Monday, January 25, 2016

Dad's Bedtime Prayer

     A few years ago Dad had trouble sleeping—this from a man who throughout his adult life as far back as I can remember slept every night at ten-thirty after watching the local evening news and awoke every morning at six-thirty (a bit later on Saturdays when he didn't have golf and Sundays). His schedule was so steady and his self discipline in hygiene, work, recreation, household and yard chores, and all matters public so predictable and sound, it gave him a “rock-solid steady” reputation, as my childhood friend's father once described him to my naive surprise.
     So when he had trouble sleeping nights for weeks then months, he got quite distressed and sought help from doctors and various sleeping pills, all to little or no avail.
     He talked about his insomnia constantly to the eventual chagrin of relatives as it was apparent he had enough sleep—he dozed while watching TV throughout the day and what did he need more sleep for anyway, it's not like he was working or had important appointments to attend to? He just likely missed his comfortable and predictable bedtime sleep routine and lacked something to get excited about to fill the hours each day instead of fretting over whether he'd get a good sleep that night.
     I'd witnessed to him about my faith, which he received tepidly at best, implying it was fine for me and my family but not him. But I saw a tiny door open in his recent distresses and wrote him a letter sharing among other things a bedtime prayer he could recite aloud that might help and certainly wouldn't hurt. I don't remember the precise contents of the prayer but it was rather lengthy and a part of me hoped he wouldn't call to discuss it (as was his habit after receiving a letter from me) because in a roundabout way his response was always “Thank you; not interested”, which I always found disappointing.
     But surprise surprise, about a month later mom called to say that Dad prayed my prayer a couple weeks and quit but she told him to continue it, it's good for you. it's a good thing to do. So he did every night thereafter.
     Dad came on the line afterwards and confirmed that he did recite it and it helped him relax.
     I was grateful that he had finally received Christ as his Lord and Savior, as it's tough to recite such things without meaning them.
     Twice or thrice since, Dad reiterated gratitude for the prayer and said he recited it every night.
     But I had my doubts. Never had I seen him pray aloud. He had stated many times his lack of belief in any spiritual being. Was he really reading it aloud every night? Or was he just saying that to please me? He never lied, yet it seemed equally out of character for him to pray.
     When we were back in Hilo during New Years, the day of our departure Dad asked for a moment with me. (I dread these meetings; he sometimes uses them to scold me. Though it's always mild and reasonable, it's still tense.) In the living room while we sat, he discussed his and Mom's wishes upon their passings. Regarding the ceremonies, he asked when both their ashes were lowered into the plot beside Grandma's and Grandpa's (his parents) would I recite for him his bedtime prayer that I had given him for the last time?—very touching for a man who is quite unemotional.
     I told him sure, but I can't remember what I wrote. Can you write it out for me?
     He said it doesn't have to be exact, I'm sure you can get the gist of it.
     I said it's been so long, I just wrote whatever came to the top of my head. Please write it out and mail it to me anytime.
     He recited it in its entirety on the spot to my delight and surprise. I said it sounds good, please write it so I won't forget.
     He said he would and a note in his handwriting appeared on my desk later that morning. Here is its contents:

Lord Jesus, please hear my prayer. I recognize that I am a sinner and need you as my savior. Please forgive me my sins as only you can. I want to have the peace, calm, and rest that you can offer. Guide me in your ways, now and always. Amen.

     It's obvious to me that he took out (or forgot?) some of what I had written, but that's great because by doing so, he made it his prayer, not mine.
     I know now, when it's time for me to recite it for him, it's going to be rough going, as I can get very emotional at such times.  But it's the least I can do after all he's done for me throughout my life.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Dengue Risk

     We just got back from a trip to Hilo for New Year's. At first Dad said when we planned the trip midyear, “Maximum stay at our house—four days. Rent a car and stay at a hotel for the remainder.” (They're getting old and our kids get noisy. Mostly, he was concerned about Mom working too hard making meals, cleaning, going on outings, and staying up late. Since he depends on her a lot due to a medical condition, his concern is legitimate.) That was before the dengue fever outbreak starting in September that now numbers greater than two hundred, most cases having originated in the Kona region, where we had planned to spend time at. But as our trip approached and the dengue cases rose, then dropped, then leveled off at a steady seven or so new cases per week, we canceled all plans to drive outside Hilo, which had possibly only a handful of cases that had originated there.
     When Mom and Dad came over for Thanksgiving and Mom heard of our revised plan to stay two nights in a Hilo hotel that happened to be in a “some risk” zone (downgraded earlier from a “moderate risk” zone), she said we could stay at their house (in the no known cases zone) all the time and use their car. I said make sure to clear it with Dad first, which she later did, so we canceled our hotel and rental car reservations.
     Having read up about how to avoid dengue, we all brought along and wore long sleeve shirts and pants, shoes, and insect repellent on face, neck, and exposed wrist/back of hands. Yet when we arrived at the airport, which was in the “some risk” zone in the early hours of the morning when the dengue carrying mosquitoes are most active (as well as early evenings), I was astounded to see the apparent lax attitude of so many tourists and locals alike—some in shorts and t-shirts, and none of whom we saw apply skin protection before deplaning as we had.
     Our trips to the mall and drives through downtown (mostly only indoor activities on this trip) revealed a general laxity by large percentages of the population—even a bikini clad little girl of about age six at Ice Pond, across Banyan Golf Course where there must be ample mosquito breeding grounds.
     Sure, the risk was low, and no known deaths have yet been reported, but why take the chance? Also, taking ample precautions is the responsible thing to do to eradicate the virus altogether, for the more people that catch it, the longer it will likely linger and the further it will likely spread—which was probably how it came to Hawaii in an an infected individual in the first place.
     Back in 2002, a church friend said he was really sick for awhile and someone said I hope it wasn't dengue (because of an outbreak in Maui and small parts of Oahu at the time.)
     He said, “No, but I wish it was.”
     “You wanted dengue?” she asked.
     “Yeah, I really wanted it.” 
     “Why?” I asked, wondering if he was serious.
     “I don't know. I just know I really wanted it,” he said, nodding conviction.
     My friend Norm in Seattle said it's called “bone-break fever” because it makes you feel like every bone in your body is broken. His ex-patriot friends in Guatemala have caught it multiple times and from what I've read, later episodes can be far more severe.
     Our friend from church that said he wanted it is a bit of a character. I didn't doubt his sincerity but wondered at his sanity. Who'd crave something as awful as dengue? I can only assume he had no idea or wanted some macho bragging rights.
     I hope no one looked at us in Hilo and thought we were selfish with a “better you get bitten than I” attitude. I wouldn't want anyone to get bitten or infected and I hope the outbreak gets eliminated once and for all, sooner rather than later. But judging from what we saw, I have my doubts. Unless these things naturally go in cycles or self-eradicate in non-indigenous regions, it may be here for a long, long time. The state is doing its part (according to federal officials); locals and travelers must do their parts, too.  Please help stop the spread.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Hilo Serenaders

An award for most persistent and faithful wooer must go to the coqui.  The male frog spends all night calling out in loud, body-racking heaves to woo a female to come and mate.  And he does this every night of his adult life.
  Everyone who's spent a night in Hilo recently knows the ear-piercing racket these introduced pests from Puerto Rico make when one desperate serenader is multiplied by a dozen, a hundred, or a thousand--they get loud!  Many blame Walmart for importing them along with plants from the frog's native home land or the mayor/government officials who were slow to respond to the ever-growing environmental disaster, even worse than the introduced mongoose from plantation days.  But my purpose here is to look at things for once from the pathetic frog's perspective via anthropomorphization--thinking of them as if they were human...
  If I'd had to woo virginal Deanne with cries of affection (combined with threatening cries toward nearby rival males) every few seconds for hours on end, night after night, for years on end, would I have done it or succeeded?  No, I may have lasted a night or two, then become too lazy, tired, or disgusted at the lack of success and continued being a lonely (or content?) bachelor to this day.
  One observation from a recent trip back to Hilo, on New Year's day, I awoke at around two o'clock a.m. to virtual silence from the constant coqui racket, a silence that had no particular reason attached.  On prior nights, I awoke to greatly diminished rackets, but never one so complete.  What caused it?  The fireworks?  The weather?  There appeared no set pattern for either.  My current assumption?  The males had all found mates. But that raised the question, did these serenaders from evenings past all go without?  Were the females so super-finicky and hard-to-get and hard to please that they suffered these persistent cries unmoved or indifferent or with out-right turned-off disdain?  Or were the serenaders greedy can't-get-enough lotharios that upon conquering one female went right on back to their persistent calling, ever anxious to woo their next conquest?  Or were females possibly nympho sluts that in response to their lothario counterparts ever hopped from male to male as each cried for more, sexual appetites insatiable?
  This is where anthropomorphism can get disturbing and outright fallacious as animals are driven by an entirely different set of instinctive forces than humans who are guided by thought, reason, and emotion as well as instincts.  Nonetheless it's amusing to consider when bombarded by these calls unceasing hour after hour, night after night--it makes them a little more tolerable to have a sense of humor about them.
  Two nights later, the same eerie quietness occurred except for a lone distant caller from afar.  Perhaps most nearby males were getting older and more lethargic, voluntarily celibate through some nights?  Or settled down with pregnant mates, sated during later hours?  (I did do some research that suggested that males are good fathers, staying with the nest to guard against predators.)  Maybe as far as anthropomorphized animals go, coquis aren't so bad.  Certainly not as disturbing as praying mantises, say, whose males pay the price of coupling first with their heads, then their lives, and females die shortly after the act and laying a clutch of eggs.  (But I have an affinity toward praying mantises, they do so much good and look so cute, as far as insects go.  I had a pair that I kept as pets in a box that went through the entire later life cycle.  Yes, it was disturbing when I found them one on top of the other and when I tried to pull them apart, found they were attached at their bases!  And later after watching TV to try to erase the image, found a dead one on the floor, the legs and wings of another, and a clutch of eggs in the crook of a branch.  I unfortunately did not get to see the eggs hatch out as a jealous older neighborhood friend took the box and promised to call when they hatched out but never did.  His praying mantises had died, refusing to eat.  I guess some mantises, like humans, don't like being held captive either.  Now, hunger-striking insects, that's profound!)