The Level

It’s probably fitting I’m writing this the day after the Supremes upheld the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. (All of a sudden, everyone’s an expert on the Constitution!)

Partisanship rules the day–everything from health insurance to the kind of car you drive to the food you eat. (What’s next, the weather?)

One thing I love about chaplaincy is the absolute leveling of all this. When you’re sick, you don’t care if the person entering the room is a Republican or Democrat, a tree hugger or a Tea Party-er, or her position on global warming.

Sick people ask: Does my life matter? Did they get all the cancer? Can you help me get some ice?

I had a visit with a boy patient the other day. He had a pretty minor surgery but had to spend the night. Surrounded by his family, the boy held onto a clear white board to write on; and a stuffed dog was tucked under his other arm.

He looked forward to ice cream to soothe his sore throat. Far outside the boy’s room, talking heads were debating Obamacare and what had gotten into Justice Roberts and what all this would mean for the State of Things.

Meanwhile, the boy lay in the bed oblivious to the things you and I fight about. He’ll get there some day. Meanwhile I hope he eats all the ice cream he wants and takes comfort from his stuffed animal and his family and others tender to his needs.


An ode to Saturday mornings, and fathers

I was thinking about the ending of the Saturday show “Click and Clack” on National Public Radio, which led me to reminisce about Saturday morning outings with my father. This being Father’s Day weekend and all.

Growing up, I often accompanied Daddy to one of several places: a neighborhood hardware store (whose smell I still remember); a local picture frame shop, where we could do the actual framing and where Daddy passed on his corny jokes to the proprietors; and most always to a donut store containing a winding linoleum counter top with swiveling leather chairs.

In my teen years, on Saturdays, the radios in the house were tuned to 88.1 FM and this is how I was introduced to Click and Clack: The Tappet Brothers. The brothers’ wry and witty humor fit my family well.

As an adult, I have developed my own Saturday rituals and they do involve errands but also, usually, a coffee gathering of friends on a Broadway sidewalk. After coffee, in season, we walk across the street to Market Days, which gratefully has become wildly successful. Local farmers and artisans sell their wares. Some of my friends bring their dogs, and Market Days for the canines is surely a festival of fascinating smells, fresh grass and treats.

Saturdays are the one day of the week when I don’t HAVE to be anywhere (unless I have the hospital pager) and thus they open up wonderful opportunities and possibilities. My outings of long ago, with my father, taught me that friends and good company were always close at hand. The ending of Click and Clack will make my Saturdays feel emptier, but hopefully a replacement will come.

There is no replacement, however, for a community rich in friends, nor, certainly, my father.