This was a different "First Day." First day back from vacation. It was as good as "First Day" last week.
We had a house guest for Paul's birthday party weekend--an old friend who used to live with us when we were house parents for a large group of men with disabilities from the early 70's to the early 80's. John is 74 now but there is a huge hole of longing in his heart that never really goes away.
"She shouldn't have waited so long to have me," he says of his mother, "I don't know why she decided to have anudder one."
She was 38 at the time, not old by today's standards, but back in 1933, it sounded older.
She only lived until she was 53 and he was 15--and then, he says, "Nobody wanted me, so they put me away." He shakes his head at this point, his plentiful sand coloured hair slicked back.
John tells us that a doctor there where they "put him away"--like a mismatched piece of furniture in storage, in one of the several institutions he lived in for the next 25 years--told him, "You don't belong there," but "there" he was.
Fast forward to a happier present. Paul and he have a relationship of deep mutual affection. They call each other "buddy" and fuss over each other.
John worries over Paul--calls him every day--tells him not to work so hard. Paul picks him up and brings him to his office a few days a week, where John does shredding and bosses people around. Paul makes sure John eats better than he would otherwise. Like many other children of the thirties John is very careful with every penny he spends. He could live better than he does, but his inner ghosts keep him frugal.
One of the reasons I love my man so much is the heart he has for people like John. From our earliest married days when he was fresh to the field of working with people with disabilities, he would bring people home for the weekend from the institution he worked in at the time. In fact, the weekend Brenda was born, we had such a guest for the weekend. Paul had no clue that his heavily pregnant wife, with a busy two year old, was feeling less than hospitable.
I still remember Philip, who stayed with us that weekend. I remember his wonder at sheets with patterns on them--all he had known were white hospital sheets.
So today I went back to work in my office in the half basement below a house that is home to a group of people with disabilities.
One of my team was waiting with coffee. A few things had happened while I was away. He was glad I was back.
I went upstairs to say, "Hi," to everyone and Jim went into paroxysms of excitement, pointing to me and saying, "There's 'linda." He showed me his new mouth organ and every birthday card he'd been given for his April 28th birthday, describing them as he showed me and telling me who each card was from, even though he doesn't read. He pointed to mine and said, "That's 'linda's card--chocolate cake." And indeed it had a picture of a slice of chocolate cake on it.
Today one friend told me they were so happy because they felt we were on "solid ground." Another told me, when I gave them some advice that was meant to be helpful,"You did that in a way that didn't make me feel put down."
It was a very good day. A day of hope.
Prayer: Dear Lord, your goodness overwhelms me. I cherish the moments in this good day as I cherish the moments of my life measured in years. And I thank you for the man you joined my life with.