Had he lived another five years, my father, Charlie Arnett, would turn 100 this Saturday, September the 14th. He helped raise six kids, survived several cancers, continued cutting his own firewood into his nineties and preached his last sermon just a few months before he died.
Earlier this summer, my oldest sister, Freeda, had her second cancer surgery in less than two years. She lost a chunk of hip muscle in one of the surgeries. In spite of that, a couple of weeks ago she spent a weekend cleaning up the yard around the mountain cabin she and Olian bought on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina a few years ago. You know, just the usual: chopping out weeds, clearing out fallen brush and pushing over a dead tree or two to. She’s a year or two past the seventy mark but don’t let her know that I told you that.
My other sister, Patsy, who is several years younger than Freeda, has endured fibromyalgia for many years. Along with some other medical issues, she had a knee replacement a couple of years ago and is currently battling a respiratory infection. She lives in Abilene, Texas.
My brother, Paul, is a strapping lad just a bit less than four years older than me. He had a colon polyp removed a few months back, prompting me to embrace the pleasures of a colonoscopy shortly thereafter. His wife, Debee, endured months of complications following intestinal surgery last year. They live in Lancaster, Ohio, not far from Columbus.
My own health challenges out here in eastern Kansas have been pretty darn mild, comparatively. It is true that I had a massive blood clot that totally blocked the femoral vein in my left leg from mid-calf to the groin area. And, according to the cardiologist, an irregular heartbeat. But a daily dose of Warfarin and aerobic exercise seems to keep both in check.
In addition to those challenges, and far greater than the ones I have dealt with, my siblings have endured the affliction of genetic connection to me for nearly sixty years now. Debee, being more fortunate, has only had the complications of association for forty-one years, giving her a decided advantage, I would say.
Lord willing, all five of us will be participating in the first annual Mountaineer Mud Run at Boone, North Carolina, this Saturday.
We are doing this to celebrate Freeda’s survival, to enjoy the blessings of family and to honor the memory of a man more inclined to deal with whatever life dished out rather than to sit around feeling sorry for himself. And maybe, a bit, to show ourselves that getting old might mean slowing down but it doesn’t mean stopping. Our mother is still getting around a bit and she’s 98. It seems we come from the sort of stock that life insurance companies love and retirement fund administrators hate.
Regardless of fiduciary concerns, the current plan is for me to run quasi-competitively in the ten o’clock wave that morning. Then, the five of us will enjoy a leisurely stroll along the course at two in the afternoon. It is possible that one or more of us will actually attempt some of the obstacles. But after all that we have faced and in which we have seen the faithfulness of God’s good grace, a mountain hike that includes a little mud and barbed wire just doesn’t seem all that daunting.
At least not yet.