A lot happened.
I became a pastor again, I grew old, and my mom died. My wife and I acquired a new dog.
As much as I hate to admit it, being a church member only was not good for my soul. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it. No studying when I didn't feel like it. No worrying about what to preach every Sunday. No waking up under that pressure. Instead, I sat in the pew, listened, and wrote haiku about sheep and coyotes. It was fun. It was easy. It was too easy.
Little Centerville asked me to be their pastor, and my wife and I began our ministry there the first Sunday of April. This has been a good thing for us. We no longer feel displaced, I am forced out of my laziness, and once more I have to pray, think, and study. On the negative side, however, I no longer write twelve to fifteen haiku per Sunday because I am preaching instead of composing.
I grew old in 2017, but not before first swimming for sixteen straight hours without stopping. The Chicot Challenge VI was the highlight of my athletic career. Justin Nunnery (pilot) and MJ Staples (official observer) joined Team Centerville in helping me make the 23.5 mile swim supporting the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi. It was a great experience for me, one I will cherish the rest of my life. However, I am not sure I will ever do it again. I hope, pray, and will work hard to get back, but looking from the bottom of the pit, the view is not too favorable.
|Gerald and me late in Chicot Challenge VI|
I came out of the water with a left shoulder giving me some pain. With the help of my cousin, Shay, and his lovely wife, Shelly, I recovered nicely in three weeks. On the fourth week, however, I injured the right shoulder twice in one day. Now over six months later, the injury is worse than ever, I need surgery, and my prospect for marathon swimming are not too favorable. I have trouble combing my hair, putting my shirt on, shaving.
Part of my doubt comes from the list of injuries the MRI revealed. I promise, I never thought my swimming was in any way harming my body. And although the doctor did not say as much, I really don't believe a tendinitis that last for six months and counting happened in a single day. That is just one of the issues I face. Now I better understand Gordon Grindly's retirement from marathon swimming (See 1,000th post published on 12/17). He had two shoulder surgeries, and I guess he saw the wall on the writing, the wall that would eventually force him to stop. Now he plays ping pong. I'm not taking up ping pong or badminton.
Not only that, but in November of 2016, I hurt my left knee. I have not run since. I didn't think a whole lot about running while I was tearing up the water, but now that the swimming is gone also, I have gained a huge amount of weight, I feel bad, look worse, and hate the idea of acting my age. It's like I grew old all at once. That's what my body is telling me, but my mind still refuses to accept it. My 83 year old Aunt Mary recently told me that she was "not ready to play old yet." Well heck, neither am I.
Chicot Challenge will continue in 2018 thanks to a hero who has stepped forth to stand in the gap. Praise be to God. I'll identify him early in the new year and will write several posts in his praise and concerning his efforts. For now, I take some solace in the idea that the swim and its fund raising efforts will go on for at least one more year, and maybe I can work the other side of a swim for a change. That's not a bad thought.
Mom's death was a hard hit. It did not come as a surprise, of course, and my grief started well before her passing. Only later have I realized that for the past two years whenever I spoke of her, I did so in the past tense. She had been dying for several years. But losing your Mom is not easy and the worst thing about it was the quality of life she had to endure. She was always upbeat about whatever came her way, and my sister, Carol, made sure she had the best possible care. But in the end, all we could do for her was hold her hand and watch her die. Just typing those words brought a torrent of tears. She was a good Mom and a noble person, selfless and giving beyond measure. Her gentle spirit was uncommon and her intelligence and creativity were unbelievable.
|Forrest singing to his grandmother a|
dozen hours before she died.
In February, we took custody of a little runt of a dog named Pee Wee. His origin remains a mystery as does his makeup, but I am now convinced he is a Mountain Feist. Around here, most people call rat terriers feists. But real feists are a little larger and have a heavier head and neck. Pee Wee is twenty six pounds of desperate drive. He runs and barks and bites and trails and hunts with a joy and push that has to be seen to be truly believed. He has taken up some of the slack in my proclivity to move around, to be active. He will tree and occasionally does. However, we are not treeing as often as he should. I think he spends most of the time we are in the field silent trailing deer. He will bark when the trail becomes red hot. But when he does bark (I can tell the difference between a deer bark and a tree bark), he comes back within minutes. Is he seeking a reward? Often I see him, nose to the ground, moving along at ten to fifteen miles per hours. He goes this way until he is out of sight and he comes back ten minutes later with his tongue hanging low and panting like he just chased a cat out of the country. He's not after squirrels when he does that.
|Pee Wee on a tree where I saw the squirrel.|
But if he never makes a polished squirrel dog, he has a home as well as a hunting partner for the rest of his life. Recently on one of our hunts, I discovered the cave which has pushed me into looking back over my earlier life and trying to explain some mysteries that tie it to the cave. Another consequence of the cave is a new writing project I am enjoying. What will 2018 bring? Maybe I'll speculate in another post.