I stop when there’s traffic whizzing by three feet from my head. If I’m going to get run over, I want to see it coming.

After awhile, it’s absolutely ridiculous. Traffic is heavy. There’s a point where my faith in humanity is shaken. A few people wave as they sail by at 80mph. Again, I offer up a small prayer to get me out of this and back to my son alive.

I’m in the middle of popping a lug nut off as a prelude to jacking up the car, when a voice asks me if I need any help. It scares the thunder out of me. I never heard the car pull up. Apparently, the guy went past, pulled over, and backed up. He’s a tall, older guy in a Ford pickup. I tell him much appreciated, and ask if he has a hydraulic jack. I hate the little weenie jacks that most cars come equipped with these days. When I had a truck, I made sure to have a good solid floor jack in it.

He says no, and asks if I was nervous about the traffic. I admitted that I was. He asks where I’m heading, and offers to stand guard while I change the tire. This is exactly what I need. I get the tire off, get the little doughnut on, and get everything back on. The guy asks if I’m intending to drive on through. He says there’s a tire place fairly close, and offers to pilot me in. He does. I’m now off the main road, and at least into town. Before he leaves, I give him my business card, and tell him to look me up if I can return the favor if he or his family are in the Panhandle. He asks if I have a church home where I’m from. This is a neat moment. I remember my prayer on the side of the road.

However, they don’t have my size tires at this Wal Mart. Discount Tires, where my set came from, is not open on Sunday. There’s an NTB on I-35 that I limp to. Almost three hours after the blowout, I’m on the road again, $127 dollars poorer, but happy to be rolling.

I make it home around 1:00am. I am worn out, sick of protein bars, tires, the highway, and swearing never to touch another Diet Dr. Pepper, but feeling pretty good, all things considered. A lot of obstacles were thrown in my path, but the trip seemed to have the desired effect of helping my dad a bit, physically and emotionally. Therein lies the glory.