Sunday, June 21, 2009

Reflections on Father's Day

Working primarily evenings and nights as I am now that Evan is out of high school, I find it kind of futile to try to wind myself back around to the regular "day shift" routine, even when the weekend and the rest of your family and loved ones work or live on that clock.

So I was up until about 3:30 this morning, and then up again at 10 to go to church and try to make something of a sunny day in Western Colorado, which while normally in abundance have been a scarce commodity of late.

I got that little video of Save the Tomato done and posted, but also surfed the Sunday papers online. In today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette I ran across something that raised my hackles a bit.

Today's story is the beginning of a two-part exploration of the reasons that lung cancer, to quote the story, "
gets less research funding per death than any other major cancer". The story postulates that one of those subtle myths of society, like "social drinking isn't a problem" or "socialized medicine is a communist plot" has stymied the comparative search for a cure.
To wit:

Lung cancer "seems to be the focus of everyone's blame-the-victim mentality," says Dr. Jill Siegfried, a lung cancer scientist at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. "You can take another disease like heart disease that is equally caused by smoking, and nobody would say, 'Don't develop stents or bypasses.'

"For some reason, lung cancer seems to shoulder all the burden for our smoking-related guilt."

Dr. Joel Greenberger, another lung cancer researcher at the institute, believes the bias even extends to the National Institutes of Health, the primary federal funding agency for medical research.

"I think there's a kind of hidden agenda at the National Institutes of Health that because a majority of lung cancer is caused by smoking, that people kind of do this to themselves," he said. "There's a kind of punishment mentality -- and this could not be more wrong."

In case you're wondering how any of this ties into Father's Day, my role has a Father has been altered dramatically in the four years since my late wife's diagnosis, when it had been brushed off by at least one local physician as arthritis and had me insisting on an MRI at an out-of-town ER when she could barely walk, after the tumor in her lung had spread to and practically destroyed her first lumbar vertebra. In retrospect, the clinicians involved probably never considered the possibility of lung cancer because she didn't have a cough and never smoked.

Don't mistake this for anger - I've put all that aside in the two years since she left us, and am making strides to move on with my life now that our son is turning 18 soon and entering college. I'm just puzzled with the lack of emphasis on lung cancer research , especially on other, younger women who have been taken from their husbands and children. Jan became sick at about the time that Dana Reeve revealed her diagnosis. You'd think that we would start learning. Hopefully soon.

We in Grand Junction and Mesa County need to be extra diligent, given the presence of radioactive metals in our region, along with the reclamation of mill tailings from so many areas where they had been casually used as free fill dirt before the dangers of Radon gas became known.

Unfortunately, in the era of trying to make sure our children are protected from everything, that we anticipate every pitfall or problem that might befall them and try to mitigate it, the inevitable rebellious nature of our youth have driven them to the easiest ways to show us fathers and mothers that they'll do what they want. Cigarettes are a portion of the problem, but their insidious effects seem to be perpetuated within each generation. How do we effectively stem this tide?

I managed to shake my shift work schedule and morph into a Sunday-go-to-meetin' Dad, the first time in several weeks. I was eager to hear the message on Dad's day, and Pastor Paul Watson at the Downtown Vineyard didn't disappoint.

Paul's sermon challenged men to shake how society defines their success, and concentrate on how what they do reflects their relationship with God. This starts with something that I have been guilty of at times, that is finding self-esteem not in who I am, but what I do. This allows the avocation to become more important than a Godly vocation.

Paul also took time to recognize the increasing number of families touched by divorce and death, saying that "being a stepfather is an awesome opportunity to love and honor God".

He concluded with a simple but profound statement supported by Joshua 1:6-9:
"All men have challenges, but real men have courage."
I wondered after he had said this, the courage to do what? Eschew earthly pursuits for the direction that God is pointing you in? Listen and try to discern God's intent for your life, and put aside those fears and worries that are preventing you from proceeding in that direction?

This speaks a lot to the challenges I have before me this Father's Day. I am at a personal and professional crossroads, and feel the need to honor God by honoring my family, those I love, and the gifts that God has given me, with enough room for discernment and contemplation that the steps I am taking are the right ones.

With that in mind, there will likely be some changes in my personal life that will not please some people that care about me, and I them. I may embark on a path that complicates some lives and enhances others. All I can say at this point is I am bound to do what I've always done, which is to listen and learn, proceed cautiously, and move decisively.

I've always felt that God was mostly at the wheel of this particular ship of fate; if you had told me in the beginning of 1995 that two months later I would be living in Colorado before Father's Day, I'd have called you crazy. Save for the tribulations of illness and the pain of loss, things have worked out. I haven't always steered along the right path, but have been fortunate nonetheless to find the right road when it counted.

Before then and since, I've tried to be the best father, worker, and provider that I know how to be. Things fell into place, then fell apart. I'm getting better at keeping the pieces where they belong, and following the right set of directions for putting them back together again.

Have a great week ahead.

No comments: