Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Getting old but still doing it.

Forestry work next door to our place

There are 50 acres of trees next to us and they are now being harvested. Truckloads of timber are going each day. The more trees they cut down, the sunnier our place will be. I love watching the amazing machinery! 

Getting old...

It is spring, nearly summer in New Zealand now and I have been doing a lot of work in my big vegetable garden. It has involved a lot of digging and planting. I notice that what I used to do very quickly and with no physical bother, now takes a little longer and I end up sore. As well as the garden I have been helping my daughter and son-in-law with some renovation/ DIY work. We spent three days in a row recently hammering framing and putting up gib board. (I think they call it "rock wall" in the USA.) I enjoy it. With all this physical work I somehow hurt my back right between the shoulder blades. I had a sore vertebrae and a very sore arm. I went to the doctor and he checked me out. "You have stretched or torn a muscle." and he gave me pain killers. I knew that was right, but I was sure something more was wrong with a disk, that it was not only a muscle problem. Then I started to feel two of my fingers on my right hand go numb. We phoned him and left a message. He took awhile to get back to us. He was in the process of impatiently telling me that I need to be patient, "the muscles won't heal in a hurry - six weeks I told you!" I then said, "My concern is that I am losing feeling in two fingers in my right hand and partway up my arm." "Oh!" he said, "You better come in." Three days later I visited him and he found a vertebrae that was tender. He said that obviously a nerve was damaged. He referred me to another doctor who he said would get me a scan. I have ended up with an appointment date that is still nearly four weeks away! I told my wife that everything will have settled down by then, but I'll still have a numb hand for the rest of my life.  So I have half my left foot numb from a lower back prolapsed disk a year or so ago, and now half my right hand numb from what ever has happened in my upper back. I have a shaky right hand I think from thyroid issues and now yet another doctor has given me ointment for "sun spots" on my skin. All in all, I am starting to feel like an old man, though I still think of myself as younger. It is the passage of life. I have shop keepers asking, "Are you O.K. lifting that?" and I do notice stuff I used to lift easily, now takes more effort. "Gracefully surrendering the things of youth" or "rage, rage against the dying of the light!" 

Still doing it...

I have been arguing with myself about whether I ought to give up workplace chaplaincy. I visit the local ambulance people, the fire stations and a brewery. It is only a few hours spaced out over three days each week. Sometimes I'll visit and wonder if it was all worth it. I have also thought that the workforce in each place is getting younger, and maybe as an old man I am not the best fit. With the end of the year approaching I have been contemplating really retiring. But then there are those conversations where you think, "Well that was worthwhile!" Last week I went to one place. A woman said, "I'm going for a break, come with me.... come on, keep up Dave, I haven't got long!" We went to a more isolated place and she let off steam. She unloaded her frustrations and anger. I listened.. I tried to be affirming because I know that she is a conscientious worker.  After unloading she said, "Thanks Dave, I needed that." and hurried back to work. At another place a couple of weeks ago when I was in pain a man unloaded about a wider family issue. He told a sad story, that went on and on. I listened and made some comments, but I was in real pain standing with my back and arm screaming. I tried leaning against a bench. I was so sore that I was sweating. I made some suggestions, but it was such a complicated situation that it required much more than I could offer. Today I went back to his place of work. He again unloaded and we talked for quite a long time. I was in less pain, but as workplace chaplain you meet people where ever they are and that becomes your "counselling room". Today he had been working a lathe. As I went around to the different work stations, I had good conversations with so many people. I was to be there one hour, but I was there for two hours! (I was worried about getting a parking ticket) It always happens. Just when I think it might be time to give up chaplaincy, I have days or connections that feel really worthwhile and useful. One of my fire fighters had bedding he wanted to give to the night shelter so I called at the fire station to pick it up. Immediately I was welcomed warmly and invited to go for a ride in a truck. My visit turned out to be longer and I had good connections with folk. I think maybe I'll continue into next year. While I might enjoy the freedom from "work responsibilities" and time tables, there is something in the relationships that makes me feel useful and of worth, even though I'm getting old. 

1 comment:

Debby said...

I am very impressed by the compassion charter to the right of your blog. How peaceful the world would be if everyone simply agreed to abide by these simple tenets.

I find that it doesn't matter what I'm doing, I'm still doing God's work. I think that you're the sort of person who would come to the same conclusion.