My spiritual director told me, among many other precious things, that there are some events in life that require our attention. She said that those events don’t necessarily care when they get attention just as long as they get what they deserve. They interrupt us, sometimes an inconvenient times. They vie for a spot in our field of vision.
We were discussing my father’s health and my recent visits to see him. She had mentioned that her mother was ill for years before she died and that she too had some dementia. Then, she said the most appropriate thing. These things are in our peripheral vision. They’re always present, though not always in front of us. Whatever we do, they are present, waiting, and, often, off to the sides of our lives.
There are other things to pay attention to. There is the work of ministry, work that seems to flow against common boundaries. There is the immediate family, in my case a rambunctious two-year old and a wife who studies part-time in grad school. There is the rest of me.
And the normal events trade places with the peripheral ones, and the pieces of my life dance around until I see what I need to see. There are moments when what we’ve been changes because of who’s around us. There are similar moments when we change because who isn’t.
And the event of my father’s health. The series of moments I’m holding regarding what can only be seen as tentative progress and expected deterioration. These moments are changing me.
I’ve never been the sporadic type. I’ve never been impulsive. I’m comfortable with slower rhythms, with taking care, with intention. But the slow movement in front of me, and in front of my father, scratches at who I am. And I’m left with a deepening knowing that, sometimes, attending to the needed things is dreadful.