Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dad's big move - for the winter? for a while? for the best.

My dad just moved to an assisted living apartment.  I feel all alone, again, with Dad not being at his house right next door.  He's lived there since 1996, when Ray bought the house for Mom and Dad to live in.  Mom had Parkinson's and her home was getting to be too much for her.  When it came up for sale, Ray was the first, and without any hesitation, to say, "Would your folks like to live in that house?" and then, "We could buy it for them."  I remember that both Mom and Dad cried when we talked to them about it, and within about a month they had moved in.

After that time, Mom was only around for 5 short years, and I miss her.  Dad and I got more acquainted than we'd ever been.  He has helped me in so many ways - whether it was mowing grass, building a giant leaf-collector, or helping bury my pets.  We've talked about politics (even when we disagree), finances (all about municipal bonds), and after I finally told him why Ray left, he drew the conclusion that "gay people must be born that way."  His understanding, although it went against all he'd known previously, was HUGE.  It has helped me to know he was trying to understand both me and Ray.  The talks we've had have made it possible that I'm closer to Dad than I ever was as a kid.

While Dad used to fix almost anything in his garage, he now has an electric scooter to get around, and walking over to my house for dinner is out of the question. At age 90, Dad is basically healthy, and he used to stand nearly six feet tall - even was imposing to some - he's now at least six inches shorter.  Macular degeneration has claimed one eye, and damaged the other.  He can no longer get around his home without a walker or cane, and preventing falls is continually a concern.  He has fallen, and twice he's been alone for hours before he could call someone for help. 

My house is pretty big just for one person.  Maybe not laid out too well, because there is no bedroom on the main floor, and I have two steps up to the kitchen, down to the living room, and a whole, long flight of stairs up to other bedrooms or to the basement.  It was never a serious solution to have him live in my house, but it did cross my mind.  Altogether, and for many reasons, my dad gave up his driving last summer, reluctantly abandoned plans to winter in Texas, and investigated "a respite" (for 3 months) in the assisted living apartment complex.  Whether it will be permanent depends on how Dad gets along, and I hope he's happy at the new place.

Yesterday was the big move, and my brother, Lee, had orchestrated most of the move.  He did such a good job of getting Dad's paperwork done, getting the required tests accomplished, arranging to have a truck, and organizing what Dad needed to take.

My other brother, Kenny, sister, Nancy, and I were all around to pitch in, plus we hired young people to haul the furniture to a truck. At one point I heard Dad say, "There were enough people helping me that they could have just carried everything here."   By evening - with a few more trips back and forth from house to apartment - Dad was set up.  His bedroom looks amazingly like his bedroom from home, the cable TV is working, and neighbors have stopped to make friends. I hope he likes it, I hope he makes friends, and he mentioned, "I might find a girlfriend." 

All this goes on, and I woke up today with a big ache, and all the while I was ignoring the fact that I can go and come as I please - ignoring the fact that I can see Dad whenever I stop by his place - ignoring the reality that my kids are all nearby - ignoring the fact that I've got health and strength on my side - and really, ignoring the fact that this is a good move for Dad.

I just missed having Dad right next door.  I felt so alone, and I miss him.  The emptiness of not having my dad for my neighbor just makes me hurt and cry like a wound has been scraped open.  I sure hope Dad isn't feeling alone, dumped or abandoned.  I know it is a safe place for him, but I'm aching the loss.  I don't want him to fail.  I don't want Dad to be old.

Winter 2011 - some of the family joined Dad for a visit on So. Padre Island. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Teen Mania revisited - a mom's account.

Last week MSNBC ran a piece on Teen Mania, and it showed a part that isn't too pretty.  They highlighted an event that goes on at Teen Mania, called ESOAL, and MSNBC edited vivid images together for sensationalism.  To get over the harm caused by Teen Mania, a blog was started by "Recovering Alumni.",  and the girl who started the blog was featured on the MSNBC program, as she and others spent a weekend "deprogramming" with cult experts.  It really isn't necessary to sensationalize any part of Teen Mania, because there's been enough planting of harmful seeds into lots of kids, that finally they are getting a decent harvest - except that it's rotten fruit.  As much as Teen Mania's leaders (Dave Hasz and Ron Luce, et. al.) don't want to admit it, their program needs a big makeover.

Because I'm a parent of an Honor Academy (Teen Mania Internship) graduate, and because my four kids went on about 12 summer trips, and because I volunteered with Teen Mania in Miami and Garden Valley, and because I sponsored ministry teams who put on Acquire the Fire events, I feel I have the experience necessary to comment.  Because I've raised money for Teen Mania, in the past I've encouraged and supported the Teen Mania "machine," as well as having been part of many "behind the scenes" venues and I've had Ron Luce in my home, I am familiar with the organization and have credibility for what I've witnessed.  I feel I can surely speak out. 

Granted my kids loved their exciting trips, loved the friends they made, loved being part of what they considered God's work.  However, they were exposed to legalistic thought, elitist attitudes in regards to other Christian groups (much less non-Christians), and they experienced judgmental attitudes toward anyone who didn't agree with all they thought should be adhered to in order to be Christian. 

In addition, dangerous things happened while on the trips or when my son attended the Honor Academy, some of which I will list here: 

In the summer of 1997, my son had appendicitis in India and had surgery there.  He contracted MRSA, and nearly died.  He was 17.  While he was recovering from the surgery, still in India, I was told he was "fine," by his team leaders.  I was told by leaders in Garden Valley that all was well - not to worry.  This was not true, and when my son arrived back to Dallas, he was still so sick that he was in the hospital there for another two weeks. 

When at the Honor Academy ('98-'99), he got sick with asthma, bronchitis, and ear infections - all at the same time.  His fever was over 102*, but he had no medical care available on site, nor was there provision for him to get to a doctor.  He was still expected to be at work for his entire shift, as being sick was being weak.

On overseas trips, my kids were not fed adequately, and my daughter's hair fell out because of protein deficiency.  It has never come back.  (I have talked personally with the local contact who was to set up the food for the group.  TM canceled plans for good food to be provided.  This not only hurt the kids on the team, but the locals that had planned to have work through this, were left high and dry.  They said they never wanted to work with Teen Mania again.)

My daughter was left alone on the way to her team's "home" on the first hike there.  Details are too long to list, but it was definitely the opposite of the "we never leave your child on their own" claim of Teen Mania.

While interning for Teen Mania, my son worked in the call center by day, and as summer trips approached and housing was needed for the "missionaries," he was required to pour cement until after dark.  The work went on 7 days a week to get it completed.  

There are numerous details concerning how he went to his supervisors to appeal decisions that affected him.  It cannot be shown that going to his supervisors was ever a help, and it was very much a discouragement to him.  He tells his story here, here, and here

My daughter, Liz, wrote an entire Masters thesis on how her Teen Mania experience has affected her faith.  She blogs about it from time to time, and here is an entry on her changes.

The accounts I'm hearing nowadays are not surprising.  Those who once were kids are coming forward to reflect on experiences that are being discounted by both Dave and Ron.  These stories are NOT disregardable, which is how they (Ron/Dave) and the Board of Directors have responded.  

No, Teen Mania isn't all bad.  But it is not a place I recommend for impressionable youth.  It's not a place I recommend for any youth or adult.  My opinion:  Don't send your kids, and don't pay to fund this organization.