I Have to Go to Tennessee

I am currently sitting in my father’s living room. Or, more precisely, the living room of the house where my father lives, owned by a woman named Carolyn, who has strokes like it is a hobby and considers herself half of a couple completed by Timmy Nelson Jowers, the man who lives with her and (although unconfirmed by any birth certificate on file) is my dad.

I got here last night, at about 11:30, which means I made pretty good time. Which means I sped. Which, I admit, is bad, and yet I did it anyway. I’m not sure what eternal significance that holds but I’ve got too much else going on to…care…really.

You see, I’ll be sitting in this living room for probably the next SEVERAL hours. It is 11:33 am on Monday, October 26, 2009 and I will leave early Wednesday morning, looks like. And between now and then, I may go to Nashville and visit a sweet wonderful friend from college. But probably not. And even if I do, all my other time will be spent right here, on this couch, listening to my dad tell the little mop-dog that she has to get off the couch because she’s gross (she’s in heat).

He’ll say other things, and most of them will be funny. I’ll think they’re funny, at least, and I’m writing this so sure…they’ll be funny, because I decided. Probably more “funny queer” than “funny ha-ha.”  He’ll say things like “Right here’s an ad on craigslist for a Lincoln that says I’ll love it. I don’t see love. I see my shirt coming off.”

Back to how/why I got here.

The drive from Austin, Texas, where I live, to Lexington Tennesee, where my father lives, is 735 miles….wait, no, that’s not where I want to start.

I have trouble being still, paying attention, and seeing.  (Physically seeing, my eyes just get way worse some times). I mention it not because these things particularly bother me, but more that they bother people around me. And they make me particularly well suited from some things, and particularly ILL-suited for others.   One such thing is driving long distances.  Another such thing is visiting my father.  We’ll tackle one at a time.

Why did I decide to drive instead of fly?  To be frank(the adjective, not the person): the at-least $50 dollar difference between the cheapest, earliest-bought tickets and the cost of driving is not a cost I can easily absorb. I have enough money to pay my rent, drive to work, eat well, and have responsible fun. So please hear that I am not complaining about this, just making what I see as a fiscally wise decision. Also, I had rather hoped I’d find someone to come with me.  And lastly, had I chosen to fly, someone would have had to drive to Nashville to get me. And anyone “available” could neither have afforded the gas money nor the physical effect on their bodies.

So I drove.

And I got here.  God was gracious in providing many things that I praised him for, but are not pertinent to this post.

Now that I am here, It’s difficult to describe exactly how I feel about it.  I don’t have a close relationship with my paternal side.  When I was two my parents broke up and since then I have spent 5 “summers” (or parts there of) and Maybe 3 weeks total with my dad.  That’s not, by my estimation, much time to have spent with your dad in 22 of 24 years.  It does, however, make me wonder how much time I spend with my Father in heaven.  Hmmmm…

Anyway, I come here because my dad, who I call Daddy, loves me. If he had his way, I’d call several times a day.  I’m his only child, and possibly his only friend.  Let me describe him as though he wasn’t a person I claimed by the relationship of their personhood to mine.

Timmy Nelson Jowers is 49 years old, and will be 50 in January.  Right now, he is sitting on his couch with his oxygen on, scanning craigslist for who-knows-what.  He is more intelligent than most people, though not without his serious bouts common-sense-less-ness. He is addicted to methadone, but has enough of a tolerance that it makes little difference. Because of IV drug use, he is afflicted with Hepatitis C, which causes various daily issues. A few years ago he had simultaneous liver and kidney failure.  After several surgeries, he started to develop hernias in his stomach lining. He often coughs, causing his intestines to come through them. It’s visible.  And it’s painful. And it keeps him from being able to keep much food down. So he’s on medication to aid his digestion, but often vomits.  That medication makes him constantly thirsty.  He was diagnosed last year with POCD, which means that he has trouble breathing. By trouble breathing I mean today, after picking two bags out of the car and taking them 5 feet into a donation center, he had to sit down and use an inhaler, even though he had his oxygen on (he has 24 hour oxygen treatments) and it still took a minute for his breathing to return to “normal.”  This has, thankfully, contributed to a diminishing cigarette consumption.  His other, unexplained (though medicated) symptoms include: severely bloated and discolored limbs, slow healing, and constantly dry/cracking/itching skin.  He has a persistent, hacking cough, insomnia, and (from a long long time ago) just one eye and no teeth.

So this (above) is what I mean when I say, “I have to go visit my Daddy, because He is sick.”

And I ALWAYS say, “have.”  Because I do not come here out of any desire, but out of a deep, painful, racking guilt.  Because if you told me about an ailing man, without a single friend and with very few resources, cared for practically but who had one singular pleasure: time spent talking to or being with his daughter, I, like many of you, could not fathom that she wouldn’t put forth the time and effort to provide those things.

But I don’t like coming here.  I have terrible memories and associations and a completely rational disgust of most of what and who surrounds me while here.  I look around and I see what world and genetics have destined for me. Deteriorating bodies and minds long-since given to drugs, drinks, and hateful hearts, a selfishness that burns and angers and….is entirely like that which controls me whenever I think of coming for a visit.

See hanging out in Tennessee is not just unlike me, it’s pretty much anti-thetical.  I don’t want to be around the smoke, I judge the levels of education, what I see as ignorance, and I get bored sitting around with my dad, but he doesn’t have the strength or energy to do anything else.

So I see two things:

I see my flesh. My ugly, disgusting, sinful flesh.  My flesh would have me justify ignoring my father, would chose neither to speak to nor visit him, would forgo the painful process of seeing people deterioriate in mind and body and would chalk it up to a deadbeat dad who had little to do with my upbringing other than what I’ve had to overcome, and therefore didn’t get visitation rights now that I’m an adult.  I see a lot of that.

And I see the Holy Spirit.  I see it convict me of my selfishness and sin.  I see it calling me to compassion and mercy.  I see it casting a vision over my eyes, a vision that these people are His children, that he knit them for a reason and who am I to dismiss the beauty of his creation? I see the power and sovereignty of the Lord as he opened the path for me to come, and forgave me the many times I faltered in my attempts to love for others.  I see His grace through my father, who is never made happier than when he can dote on me, and lovingly accepts my phone calls and visits no matter the duration (although he does always mention that they could be longer).  And I see his lovingkindeness, his patience, his slowness to anger, in reminding me of my place in His story, no matter how many times I mistake it for His place in mine.

I guess the real take-away from this story is this:  if you find yourself selfish and rude, find the light of your compassion fading, the zeal of your love waning, know that God is big. He’s BIG big.  He is big enough to cover every mistake you have ever made and every one you will ever make (which, in case you didn’t know, he knew about when he saved you, he knew about when he MADE you).  He is powerful enough to do these things. And he’s good enough that he WILL do them. He will not let you, one whose life has had his light shone on it, rest in your muck and disgust.  He will continue to heal you and use every breath, every thought, for His glory, for your good.  And he absolutely will give you the strength to live the life he has called you to, one that includes a far better existence, more fulfilling and more enjoyable,  if only for seeing the beauty of having been called His.

If you don’t know Jesus, this probably doesn’t make much sense.  I probably don’t make much sense. But if you’ve read this long than I have to say: The Gospel is the story of how God made creation good, and it fell, but he always knew it would fall and always had a plan for it’s redemption. That Jesus (who is God) came and lived a sinless life so that, among other things, he could serve as the perfect atoning sacrifice for the sins of mankind. His blood covers your sin and your ability to be made right with God, to have a relationship with your creator and the most powerful, most perfect person in existence who will love you like you could never imagine, is a belief in this true story that occurs when the Holy Spirit (also God) comes into your life and causes you to be alive in Christ, rather then dead in your sins.  And that story includes a LOT of adventure, maybe even 12-hour-drive, listening-to-your-hilarious-father, chocolate-and-biscuits adventure. And I pray that you’ll ask him if you can be part of the story.

I’m going to go now, and enjoy the adventure of listening to the commentary my father gives to whatever is on TV.  “Call me a sissy, but I’m toting this purse!” Because come to find out, when I think about the Lord, I really really like my daddy.

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2 thoughts on “I Have to Go to Tennessee

  1. Beautiful, my heart goes out to you and your daddy and the whole adventure of changing relationships and time and space. Don’t worry about coming to see me, we’ll meet up soon enough. Loveyou.

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