Monday, August 30, 2010
Rob’s father will recover from his heart attack but it may be a few months until he can work again. After spending the night with Rob’s mother at the home in which he grew up and spending most of the day at the hospital, Rob and Celia are driving back to Columbus. Celia is scheduled to begin her position with the afterschool program on Monday.
Even though Celia had offered to drive, Rob preferred to have something to do to occupy his mind. This was fine with her; it gave a chance to think about the things she had been hoping to accomplish this weekend before they had been called away. She wanted to show up as prepared as possible tomorrow for her first paid day of work – she had performed countless volunteer hours over the summer to help prepare the rooms in the old parsonage.
“Mom and I were talking while you took a shower this morning,” Rob said. Celia looked up from the pad of paper on which she was scribbling notes. “I think she’s flipped the other direction now. Yesterday she was sure Dad was going to die, but today she’s underestimating the help she’ll need in the next month. Both Sara and Maria are leaving for college in the next few weeks. Dad won’t be able to help drive them or move them in or anything, and Mom is going to be busy taking care of Dad.
“That’s a lot,” Celia agreed. “I hadn’t thought about that.”
“I was thinking that once Dad is back home that I might take vacation time to help out. I have ten days saved up right now. That’s two whole weeks. I could do some of the stuff I know Mom’s not thinking about, like find someone to take care of the yard. I could help with the college packing and even get them both up to school. I can come home when I bring Maria back.” Maria had decided to follow in Rob’s footsteps and go to Ohio State, in Columbus.
Celia was relieved to hear that Rob’s mind had re-engaged following what was, certainly for her, a disorienting weekend. Rob had been so flooded with worry – understandably, Celia reminded herself – that he had been unable to think the way he was now all weekend. On one hand, Celia further reminded herself that she had risen to the occasion just fine. On the other, she could not deny that she vastly preferred this Rob as her husband to the one who panicked and had to be told what to do next.
But part of Celia feared that if Rob became the man of the house in his family now, that he might never be free again to be her husband.
How does Celia respond to Rob?
Friday, August 27, 2010
Breathing A Sigh of Relief (Joanne’s response)
There are many reasons why we marry and procreate. One of these is that families desperately need infusions not only of new gene pools over time, but of individuals who bring different and complementary skills and perspectives to both crises and daily life. Since families tend to fall back into old patterns under stress, it is often the new blood who, by virtue of their degree of separation in an emergency, provide stability. Celia has an important role to play even if all she does is remain non-anxious in the midst of the swirling fear and worry. She is already stabilizing Rob with her mere presence in his life and at the hospital.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Breathing a Sigh of Relief (Harold’s response)
In my book, Marriage ROCKS for Christian Couples, I make an observation that goes something like this…“too often we focus more on prayers asked than on prayers answered.” As Christians we believe that God answers prayers. But, sometimes I wonder if God feels like he is just a giant stress ball for us. We squeeze him incessantly when we are worried or anxious. But, once the crisis is past we put him down until the next nerve-wracking experience hits us. I think we need to do a better job of remembering those prayers that God has already answered. Remembering is powerful. It is a reminder of God’s provision. He brought you through before. He’ll bring you through again.
Sometimes, as we breathe that sigh of relief for a crisis averted, let’s remember how God’s hand was present. In our episode this week, Rob, Celia, and Rob’s family can breath a collective sigh of relief that dad is going to pull through this health crisis. In this period, it is important for them all to not lose sight of God’s role as healer in this crisis. It will bolster their faith for the next crisis, which will inevitably come.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Breathing a Sigh of Relief
Rob is at the hospital cafeteria with his younger sisters as they await word on his father’s recovery following emergency heart surgery. Celia, in order to give the family some space, remained alone in the waiting room. Rob has just called to invite her to join them.
“Wait,” Celia’s phone voice said to Rob. “Your mom’s here.” Mom had been with her husband, Rob’s father, in the recovery room. Rob could hear fumbling around, and then he heard his mother’s hysterically crying voice, along with Celia apparently trying to offer some comfort, or something, to her.
Rob froze. He had never heard such frightening heights of emotional expression from his mother and was terrified. He stood up suddenly.
“Rob, what’s wrong?” his sister Sara asked. She and Maria, his other sister, both slowly stood up too as they looked at Rob inquiringly. Then Maria said, “Oh, my God, he’s dead,” and Sara began to cry. Rob, listening to his mother’s frenzy and Celia’s interaction with it over the phone—while watching his sisters go mad in front of him—longed at that moment to apparate, Harry Potter-style, to… to where? Upstairs, to the waiting room, where who knew what news awaited them? He would vastly prefer to apparate to that proverbial desert island he had heard tell about and leave the lot of them to their own devices.
But, somehow, being aware that he wished to be anywhere but here helped root Rob in time and place and he could feel his body cool as reason returned. At that moment he chose to be present. “I’ll be right up,” he said to Celia, not sure she could hear him anyway and hanging up. “Stop it,” he said to his sisters. “I don’t know what’s going on but Mom came out of Dad’s room. She’s with Celia.” As he spoke he was gesturing to them to follow along behind him.
“I don’t know what we’re going to find when we get there,” Rob told Sara and Maria in the elevator, “but whatever it is, we’re going to handle it together.” They nodded.
Time began to slow as Rob, with his sisters following behind, walked from the elevator toward the waiting room. He could hear his mother, still sobbing, and Celia’s voice making sounds of comfort; and as he rounded the corner he could see his mother, a few inches shorter than Celia, collapsed against her as Celia held and rocked her.
Celia looked up and saw Rob and his sisters. She smiled at Rob as she patted his mother’s back. “He’s OK,” she said, when they were within earshot. “He’ll be here a few days, then home to rest. It will be a few months before he can go back to work, though.”
Eyes on Celia, Rob took a very thankful, deep breath.
What decisions are made in the next few days?
Friday, August 20, 2010
What’s it like in the waiting room? (Harold’s response)
I love Joanne's response to this episode. I'll only add a reminder that sooner or later all of us experience those "waiting room" situations. It isn't always in the hospital setting. I think of "waiting room" situations as those places that feel helpless--like things are happening but are out of our control. Those times when we are on pins and needles wondering how things will work out. Those moments when we feel alone or misunderstood or desperate. Sometimes God allows those "waiting room" moments for us to learn to rely and trust in him. At other times, we put ourselves in these "waiting rooms".
In this episode, Celia is in a literal waiting room for reasons out of her control. But, I can imagine the helplessness she feels as she gives Rob space to be brother and son to his family. The enemy often attacks us when we are in our "waiting rooms". He wants us to act from our own desires rather than waiting on God. He wants us to respond to our frustrations rather than trusting in the Lord. He wants us to wallow in self-pity instead of leaning into our faith.
How will you respond to your "waiting room?" It often is a matter of life or death for your relationships with God and with man.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
What’s it like in the waiting room? (Joanne’s comment)
Family crises often don’t end with the crisis itself—in this case, a medical crisis. Rob and Celia are both feeling the pull of potentially dueling loyalties. Rob desires to be both a good son and brother while also being a good husband; Celia (on the flip side) longs for her husband to be fully present for her while trying to give him space to honor other legitimate claims on him. Rob is appropriately attached to both his family of origin and to his new wife. The crisis is still a crisis, though, and until the family is clear on what its new normal is in the wake of Dad’s heart attack, it’s Celia’s responsibility to flex. Once things settle down, Rob will need to figure out how to meet new responsibilities while maintaining other commitments. It’s part of being a grown up.
Monday, August 16, 2010
What’s it like in the waiting room?
Rob and Celia are at the hospital following his father’s heart attack, Rob with his sisters in the cafeteria and Celia giving them some space by remaining in the waiting room.
Celia had little interest in the fashion magazines Rob’s sisters had bought in the gift shop. Their ability to reduce all of life to the height of one’s shoe’s heel was ringing particularly hollow in the midst of what was, if not a life-and-death situation, then likely a life-changing one. Rob’s family was giving off the panicky feeling she remembered from when her parents first separated – everything changing rapidly and no one in charge. Celia realized how much she had relied on her older sister Catherine to navigate her through the situation, even though Catherine was still a child herself at the time.
Celia felt some anxiety of her own right now, though not about Rob’s father – it was about Rob. The most critical situation she had ever faced with Rob had been their own relationship and Celia’s hesitation about getting married. She had never seen him deal with “real” crisis and it frankly freaked her out to reflect on his reaction this morning. He had been immobilized by the news, which admittedly was bad news, and it came out of nowhere.
She had been glad to help, of course, by taking over and making the decision to drive immediately to Cleveland. But if she was to be perfectly honest with herself, she was looking forward to when Rob was ready to step back into the role of charge-taker in their relationship. Celia was irritated with herself at this realization, because when Rob was in charge she hated feeling controlled, even though she knew Rob did not mean to try to control her.
Her phone rang and it was Rob. She answered with a “Hey.”
“Hey,” Rob said in return. “I’m sorry. I kind of forgot you were here. I’m a little out of it right now.”
Somehow, it helped that Rob recognized he was not all together at the moment. Recognizing you’re out of control is one way of taking control, she realized.
“That’s understandable,” Celia said. “There’s a lot going on.” She was glad that despite her own anxiety she was able to avoid dumping any more stress on Rob. She hoped her words were helpful to him.
“Do you want to come down to the cafeteria with us?”
“Well – what if your mom needs us or something?”
Rob’s mother was currently with his father in the recovery room following his emergency surgery. But no sooner were the words out of her mouth than Celia looked up to see Mrs. Benton enter the waiting room.
What happens next?
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Handling anxiety before it handles you (Harold’s response)
God made us with an autonomic nervous system that regulates our physical response (e.g., heart rate, respiration rate, salivation, perspiration) to anxiety. Much of the functioning of this system is outside of our conscious awareness. But, the anxious feeling is somewhat of which we are very aware. At times of stress our bodies are designed to respond. The key, however, to handling this anxiety is to recognize it early to give our brain time to interrupt our unconscious response.
Why am I saying all of this? Well, one of the things that couples struggle with during times of stress is allowing their body’s natural flight-fight responses to dictate their interaction with their spouse. This inevitably results in communication lapses exacerbated by emotional extremes.
In this week’s episode the illness of Rob’s father has placed stress on Rob and Celia’s relationship. It would be easy right now for Rob to allow his emotions to dictate his interaction with his sister’s, his mom, and Celia. However, if he can allow himself space to observe the dynamics between him and Celia I’m sure he will make a decision that is positive for the marriage.
Monday, August 09, 2010
Handling anxiety before it handles you
Rob went to the hospital cafeteria with his sisters while his mother is waiting to see her husband, Rob’s father, who is recovering from surgery following a heart attack.
Rob watched as his younger sisters, Sara and Maria, finished their lunches. He thought he ought to be hungry himself, but the surreal tint the day had acquired the moment he heard news of Dad’s heart attack was still coloring everything, including his appetite. Within a few hours’ time he was being treated as the new patriarch of the family. Just whipping out his wallet and buying lunch for his sisters – who simply stood there at the register and waited for him to pay – threw him off balance.
His sisters’ chatter unnerved him too. Sara feared that they would not be able to go back to college in the fall. Maria wondered how Mom was going to take care of the house alone. Between the two of them they worked themselves into a frenzy of catastrophizing until they convinced one another that they’d both be working for minimum wage and taking care of their mother for the rest of her life.
“Mom’s going to have to get a job,” Maria said.
“We’ll have to move,” Sara said.
He’s not dead, Rob thought. He’s going to recover. What are they so panicky about? Is it true that Dad hasn’t made any financial provision in case something happened to him?
He felt vaguely nauseous and longed to flee to his life, where he was healthy and relatively carefree and where there was no hysterical mother, no needy sisters, no –
“Where’s Celia?” he asked, suddenly aware that he was not alone in life and that he had a wife who had driven him here.
“She’s reading magazines in the waiting room,” Sara said, rolling her eyes.
“She’s no help at all,” Maria said.
What does Rob do next?
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