I would give myself a one-day silent retreat using The School of Jesus Crucified. Well, at least until it was time to take my dad to his cardiologist appointment at 5 pm. It had been a busy and emotionally draining couple of weeks with family and other out-of-town guests visiting, and I thought this little retreat was just what I needed to restore my peace of heart. I said my morning prayers then launched right in on the book. It was fabulous, and I got pretty excited about the spiritual progress I was sure to make.
I had read and meditated for about a half an hour when the phone rang. It was my mom letting me know that her home health aide, R, did not come to work. My mom has been confined to a wheel chair ever since she had a stroke two years ago. I called R, but she didn't answer. I left a message. Then I cooked bacon and eggs for Mom and took it down to her house. Dad had eaten cereal. I greeted him on the front porch.
I *think* he greeted me as well, but frankly, I can't remember for sure because the next words out of his mouth changed the whole focus of my day.
"Wendy, I'm out of cigarettes, and I've been out since yesterday at noon," he said, getting directly to the point as he handed me an empty L&M 100s package. I figured the information about how long he had been out was to help me understand the urgency of the situation. "And look at this," he added with deep concern, holding up his beloved little dog to me. "Cherokee's got a giant tick on his leg. He needs to go to the vet."
I looked at the tick.
"Dad," I said, "That is not a tick. It's some kind of tumor."
"It is so a tick! Look. Feel of it."
I pressed the soft, black sphere and looked at how it was attached. "It's not a tick, Dad," I contradicted. "A tick's body gets big, but only its head burrows in. This thing is connected to the skin all the way around."
"Will you make him an appointment and take him to the vet?" my dad persisted. "Today?" he added. Dad can still drive, but if he does he is not eligible for home health services, which he needs. So no more driving.
"Yes," I sighed as I felt a dark cloud gather over my head. I imagined the Vet's office with the walls papered in annoying posters about vaccinations and neutering. Big Pharma rules there too. Ugh! Clearly, God had a different plan for my day!
I went inside and gave Mom her breakfast, got her dressed, washed the dishes, and started a load of laundry.
Then I went home and got my purse and headed to the Tobacco Shack. I had really been primed for silence and prayer. I felt the resentment monster crashing through my soul. A knot tightened in my chest. And then the guilt. I pulled into the drive-through of the cigarette place and saw a sign that said that it didn't open until 9. I had ten minutes to wait. I decided to fill up the car with gas.
I left the driver's door open as I pumped the gas. When I finished and went to get in the car, I noticed a praying mantis on the roof. I thought bitterly, "Oh, funny. I wanted to pray and now here's this praying mantis. Too weird." I shooed him back so he wouldn't get squished when I closed the door. I drove into the grocery store parking lot and parked, waiting for 9:00. As I glanced out the driver's door window, the praying mantis leaped onto the driver's side mirror. He turned his queer triangular head and peered at me. I studied him and marveled at his construction--all the joints in his legs and the searching way he turned his head when he looked at me. I recalled something that I had read that morning about how God gave us creation so we would know how much he loved us. As I pondered this thought and gazed at him, time stood still. Then the mantis raised up on his hindmost legs and then plunged forward, galloping along the top of the mirror. The sheer beauty of it caused me to gasp, and tears trickled down my cheeks.
"Thank you, God, for the attitude adjustment," I whispered.
Back home with the precious cigarettes, I called the vet to make an appointment. I felt relieved when they said they couldn't take him until the next day. Later, when I went back to my parents' to cook their midday meal, my mom said, "I gave your dad the tweezers to pull out that tick."
"What?" I asked in disbelief.
"But he couldn't get it," she finished.
"Mom! No! It's not a tick!" I had a mental image of me doing a face palm and thought, "Watch it, Wendy. Remember your attitude adjustment. But I could feel the frustration coming back.
Later, zooming down the highway to my dad's cardiologist appointment, he confided that he had painted the "tick" with fingernail polish.
"Okay, Dad," I sighed, feeling frustrated and totally defeated.
And I reviewed my day and the retreat that God had planned for me and what a failure I was.
The next morning my parents' home health aide called and said, "You can cancel that appointment with the vet. They already looked at that lump when Cherokee had his shots. They said it was a fat deposit and not to worry about it."
That night, after I had put my mom to bed, my dad called me into his office where he was playing his millionth game of Solitaire on the computer. He said, "Wendy, you were right about the tick. I was wrong. I'm sorry."
My heart melted, and I hugged him tight.
"I love you, Daddy. It's ok."
And it was.