We Are Not A Babysitter Service…

I reiterate once more.  I admit it once more.  I am a care bear.

But even I have my limits.

Rewind to a few weeks ago.  We have a member of congregation, who is is a de facto single mother  (DFSM).  Husband works away a lot.  She’s lonely, possibly a bit burdened with bringing up a two-year-old child on her own.  Probably her German is limited.  Ditto (I suspect) her English.  I have noticed her several times in the past few months.  I have often wondered: is she possibly on Mogadon?  She often seems in a bit of a daze.

After there service one day, I hear a conversation a few metres away:

House group member:

Oh yes, we have a house group on Wednesday evenings.  You really should come.  We are looking at the Book of Acts.  We also enjoy fellowship, tea and cookies.

DFSM:

Oh, I will come.

Fast-forward to the following Wednesday.  It’s 19:45.  Most of the house group members are there.

Let me just interject here.  House group is also known as:

  • Home group
  • Hauskreis (literally: house circle in German)
  • Life group
  • Bible study

We get settled in for a good meaty session to look at the Book of Acts.

My mobile rings. It is DFSM.

An abrupt:

Hey, when is the service?

I tell her it starts in 10 minutes.  DFSM cuts the call.

We carry on, ploughing through the passage.

20:20, and it’s DFSM again.

Hey, where is the service?  I am at Blahblahstrasse.

We talk her through how to get house group.  It is now 20:24.  I have had a strenuous week month.  My patience is starting to grow as thin as my hair…

20:30 DFSM arrives.

Her 2-year-old child in tow.

Nobody says a thing.  Maybe they have other thoughts, but they keep it zipped.  Nobody wants to make a fuss.  I bite my lip.  I bite my tongue.

Group leader hands DFSM a bible.  DFSM seems puzzled.  Maybe, kann es sein, she thought she was coming to a service, where should could dump the reason for her Kindergeld onto others.  It’s house group, bible study, ma’am.  The study of the bible is the MoSCoW must-have part of house group.

Offspring screams.

Offspring shouts.

Offspring wanders round the flat, picking bric a brac up from our host’s bookcase.

We all politely smile and say how active offspring is.  I sit thinking about my day at work and how I was needing to share concerns and prayers.  It was not my intention to share babysitting duties.

20:45 Offspring is still screaming, shouting, wandering, climbing, touching and grabbing things.

20:46 Just like the tabloid investigative reporter, I make my excuses and leave, incisor teeth almost digging into tongue.

Bible study disrupted.  Offspring’s sleep pattern disturbed.  My blood pressure sky-high.  DFSM was content just to sit on the sofa and stare into space.  House group/bible study is meant to be participatory, not passive.  Not dump-your-kid on-“volunteers”-time.

Am I being too harsh?  Too un-Christian?  I checked with two friends of mine.  Even Billy agreed it was not appropriate to bring a 2-year-old to bible study at that time of evening.  Normally he will disagree with me on everything.  B in Oz, a mother of a 2-year-old, also agreed with me.  She said a child of that age should be in bed very latest at 8pm.

If you can’t achieve your aims at bible study (namely to, er study the bible), is there any point in coming?  The evening becomes not fit for purpose.  A Rolls-Royce is a nice luxury car, but it’s not suitable for ploughing a field, like a tractor would be.

Clearly, we do want to help struggling members of congregation, but not at all costs.  Would it therefore be more appropriate for members of congregation to invite DFSM out for a Kaffee und Kuchen one-to-one or to a women’s prayer group that meets daytime?  Can we create a win-win situation for all concerned?  Rant over.

man wearing brown suit jacket mocking on white telephone

Photo by Moose Photos on Pexels.com

Have a care-bearing day, won’t you!

 

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One Year On

My Dad, Sunray, passed away died exactly one year ago today, suddenly at 14:00 GMT, while walking back from his local shop.

How time flies.

How was my grieving process?  Actually, IMHO, there wasn’t really one.  I was very matter-of-fact the moment I found out via a Facebook Messenger message from my younger brother.  I was in the office, collating an Excel spreadsheet.  I told my colleague, “My Dad has just died,” in the same way and tone that we would tell a colleague, “Our boss popped in, looking for you.”  I then carried on with my spreadsheet to meet a deadline for our rather unfriendly product owner.

I did pause to send out a Whatsapp round-robin message to Schatz and to church friends to ask for their prayers for Sunray’s soul.  Replies came in from single “prayer” emojis to long, warm messages from members of my house group.  I wasn’t in shock, but I think I was stunned.

I did not cry until I got home.  By then the posts and kinds words and funny stories about him flooded in on his regimental old comrades Facebook page.  Tears of grief ran out of my left eye, and of laughter from the right eye.  It’s what Sunray would have wanted.

That was then.  This is now.

I still feel relieved.  I still do not regret deciding to stay away from his funeral.  In any case I was still not well enough to travel at that time.  Even walking to my local shops and back was a major physical exertion.  I am glad that I visited his grave two months later, said a prayer or two over his grave and placed three daffodils on the broken earth, marking his relatively fresh grave.

I have prayed daily that his is indeed resting in peace and that God will let his infinite mercy shine on Sunray’s face.  Since he died one year ago, several more of his regimental brothers have died.  I pray that they will join him in the Senior Squadron bar to exchange “Do you remember when…?” stories.

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Sunray in November 1998

Have a poignant day, won’t you!

 

Another Day, Another Funeral

When I was in my twenties, I was attending weddings on a pretty regular basis.  Since I moved to Germany in early 2012, I’ve been attending funerals on a regular basis, admittedly not as me, but as church warden/verger/dogsbody.  Last week I even decided it would be prudent to keep several condolence cards at home “on stand-by” for the next few deaths within the church family.  I even admitted to Schatz last week that I often write Tripadvisor reviews in my head after each funeral.

  • Quality of the eulogy
  • Piety of the mourners
  • Was there any laughter among the tears?
  • Suitability of the songs/hymns
  • And so much more

Last Friday, I came with Schatz to a funeral.  Very rarely is there much “fun” in a funeral, even if it’s Grandma Beatrice who passed away at 103.  But this was not a “nice” funeral, where the Brits would sigh philosophically:

Oh well, they had a good innings.

This was a very difficult funeral.

  • A “professional” suicide.  (Let’s leave it at that.)
  • She had had a very unstable life from childhood.  (Let’s leave it at that.)
  • She had been well-loved by many friends.  It was standing room only in the chapel at the cemetery.

The lady vicar preached very well.  She bit the bullet.  She talked about the elephant in the room: the fact that this was a suicide.  The vicar mentioned God wrestling with her decision, but ultimately we humans have free will.  The vicar quoted from Psalm 130.  After the service, I thanked the vicar for using the ideal Psalm for this funeral.

psalms-130-1-2.jpg

Upbeat songs were played during the service.  Tears were seen.  I squeezed Schatz‘ hand a few times, for the widower was a good friend and confidante of Schatz.

The mourners all filed out towards the grave for the urn to be placed into the ground.

Ah yes, I nearly forget to tell you, the two dog-lovers filed out towards the grave, bringing their two dogs along.  Thankfully neither dog barked.  Thankfully one of the owners had brought a sandwich bag in which to place his dog’s mess as “pooch” left a “present” en route to the grave.  I’m a great dog-lover.  But dogs at a funeral, and, moreover, at the burial?  Why?  Tell me why.

We reached the grave.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…

So called out the vicar, a fact which was quite ironic, given that a group of five or six smokers stood about 20 metres away from the grave, topping up their nicotine levels.

(Could they really not have waited a few more minutes, or stood behind the adjacent trees, out of sight?)

The mourners placed rose petals and shovelled earth on top of the urn.  Friends shook hands with, and hugged, the widower.  I shook hands with him.  I did not hug him.  Nothing to do with being British and not huggy-huggy.  I didn’t want to pass my bronchitis onto him.  (The smokers meanwhile carried on smoking.)

The vicar led the mourners in the Vater Unser prayer.  I prayed it in English.  A few heads turned in my direction, when the English language was heard.

Our Father,

Who art in Heaven…

The mourners filed out.  The smokers stubbed their cigarettes on the footpath.  Everyone headed off to the restaurant for the funeral buffet.  Schatz and I did not.  We headed home to my flat to decompress.

J, RIP.  May you finally find peace.

Have a despair-free day, won’t you!

Topic (sic) of Cancer

Cancer.  The Big C.  A tumour… and it’s malignant.  And probably many other euphemisms.

Mrs Grasshopper was diagnosed  with stage 4 terminal pancreatic cancer on 25 October last year.

Der Tod ist sicher.

Prognosis – how long before you die – twelve (12) months from diagnosis.  As at today, Mrs Grasshopper is still alive (but not alive and well).  Every day is a bonus.  Guesstimate now as to how long she has got is now 6-8 weeks, maybe a a few days later so she gets to see Christmas Day.  But who can tell?

Anyway this article is not about Mrs Grasshopper per se.  Death, sad to say, is certain.  That’s a brutal fact.  But what about Grasshopper, my classmate from the mid-70’s, hard-nosed riot squad policeman?

Ever since diagnosis, Grasshopper and I have kept the communication lines open.  He calls me “Padre Ginge.”  I send him and Mrs Grasshopper a pastoral card.

In the last two months, Mrs Grasshopper has been suffering new symptoms on a weekly basis.  Grasshopper has been dealing in a businesslike manner, being a trained medic, logging her symptoms and monitoring her slow downhill journey.

Mrs Grasshopper is in denial.  She truly believes she will be alive in two years to see her son’s graduation.  It’s unlikely that she’ll still be around in two months.  That’s a brutal fact.

To be honest, cold, callous and clinical, Mrs Grasshopper is not my main concern.  My main concern is to make sure that Grasshopper does not end up having a nervous breakdown while looking after his wife.  Today he admitted to me that he had had a meltdown this morning and had spent almost all day in bed.  That is out of character for Grasshopper, who is normally a very positive, matter-of-fact person.  We had a good long chat via Whatsapp while I was taking the tram into the city centre this afternoon.  He sound weary.  His voice was starting to crack a bit.  First time I’ve heard him like that.  Big boys do cry, or at least allow their voices to wobble a bit.

I mainly listened.  Grasshopper needed to let off steam.  I told him I was here 24/7 if he ever need a good rant.  I don’t want him having a nervous breakdown or “doing something stupid.”

Yesterday Grasshopper found this pastoral card from me landing on his doormat.

Card.jpg

Who cares for the carers?

Have a caring day, won’t you!

My Perfect Cousin

This is not quite a Mach Mal Lauter article.  Nonetheless, those fans of 1970’s Northern Ireland music may remember this number by the The Untertones.

Here’s the chorus:

Oh my perfect cousin
What I like to do he doesn’t
He’s his family’s private joy
His mothers little golden boy

I’ve got a cousin (called Kelly).  She was always My Perfect Cousin, well, at least in the eyes of my own mother.  She’s three years younger than me, one year older than my own sister.

All during my teenage years – when I did not get my teenage kicks – Kelly was the Perfect Cousin.  No need for Facebook in the mid-80’s.  Her mum would tell my mum, who would tell me and my two siblings.

Weekly status reports on Kelly during the first half of the 80’s were as follows.  Drum roll and trumpet fanfare, please…

Kelly:

  • Has won bronze and silver tap dance medals
  • Has won 300, 500 and 700 metre swimming medals
  • Is a member of the town swimming club U-15 first team
  • Is learning piano
  • Has already learnt recorder (fine – then she can play Una Paloma Blanca incessantly)

My mum was always impressed by these achievements and was always mentioning these to me and my brother.

Girls are, of course, better than boys, especially boys who are not testosterone-packed alpha males.

It’s my fault really.  I shouldn’t have been born male, with that horrible set of “working parts” hanging between my legs.  I guess I might have been able to do social activities, whether that be tap dancing, swimming club, boy scouts or music lessons, but Mummy had set aside all the personnel development fund for that on her youngest child.  Quite rightly so.  She was the youngest by several years, cute and, most of all, female.  Her two also-ran children, unfortunate possessors of a penis each, well, too bad, eh.  You can have the scraps from under the table.

On my latest visit to England, I mentioned to my mum that I had un-friended Kelly months ago for constant sharing of pictures of herself hold tubs of whey powder and posting ad nauseum about Day x of the New Me, New Body, New Life diet.

Typical Kelly post:

Deeply disappointed.  Only managed 574 of my target of of 700 press-ups today.  Will have another try this evening.”

puke

My words:

I am not in the slightest bit interested in Kelly, her New Me, New Body, New Life diet regime, her latest love or her tubs of protein powder, her argument with her neighbours.

My mum:

Ah well, she’s moving to Northumberland with her partner in a week’s time.

(Followed by lengthy story about argument with the removals firm and where their pet dog is to be kennelled during the move. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.)

Which part of “I am not in the slightest bit interested…” does she not understand?

Off to the guillotine, where the spectators are waiting for heads to roll.

knitting

Have a perfect day, won’t you!

It’s a dog’s life

It’s beyond me why people say:

It’s a dog’s life.

Most of the pet dogs I see are spoilt rotten and pampered by their owners and everyone who sees the dog, wanting to stroke it, cuddle it, tickle it, etc, etc.

Let me introduce you to Titch, born August 1983, “crossed Rainbow Bridge” August 1997.  Here he is, aged 8 or 9.

EPSON MFP image

Mother: Jack Russell, Father: German shepherd.

Temperament:

  • Much more Jack Russell than German Shepherd.
  • Very affectionate, especially if you had sweets, or indeed any food on you.
  • Very sweet-toothed: even if you were talking about buying a three-piece suite, he would come running to you from wherever he was, in the hope of having a chomp of a boiled sweet or jelly baby.
  • He would often come up to you, place his chin on your lap, paw at you and beg for a good fuss.
  • Very playful, always after a belly rub, tummy tickle or stroke, or even the mention of those words.
  • He loved being tickled under his “armpits.”  Stop suddenly, and you’d get a growl of reproval from the dog.
  • He loved play-fighting.  The rougher the better, especially wrestling on the sand of Redcar beach.
  • He loved being bounced up and down on your knee.
  • He loved his walk in the local hills, especially chasing after the pheasants hiding in the ferns.  “Come on, chaps, I only want to play with you, not eat you.”

Titch

Titch caught parvovirus at the end of August 1997.  Till then, he had been fit and healthy all his life.  Within a day he was crossing Rainbow Bridge.

The sad thing is, I cried more on the day he went than the day Sunray passed away.  I guess it’s all to do with untimely death.  Sunray had had enough.  He was fed-up.  Titch was still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, would jump out of his basket every morning, wanting to go for a walk and a wee-wee.

Have a canine day, won’t you!

titch2

Conrad Schumann

Do you like quizzes?

Q: What happened on 13 August 1961?

A: The Berlin Wall went up.  (Pretty much overnight.  German efficiency.)

Next question.

Q: Who was Conrad Schumann?

A: A picture describes a thousands words.

ConradSchuhmann

So, he managed to escape from East Berlin into the West.  Was it a happy ending?  No.  Yes, it was good news at first.  He had escaped to freedom.  But 37 years later, after difficulties with his family still living in Saxony, Eastern Germany, the iconic freedom icon committed suicide.  A very unhappy, tragic, ending.

Have an iconic day, won’t you!