The Illness of a Parent, the Feelings of a Child, the Loyalty of a Pet

I have two seriously soft spots:  pets and children.  I cannot read or watch a version of either Old Yeller or Where the Red Fern Grows without teary eyes.  Visits to the children’s wing of hospitals tears my guts to shreds.  Once we put on a little benefit exhibition, and this child remarks that he could never break bricks like that because it must hurt.  A child with multiple IV needles and tubes in his small body and enduring constant pain and discomfort of a level I could never fathom thought I was something because I smiled after putting my fist through a stack of bricks?  The only thing I accomplished was creating a smile on his face as he was the truly strong and spectacular person.

Both pets and children are innocent.  How or why someone would harm or want to harm either is something that I’ll never understand.  Few things send me “over the edge,” and hurting either pet or child will unleash every particle of fury I can manufacture.

Of course life doesn’t always seem fair.  Both people and animals get hurt, become sick, and pass away.  I personally believe in a supreme being, a creator, who I refer to as God.  I believe that we are not supposed to know the reason behind all events and that we will never encounter an obstacle that we are incapable of overcoming.  Actually my feelings on the matter are pretty much summed up in the 2nd Episode of the old television show the Rifleman.

Mark McCain (Johnny Crawford) says to his Dad,

“Looks to me like the Lord is dead set against us having our own place!”

His Dad, Lucas McCain, the Rifleman (Chuck Connors) replied:

“A long time ago in a country so far west, it’s almost due east of here, lived a big stock man with a beard so long it reached down to his belly button.  His name was Job.  Now Job had seven sons and seven daughters, over seven thousand head of fine cattle and sheep, not to mention a considerable amount of camels.  Now Job was top dog with the Lord because he was so hard working, righteous. The Lord never lost a chance to brag on him…made a point to tell the devil about the old man…about how he hated evil, temptation and, most important, how he never lost his faith in God. Well the devil swished his tail and laughed and he allowed that Job was such a good man because everything was going his way. Just give him some trouble and he’d switch sides in a hurry.  Well the Lord thought this over and then he said he’d give the devil a hard dollar against a penny’s worth of brimstone that Job would keep faith with his maker no matter what trials were put upon him.  Well the devil sent some rustlers on to the old man’s stock.  Then he called up a big wind that knocked down his house and killed all his children. The old man’s beard turned white with grief. But he held stead fast. So the devil reared back and saddled him all over with festers and boils. Mark, Job was a miserable as a man could be. He got himself a piece of broken jug, sat out in the corral doctorin’ his boils and shaken ashes over his head and bewailing his faith, wondering why the Lord has forsaken him until finally three of his friends came up, and they told Job that wailing about the situation only made it worse and it looked to them like he sinned somewhere along the line and why didn’t he repent. Job jumped right back at them.  He said he’d repent when he had something to repent about. He knew he’d been good and righteous and while he might complain about his life, he had not lost faith with the Lord.  ‘Oh that my words were now written and printed in a book, graven with chisel and granite rock forever.  For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand beside me later on.’  That’s how the old man put it! Well Mark, the devil was plum wore out, so he just tossed in his chips and quit the game. The Lord was so proud of Job that he restored all the old man’s children and his house and his camels and sheep and he gave him over twice as many cattle as he had before. And Job lived a hundred and forty years happy as a birddog and finally died being old and full of days.”

Mark thought about what I had just said.

“Makes our troubles look kind of piddlin’ don’t it?”

You can view the scene here:

Reflections of the episode Lucas McCain’s perspective can be read here:

Reflections of the episode from Mark McCain’s perspective can be read here:

Others may have similar or totally different beliefs than mine.  That OK in my opinion, but honestly I think this is one of those cases where we can all be correct or we are all incorrect regardless of if we believe the same or different.  What I think is important, however, is that we all need something to believe in or to hold on to help us face our own challenges.  That something might be tangible, intangible, spiritual, physical, or anything that we can call upon to give us that little bit extra which is hard to equate.

Back Home:

There is a young boy back home in the Hungarian Settlement in Livingston Parish who I have never met.  Actually I don’t think I ever met his Dad and only know his Mom from her parents and older siblings.  A blonde haired little sprout of about 4 years, seeing photos of him out in the fields with his Uncle Frank have me reliving those same days with my Grandfather out in the fields years ago.  I’m biased in that was my upbringing, and I’ve known his Uncle and family for practically a lifetime, but I doubt there is a more edifying environment for a child.

From what I know, this young boy is as physically healthy as any his age.  He definitely knows how to have fun out in fields and the joy and satisfaction from good, honest, hard work bringing forth a reward of the sweetest strawberries one will ever taste.

Apart from hair color and being attached to an Uncle since his Grandpa passed before his birth, this boy and I differ in another respect but only by a few years.  My Mom’s illness really took hold when I was 7 years old, and she passed away in my teens.  This boy, however, is already living with a parental illness.  His Dad has cancer.

I do not know the full story or prognosis, and honestly it is none of my business.  I know that his Dad is very ill and that the family decided to remove him from the hospital to bring him home with hospice care.  I know that his Mom is a very strong woman.  She would actually need to work at not being strong given her older siblings and the quality of her parents.  They are in that mold of hard working, hard headed, highly intelligent, and very generous people of Hungarian heritage in the area.  Seriously, I could type enough positive things about her parents, both of whom taught me in school, which would equal the size of a doctoral dissertation.

Why is his Daddy sick?  I can’t answer, and I don’t think anyone can.

A disclaimer here:

My degrees are in history.  My work involves government and politics.  Thanks to a former student who went on to earn computer science degrees from Georgia Tech, I’ve become quite skilled at building and repairing computers with both hardware and malware issues.  I’ll put my lawnmower, bush hog, and chain saw sharpening skills up against anyone even though those talents have become quite rusty from lack of opportunity in our current environment.  I have no formal credentials in psychology, social work, or related areas and any real life knowledge is restricted to my own remembrances and discussions with friends.  In other words, I’m not sure if I actually know anything, but I tried to think of what I might feel if I could see, hear, feel, and experience from this little boy’s perspective.  Please consult with qualified individuals for real advice.

Mommy what’s wrong with Daddy?  Is Daddy going to get better?

If I’m the young boy, I’m scared but also confused.  I’ve seen death, but I really don’t understand it fully.  Someone or something that has passed may appear to be sleeping, so why can’t they wake up?  If I go to sleep will I be able to wake up?  Since Daddy is hurting now what if Mommy starts to hurt in the same way?  What will happen to me then?

He needs some reassurances and someone who will listen.  In this case, his Uncle will play a huge role.  It’s not like his Uncle has all the answers.  I know that this man would not pretend or even joke about knowing all the answers.  He will listen, and he will explain what can and cannot be understood.

He needs some routines just to provide a touch of normalcy.  He needs to know that it is acceptable to feel hurt, sad, scared, and even angry and to channel those emotions in some manner which are not harmful.  One of the hardest drains on me was that I felt that I needed to bottle all emotions up to prevent adding burdens to the adults I loved who I knew were hurting.  It’s just too easy to do that as a kid and too easy to push any feelings into a negative pressure.

A child this age may not understand what is taking place, but the child knows what is happening.  Often when someone states that a child is too young to understand, the reality is the person stating that is too ignorant to recognize what the child understands is often more than many adults in the same situation.  Their minds are still pliable, capable of absorbing like a sponge, and not filled with preconceived answers to questions yet to be asked.

I know that this particular young man is not being neglected, and that all who are involved in his life would do any and every thing to help him.  That begins with his Mom, and I’m sure it carries to his Dad regardless of how ill the man is at a given moment in his struggles.  He also has Uncles, Aunts, friends and neighbors.

I’ve looked up from the floor at an ill parent.  As a young adult, I’ve looked from the perspective of a caregiver.  It was a unique convergence of various issues, but 5 years ago while in my 30s I experienced the perspective of the one needing care as I remained bedridden for practically a year.  Thanks to MDs and PhDs and other professionals at Johns Hopkins, I’m no longer in that condition and intend to return to even more productivity and better health and fitness before the abrupt acute attack within my body took place.

I may not have the credentials or training, but I know firsthand that each of those perspectives provides an entirely different view.  The views are not similar.

For me the easiest was actually being the patient.  It was so easy that at times I wanted to pass away.  What hurt though was seeing my wife struggling to help me.  I thought being the caregiver was easy until I got to see that role through her eyes.  Then the caregiver became the most difficult role.  With a child, it is hard to create an angle to really see a reflection in their eyes.  That child often feels like everyone else is hurting, struggling, and grasping at straws so they must be that rock or solid foundation.  That should not be the case.

None of these roles are easy.  None of the perspectives can offer a brighter image.  Sadly, I think it is all a part of life that we all face in some form or another.

I just hate to see a child hurt whether it is from their own injuries or illnesses or from that of someone close to them.  Children and pets aren’t supposed to hurt.  Sadly, both will pass away.  Regardless of one’s feelings about an afterlife or not, I would like to keep the spirit of that child and affection of that pet inside as a part of my being.  Wouldn’t that innocence, that sincerity, that genuine feeling make me a better person and the world a better place if shared and continued from generation to generation and throughout continent to continent?