Another story from life at home…an in jail.
A day or maybe two after I wrote about God’s power, training, containing, staying. it became time to renovate our guest bathroom. Having mostly finished the master bathroom a week or so ago I am pleased with it and adjusting to it. I am also chomping at the bit to do that guest bathroom which our kids use. They are looking forward to their new bathroom too and in preparation, various things are ready to go: drywall, engineered marble walls, tools, and of course excitement when I glance into that so 70’s room. Too, I learned so much with the first bathroom re-build that I am tugging to go.
Clearance from my wife to proceed having arrived I put up some posters on my mind’s walls saying: “Begin work on the bathroom on Thursday.” Thursday came and there were two things to pick up from Lowes, and an errand to run 1each of these tasks to be sandwiched between my prison clinic and my Woohoo! of remodeling.
Guess how clinic went: quickly. I did not expect to find an abbreviated scheduled waiting for me at the prison, but sure enough, only my contracted number were on the schedule. I had a resident there as well so we should be on schedule for a good run (that means quick). I remember looking at my watch at 10:39a and thinking, “Hmmm, this is going well.” The immediate second reaction was to look up at those mind posters that say, “Begin work on bathroom Thursday.” The third reaction was, “You are going to get a fast start today. Maybe you will get the tub out and the tile down and the studs ready for drywall.” The fourth thing happened, this one a whisper, “Hold on, boy, don’t get any hopes up.” Whispers are not powerful against hopes and excitements, though.
Between 11:40 and 11:45 a.m. I washed up, all the patients were seen, and I finally placed confidence in the work being done. Happiness at looking toward my mind-posters had gone beyond sprout and all the way to baby flowers. The blooms were just about to open.2
Guess what happened? Down the hall came my chipper clinic nurse with three charts in her hands. They were in the plastic travel bags they arrive in. She happily declared, “Dr. Ulrich, three more made it!” as if that was supposed to strum some happy chord in my mind. “But those posters? Seriously?” The clouds came so very, very quickly and my mood saw a rocky shoreline just beyond the waves of the now-not-so-happy.
There are other posters on the wall of my mind. They relate to responsibility and to godliness. As soon as my nurse happily strode down the hall someone in my mind flicked on the spotlights illuminating those posters. See, I know full well the right way to respond–the redeemed way. Problem is the right way so frequently collides, and collides hard, with posters like “Begin work on the bathroom on Thursday.”
By this point, there is a Claxton horn blowing in my mind. Red lights are flashing, and a deep inner groan is rumbling. That whisper about letting one’s hopes get too high, too soon came to mind.
What to do? I could declare them late. “I was leaving, after all,” murmurs a weak thought, one I know I will not heed. See to walk out is to turn off the lights on the godly posters in my mind. So I lean over on a counter someplace in my mind, open a drawer and stuff my exuberance to leave in there. Exuberance is like a jumping bean or a guinea pig that wants carrots. It rattles, even if you put it in the drawer. It squeaks even if you don’t have carrots to feed it. Now a bean does not need to jump and guinea pigs do quite well with timothy hay and food pellets. Carrots are just their dessert.
While I was standing by my excited nurse watching her slide the green medical charts out of their sealed plastic bags, these storms were firing. She was looking for something to write on. She knows I love to see the patients and “flee” as I call it, but she knows I will see them too. While standing in this near-reverie of attitude and mood fights with the jumping beans of my exuberance rattling so hard in that drawer and the nurse prepping the sudden-charts down came the hall strode an officer. His hands were sporting two more plastic-bag-wrapped charts.
The nurse, perhaps now feeling things were pushing too hard on the doctor, told the officer, “You are late, the doctor is trying to leave.” By now I was simmering down and getting the proper perspective aligned. I said, “Mary, we can see them.” I did not say this loudly or with zest in my voice, but neither do I recall any disparagement. I still can remember the moment which had been surreal. I was looking toward the metal basket where the charts would sit. I bet I was rubbing my head. I was not looking at anyone, but setting aside the fight with my goals.
The officer, though, spoke up, also chipper. “No doc, you won’t see them. I had to wait two hours for one inmate at another prison. I will say we were too late and it was because that other prison was not meeting their responsibilities. It is things like this that make a difference when nothing else does.” That is a paraphrase from my murky mentality of that moment, but it faithfully represents the essence. Of course, my mind says, “Man, how my responsibility gets pinched by others lack of it. Ugh!”