Tuesday, August 27, 2013

#15, On Charles Finney, Love, and Parenting (As Separate Subjects)

My husband brought Charles Finney into our marriage in the form of multiple editions that have found their way to bookshelves in the various homes we've lived in. I never read Finney till last week (that's sixteen years of not getting to know this guy when I had the chance).  And now that I've started, I'm not so sorry it took me this long.

I picked up Principles of Love because, like so many of you good-willing humanoids, I'm trying to become a more loving person. Trying to figure out what it means to lay my life down, swallow pride, take the high road, love the lovable in a moment when they are very unlovable.  But Finny is not helping because Finney is all "Love is intelligent. Love is volitional. Love is impartial. Love is courageous" and none of it is inspiring me to shut my mouth when that would be the loving thing to do. None of it is girding me with the inner strength to bear up without complaint the inconveniences put upon to me.

The only piece of his book that has helped me is the "For Reflection" piece at the end of chapter one (a segment I'm not even convinced was written by Finney). Here's the worthwhile declaration that comes, most likely, from Finney's editor (thanks, man): I have decided to consecrate myself to loving God and others, rather than allow my feelings and actions to flow from a decision to gratify my selfish desires.

Editor, 1. Finny, 0.  Do I keep this guy?

Last night, I was dead to the world at 9:30, but my littlest peep Tiny was getting sicker and sicker. Mark was more hands-on at the beginning of the evening and about the time he was giving up, I gave it my all and managed to sit in the recliner in her room from about 1 a.m. on, monitoring her breathing. It sounded like she was sucking air in through a mucous-made straw.  When it got as loud and awful as I could take, I packed her up for the ER at 3:15 a.m.

The ER is such a lesson in human compassion--the greatness or lack thereof depending on the day--and I was warmly grateful when the male check-in nurse reported to me all of Tiny's revealing vitals, fretted over her cough, and offered to help me carry something back to the exam room (I was juggling a purse, water bottle, two stuffed animals and Tiny).

Enter nurse Kelly, a sweet-talking young blonde woman. Enter a resident who walks right up to me and Tiny without offering his name and asked, "So, what's going on here?"  And then: "Can I look in her mouth? Can I look in your mouth?" I ask his name and say to Tiny, "Can you open your mouth for Dr. Hassan?"  No, she shook her head. She couldn't.  Out went Hassan. In breezed Miller (supervising physician, female, forties) who introduces herself and asks if she can look in Tiny's mouth. The room is filled with a chorus of Please can you open your mouth? I know you can do it! It won't hurt. Miller pulls out a killer whale flashlight/keychain thingy. The killer whale has a retractable jaw.  See? Even the whale can open his mouth!

This is not persuasive.

The night is full of cajoling and unfabricated threats of shots if Tiny doesn't drink her Tylenol, prednisone and take her epinephrine gas mask, the latter advertised by a breathing treatment on myself, her stuffed puppy and her stuffed bunny.  The gas mask induces many tears, but once going begins to loosen up the phlegm in her chest. I can feel the epinephrine tendrils curling into my own nose and mouth, loosening up my own lungs and head.  Nurse Kelly suggests a song and I start with Tiny's bedtime favorite, wondering if "Be Thou My Vision" will forever more live on as a PTSD trigger involving memories of gas masks, insomnia and shortness of breath.

As soon as we get the mask off her, I see Tiny's arms trembling.  As I lay her down to change her pull-up, she gags and vomits Tylenol and prednisone all over her shirt and the Wreck-It Ralph sticker reward Kelly had grandly presented only seconds before. I strip Tiny down; nurse Kelly brings anti-nausea meds because, yes, Tiny could throw up again as a side effect of the epi.

I wonder if it's necessary, all the intervention. Tiny hasn't ever had her body so full of drugs in her life.  Her little self collapses on the pillow for the next two hours, intermittently sleeping and then awake.  Her fever breaks and she sweats through two sheets. There is one moment, in the darkened room, when she sits up with her index finger pointing right at me, and she's crying and shouting, Done! Done! and another moment when she stirs and asks, Is it good morning yet? (because in Tiny's book, good morning = morning. There is no other kind).

On our way to the hospital that night, she had been so concerned by the dark. Tiny is not a creature of the night. Mommy, she said in her whisper-raspy voice, I can't see the trees.   

I know, I know, honey. We'll see them soon.  I pray for her so quietly that only God can hear me.

When she is finally released four hours later, I carry her into 80 degree sunshine, a bright and humid August morning. Mommy! she cheers with clearer breath, it's good morning!

And now we're home and sleepy and Tiny is cranky but her breathing has improved and it is good evening and tomorrow we'll have good morning all over again.


Tony Meyer said...

You should read Charles Finney's autobiography before rushing to judgement about him. He was responsible for thousands coming to Christ and an important part of the 2nd Great Awakening. It was over 100 yrs ago so a lot of the language is different and seems a bit dry and uncaring at times. But he had an incredible heart for Jesus and people. You should read it. Do it!

heather weber said...

Tony, I know it! =) I was totally reading him out of the context of his time and audience and really knew nothing about him when I picked up the book. That said, what I was looking for at the time wasn't what he had to offer. Oh well, God bless Finney. =) Thanks for reading!