Monday, February 6, 2012

The Ins and Outs of Doors

In 1881 and 1888, Germany and the United States, respectively, granted patents for the invention of a revolving door. Its intent was to keep inclement weather peripherals out of a building, particularly during a storm, but it also helped keep foot traffic smooth and rhythmic. Doors have a simplistic poetic aura, a real analogousness to which we all can relate – because we use them! Doors both reveal and hide, they allow and deny. Doors are the ultimate ins and outs.
 A revolving door can also be the source of great people watching entertainment. At St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee where my 8-year-old son, Eli, is being treated for brain and spine cancer, the main entrance is an automated, sensor-driven revolving door. Why is it that people have so much trouble using something that does all the work for them? I have to be careful here because one of my most embarrassing moments involves a revolving door. So, actually, I guess, that kind of gives me a license to make fun of revolving-door-challenged people. When I graduated college with a pert-near useless degree in journalism, I interviewed at a non-profit organization in the big city of Nashville for a public relations position. I do not remember the name of the fledgling organization, but it was located downtown in an office suite. So, it was impressive to a please-get-me-out-of-Athens-Alabama gal. I am a horrible interviewee, but the lady and I seemed to hit it off. She told me to hang around and we could do lunch across the street at some cloth-napkin place located in the plaza of a tower with lots of carved concrete and glass… probably a fountain, too. Sure, I thought, what was this Burlington-Coat-Factory suit skirt good for if it never saw a cloth napkin? So, a short while later she met me downstairs and we crossed at the crosswalk, talking and walking, walking and talking.  I was in the middle of one of my witty banter bits, when we came to the revolving door of the restaurant. The back of my mind froze and a little high-pitched voice said “Well, lookie thar, it’s a movin dough-wer.” But, the front of my mind panicked at losing my banter-stride with my soon-to-be boss, so I matched her step and followed her into the compartment and never dropped a syllable. So, shoulder pad to shoulder pad, I chattered on as we took little bitty baby steps to keep from bumping our heels on the back and our toes on the front of the door as it moved. We popped out of that soda can like… well, like shook-up soda. Lunch was painful, and I don’t remember much about it because I was so horrified. Did she offer me a job? NO!... what are you reading, no, Elly May had a better chance of getting that job. One of Ellly May’s monkeys had a better chance of getting that job.
So, that’s my best door story. It beat out the Domino’s guy running into the glass door at a dorm at David Lipscomb University one time in front of a gaggle of college girls. And, there was the time the boy next door, Daryl, took a picture off his mom’s wall and hinged it to his tree house floor for a door/cover. The Bible uses the door metaphorically often, but one of my favorite stories is about the lack of a door, or access to a door. And, until now, I’ve always related to the friends in Mark 2 of the man being let down through the ceiling to be healed by Jesus. But, because of my current circumstance of helplessness, I relate more to the invalid. As I’ve stated before, I grew up playing team sports and love a team atmosphere. This is a great Biblical example of teamwork, determination in the face of obstacles, love for a teammate, and faith in a goal – a goal to help someone else, I might add. The parallels to our situation are obvious as we are dependent on physical and emotional support from our own team back home. My heart is touched every day as I read messages to us about Eli from friend and stranger – many who are now new friends. It’s an odd feeling to be the one supported and not the one holding the rope. And, I’m sure the distracted texting people I see slam into the red metal frame of the automated door that moves at its own speed would agree that it hurts a little to let something else take control.  Why does it hurt, why do we fight it so much? I guess because we are children in the presence of God. Most children believe themselves to be invincible. They think they are the fastest runner, they are highest jumper, and that if the towel was tied tight enough around their neck they really could fly. Truth hurts when one is not as good as one thinks.  I could not count in a day how many times Abbey does not wait for me to help her do something with which I know she needs help. But her immaturity distorts her self-awareness. She learns a hard lesson many times a day, much like I do with my own Father in Heaven.
About the third day I was at St. Jude, still stumbling from appointment to appointment, my paths often crossed with a certain daddy. I first heard him before I saw him. We were in a u-shaped waiting room with a play area at the bottom curve. I sat in the waiting area nearest the bottom reading while Eli was in a wheelchair playing a video game, I think, probably. My concentration, which admittedly is thin, was interrupted by a deep scratchy voice reading as softly as a scratchy voice can the story of Beauty and the Beast. I didn’t flinch to look at him because he was trying to avoid attention by keeping his voice down, so I didn’t want to burst his bubble that he was successful. But, his gruff voice reading about Belle was so contrasting that I stopped to listen. And, the mere fact someone was reading a book with paper pages and not a digitized version or cell phone was odd in and of itself. So, I listened. The pages turned with a scratch, and the listener did not respond to the reading. He simply read slowly and continuously. Finally, my curiosity gave way and I shifted my weight in my chair so that I could get a better glimpse as I did my own reading. At the flower shaped table with his knees peeking out over the top sat a greasy-haired guy of late 30s. The undershirt he wore as a shirt was short at the back on his lanky frame, and the jeans were ragged – on purpose, probably. His wardrobe was as much a statement of style as it was of economic standing. He leaned his face in toward a handicap stroller with the book face out so he could show pictures and read to be heard. As he read he did not stop for a reaction or look at the listener’s face for a response, he simply read steadily only breaking to turn the page. At that time, he lifted a plastic arm with a shiny metal hook on the end from where it was resting hidden in his lap to turn the page. Having obviously mastered his prosthetic, which was tattooed from the wrist up into his sleeve peeking out again around the side of his neck, he gently used the hook to separate the pages then slide it around to turn a scratchy page. Now I was “hooked”, so to speak. This was an interesting guy, but what of the listener.
The massive black stroller was pulled up to the table and bunches of pink fuzzy blankets lie ruffled softly around in it like a nest. The little girl of about 5 or 6 lie crumpled inside except that she stretched her neck up to the side so that her face leaned toward her daddy’s face as he read to her. Her brown eyes were bright and fixed on him, but her face was frozen with a half-smile underneath a little thin tube that ran from out of her nose to a bag at the back of the stroller. So, on he read until he got a phone call. Eaves dropping on his side of the conversation, he was receiving instructions as to some medications she should be getting. He hung up, asked his daughter if she wanted juice. I did not detect a reply, but he promptly got out juice and some medicinal decanters. With one hand and a hook, he concocted a mixture for the juice and held a straw for her to drink. After some time of that, he stood and adjusted her pink blankets taking careful attention to display what looked to be a special glittery bag or child’s purse.
Throughout this time I never heard a grunt from the girl, either approving or disapproving of anything he was doing. She lie still and quiet, but watching. And, I do not know her condition or abilities to communicate, but she adored him. The strength of her gaze and brightness of her eyes were so telling. The name was called and he wheeled her out with his one hand. The children here are so mature in their abilities to trust their caregivers who love them. Without much fuss they do what they are told, only understanding subconsciously probably, that they are being taken care of despite how they feel.  A friend sent me this scripture, Exodus 14:14 where Moses was trying to calm the Israelites as Pharaoh’s army was in pursuit. He tells them “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

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