It’s A Strange Situation A Man Finds Himself In

I sat in the chair beside his hospital bed. It was just the two of us there. A few minutes passed in silence as he stared straight ahead at a drawing from his grandson taped to the wall. I watched Uncle Joel for any hint of what I should say or do.

“It’s a strange situation a man finds himself in,” he said with what I think might have been a faint smile. I nodded, mulling his words over.

It’s strange to be a once healthy active guy now dying from cancer?

It’s strange to have the kids out of the house, to have more time than ever for flirting and fun with the love of your life only to have that life cut shorter than expected?

It’s strange to serve your country with honor only to be accidentally poisoned by her?

It’s strange to be the caretaker, the family encourager and provider and now be the one cared for?

It’s strange to be a man of faith and now face the unknown and sometimes frightening?

It’s a strange situation a man finds himself in?

That day in the hospital was the day I returned from El Salvador, back in November. It was the last time I saw Uncle Joel. A few days before Christmas, while sleeping, he took his last breath here on earth.

We made an early trip home for Christmas, for the funeral. I sang. We cried. We celebrated a life well-lived.

A few days later I turned 36, just before the start of a new year. On my birthday I’m always at mom and dad’s house, the house I grew up in, full of pictures and memories from my own life.

This year I noticed how big my kids had grown since my last birthday. I noticed the arthritis in my dad’s hands, the cluster of lines at the corner of my mom’s eyes. The plaque from my label days on the wall outside their room. Boxes of Star Wars toys in the top of my old closet, in a room that’s no longer mine but is now dedicated to my Dad’s love of hunting and Aggie football. The dead end street my sister and I sledded down on baking sheets as kids the one time we got enough snow. The rotting wood over the back porch. The trees too tall for a boy to climb now. The avocado green kitchen appliances old enough to be back in style.

It’s a strange situation a man finds himself in.

In time. In rapid succession from child to father to grandfather. In things like work and worry, success and failure, things that matter less and less as time passes and don’t matter at all when time is up. In a body and in a world we can’t fully control. In a life packed so full of gifts that it feels like sin today to spend it doing anything but saying “thank you.”


The best life.

It’s a strange situation a man finds himself in.