Adjustments

March 10, 2017 – Friday morning

As I write this, it’s been a little over two weeks since I’ve moved in to live with my dad as his caregiver. I knew this would be an adjustment in many ways, and certainly it has been. Some of those adjustments have been tougher than others.

I knew I was going to miss my family in Abilene, and I do. I miss our home, and especially my wife, Kathy, and her sweet smile and her gentle sense of humor. She is wonderfully attuned to hearing the Spirit of God, and I miss the blessings of just being around her. As many of you know, she also has an amazing singing voice, and I have always loved standing next to her as we worship, and hearing that beautiful voice offering up a sacrifice of praise in gorgeous harmony.

I miss my many wonderful friends. Many of them are from church and from our Bible class. Proverbs says as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another, and I am a better student of God’s Word because of the “sharpening” these friends have provided. It has been a privilege to study with them. Others have shared with us through life groups and other ways. Whether sharing from the bread of the Bible, or sharing Chinese food at Szechuan’s, the sweet friendships and fellowship have been a rich blessing.

As I said to some friends before I left Abilene, most blessings in this life are temporary, and when those blessings are gone, we can either be angry that we’ve lost them, or be thankful that we got to enjoy them for a season, and I choose to be thankful.

I don’t want to forget my friends from our model train club, and the fun we had running trains together and sharing that great hobby.

And that’s not all. Certainly, I miss the good friends and colleagues with whom I worked at CCC, and I miss the work of meeting neighbors and building a better neighborhood. Yesterday was the second Thursday of the month, which was the regular day for “neighbor lunch” potluck dinner, where I would prepare the main dish and the neighbors would bring the sides. I miss the good food, and the good conversation that we had together.

I miss my CCC co-workers, and the shared struggles that we had together. That’s what it means to be part of a team, so that “joys are magnified and disappointments lessened,” because we went through them together. And in shaping teenagers to become Young Leaders of Abilene, or in helping families move towards better financial stability, or just giving someone a ride to the store, they are still doing that work, and God knows, we need more good neighbors in this world.

So yes, there are people and things that I miss greatly about Abilene. But I am receiving many blessings as well.

I enjoy sharing time with my dad, and hearing stories about the interesting life he’s led, people he’s known, places he’s been. He has worked hard his whole life, and always put his family first. Imagine: all those years, I thought he LIKED the dark meat of the chicken! Turns out, no, he actually prefers the white meat, but he was letting his family have the first pick.

So now, if he needs a little help with the chores of everyday living, it’s my privilege to assist him with that. I figure he’s earned it.

Just the other day, he showed me a picture from his days in the army. He was about 23 or 24, a corporal in charge of a crew manning an anti-aircraft gun. The picture shows him, kneeling down, with the members of his crew all around him. They’re all smiling, and you can tell that these are young men in the prime of their lives, defending their country during the Korean War, but also ready to have a good time when they’re not on duty.

I’m learning other things too, and receiving blessings beyond measure. And I’m thinking that somehow, in some way, maybe this is what God has in mind for us. Not that we should all move in with our aging parents, necessarily, but that we should be more willing to care for each other, to give up some of our own conveniences and comforts when necessary, for the sake of helping someone else.

And just this morning, we got a phone call that my niece and her husband had just had their first baby, a little girl. Everybody is doing well, and the pride and love in my brother’s voice was special beyond words. It was a wonderful moment, being with my dad when he saw the first picture of his newest great-grandchild – this makes number eight. And thank You, Lord.

So there are compensations for the things I’m missing. Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.

Lessons from Dad

I hope you had a pleasant Labor Day holiday weekend, and that you were able to do something fun with family or friends. I spent the weekend with my dad.

Dad & me 9-3-16Harry Louis Garison, Sr., is a remarkable man. Known to his friends as “Buddy,” he was born at home on August 25, 1928. When he got married, his father gave him an acre of land across the road, where dad built a house for his new bride. He still lives in that house where we grew up. Other than the three years when he was in the army, he has lived on that property in Orange County, Texas, his entire life.

Almost six years ago, my mom passed away from a stroke, and it was a hard blow for him, but he was determined to stay by himself, and he has. Well, not quite by himself – he has a gentle giant of a dog, an old German Shepherd named “Chica,” who is his faithful companion. My dad is also blessed with some great neighbors and good friends who regularly check on him and sometimes even bring him food.

Dad had a long career as a mechanic and a business owner. When we were boys, my brothers and I took turns working for him, and watching him and the way he carried himself has gone a long way towards making me who I am today.

The most important thing I’ve learned from my dad is that Christianity is not something you just talk about; it’s how you live. Dad has lived his life in accordance with the scripture that says, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18).

Dependability, honesty, hard work, loyalty – these are the principles by which my dad has lived his life. It’s how he operated his business and how he raised his family. To this day, he is a role model for my brothers and me.

Something else I’ve learned from dad: patience. Whether it was fixing some stubborn problem on a car or dealing with a difficult customer, my dad always modeled patience for us, even though he would probably say he didn’t do a very good job at it.

In recent years, dad has shown great patience in another way. Dad has non-diabetic neuropathy, which has destroyed his balance and left him confined to a wheelchair. It has also turned his hands into claws, and left him unable to use his fingers. But he still lives by himself, dresses himself, and cooks his own food every day. He has gotten very creative in finding ways of doing things he used to do without thinking about it. He still gets them done; it just takes longer. But he is patient enough (and stubborn enough) to keep working on the chore in front of him, until he finishes it.

There’s a lot more I could say about my Dad, but one recent story reveals a lot about him. Dad enjoys ice cream as a treat, and he buys frozen goodies from the Schwan’s truck that comes to his house. Just the other day, he had bought a box of ice cream sandwiches, and decided he wanted one right then, so after the truck left, he opened the package and took one out, and was putting the box in the freezer above the refrigerator. As he was stretching up in his wheelchair, he slipped and fell, and spilled ice cream sandwiches everywhere. Just at that moment, his home health nurse arrived, and came into the kitchen to find him on the floor. “Oh my goodness!” she exclaimed. “What are you doing on the floor?”

“Never mind that,” he said. “Help me get this ice cream in the freezer before it melts!”

That’s my dad.

Always the Right Time

I’m just back from taking a few days off to go visit my dad, Buddy Garison. He still lives in the same house where I was raised in Southeast Texas, near Orange. Mom passed away in 2010, and ever since then, Dad has lived by himself, with his faithful canine companion, a German Shepherd named “Chica.”

To call my Dad “stubborn” would be an understatement. He is feisty and independent, and even though confined to a wheelchair, he still mows his own grass, keeps a garden, and gets around pretty well. He is 86.

My brothers and I met together to do some work on the house and spend some time with dad and with each other. Our family has always been close, but since Mom passed, we have become even more aware of the need to tell people that you love how you feel. We know what it’s like to get that terrible phone call and for someone you love dearly just to be gone. One of the things that makes that a little less painful is knowing that we said “I love you” while we still could.

Is there someone you need to call? Who needs to hear you say, “I love you”? NOW would be a good time!

 

Happy Birthday, Dad

Harry Louis Garison, Sr. – known to his friends as “Buddy” – was born August 25, 1928, in Orange County, Texas, the second son of Stanley and Mazura Linscomb Garison. While he was still a boy, his dad – my grandad – built them another house on the same piece of land, and that’s where my dad lived until he got married. He graduated from Orangefield High School in 1944 after completing the 11th grade – that was as far as they went in those days!

IMG_0003Dad served a hitch in the U.S. Army during the Korean Conflict. After his time in the army, he moved back home and went to work as an auto mechanic. He and my mom were married in 1957; Hurricane Audrey slammed into the Texas & Louisiana coast the same week. Dad was such a “confirmed” bachelor, his friends teased him that when he finally DID get married, it caused a hurricane!

(The picture is mom & dad & yours truly, all wearing matching shirts that my grandmother made for us.)

He and mom moved into the house when my brothers and I all grew up; it’s the house he still lives in today. It’s literally within a quarter of a mile of where he was born and raised. He’s quite proud of the fact that, except for his time in the service, he has lived on the same land his whole life.

Mom & dad raised the four of us boys, and later, became “unofficial” step-parents for my brother David’s girlfriend, who would eventually become his wife. The whole time we were growing up, there was one bathroom. THAT will teach you some patience!

As I mentioned, dad was an auto mechanic. For a good number of years, he was co-owner of a Texaco station there; later, he opened a shop where he could just work on cars, and not have to worry about pumping gas.

What I remember about my dad as a working man was how diligent and focused he was at work, but when the working day was over, he had that special gift of being able to shut it off and come home to his family, and not think about it. He was that most rare of breeds – an honest mechanic. And I wish I could put into words how proud it made me whenever I would meet someone who would say, “Oh, you’re Buddy’s boy. You know, your dad is the only man I trust to work on my car.”

I was in elementary school when my dad got serious about his faith. He had been baptized as a teenager, but later, as an adult, he came to believe that he needed to commit his life to God in a more intentional and personal way, so he was “rebaptized.” And he has stayed faithful to the Lord ever since.

He has truly set an example for my brothers and me to follow, and given us some big shoes to fill. Always tell the truth. When you give someone your word, follow through, even if it’s not easy. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Give a fair day’s work for a day’s pay. Do it right the first time.

50thAs I was looking for some pictures of my dad to include with this article, I began noticing that in nearly every picture I have of him, he is either with my mom or some of his kids or grandkids. That’s typical. This is a man who truly put his family ahead of himself. He has lived for his God, his family, and his country, and is not ashamed of a bit of it. (This picture is from their 50th wedding anniversary.)

Dad is slowing down these days. Of course, we lost mom almost four years ago, and I know he still grieves for her. And yet, he tells me, without a shred of embarrassment, that he’s not alone in their house, because he can feel her presence all around him, and he is surrounded by so many wonderful memories.

Even though his health is failing, and he can’t walk, Dad still lives by himself – well, okay, along with his faithful German shepherd, “Chica.” He manages to get around pretty well with his electric wheelchair. He still has a garden in the back yard – he uses a golf cart to inspect it – and he can still climb on and off his riding lawn mower to keep the grass cut. His faith, his courage and his gritty determination continue to inspire me, as I think they do everyone who knows him.

Thanks for letting me tell you a little about my dad. If you’re a praying person, please say a prayer today for my dad, Buddy Garison, and please tell the Lord thank you for giving our family such a wonderful gift.

Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you.