My Dad

Image may contain: 2 people, including Steve Picray, people sitting and indoor

For those of you who aren’t aware, my dad, who turned 70 a few weeks ago, passed away two days ago.  Yesterday was my sister’s wedding, so we were mostly trying to keep it low key, but she posted about it today so now I feel comfortable posting about it. 

My dad was not perfect.  He had many faults as anybody who had been cornered by him could tell you. Conversationally he was like a runaway train, and until about ten years ago we struggled to find ways to end conversations with him.  That was when he finally realized it and adopted the policy of “when someone says they need to go, I will let them go.”  So you would say, “Well I need to get going” and he would instantly say, “TalkToYouLaterBye” and hang up. Anything you wanted him to know would have to be said before that point.  

My dad was never wrong.  Well, almost.  He would stand by what he thought with the tenacity of a thing that is really tenacious, and take all comers.  Only once did I get him to admit he was wrong (it was about whether a curse word was in the dictionary. It was.  He had to buy me chocolate milk because I was right).  Sometimes he would do what most of us do and switch from defending HIS position to mocking yours.  That hurt.  Most of us developed kind of a “shell” so that when Dad was talking to us, we just nodded most of the time. 

My dad was abusive.  I don’t need to go into detail, and I’m sure some will get upset that I mentioned it, because you know, you don’t speak ill of the dead, but it’s a fact that my life would have been very different if my dad had made different behavioral choices in regards to his family.   But as I talked to my wife about this, God reminded me of Joseph (Genesis 37-50) from the Bible.  This man was horribly abused by his brothers, thrown into a pit, sold into slavery where no matter how good he was he was also abused by others, falsely accused and thrown into prison where he lived for several years.  When he finally talked with his brothers about what they had done, they thought he would punish them, but he said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”   God was able to use their sinful choices to bring about good things.  And as I think back, I realized that if my dad had made different choices instead of the ones that led to the breakup of our family, he probably never would have married my stepmom and had my three youngest siblings.  I would have a huge hole in my life because I love those four people.  God took my dad’s sin, and brought something beautiful out of it, just like with Joseph.  It doesn’t excuse what he did, but it does make me feel better about it.

My dad worked to send me to a good school when I lived with him.  He tried to instill good values in me, including a sense of responsibility and completing the work you have been given.  I remember one time when I was about 11 and he told me to feed the dogs before bed. I forgot. Evidently he got home and knew somehow that I hadn’t fed them. He came to my room, woke me up and told me to go feed the dogs. Five minutes later I hadn’t fed them, but had gone back to sleep, so he repeated the command.  I started to put my shirt on, so he left, and I fell back asleep. I have no memory of this because I was not actually conscious for any of that. All I knew was that I was peacefully sleeping, when suddenly I was covered with ice water that he had dumped on me to wake me up so I could do my job.  He was yelling at me, and I didn’t know why.  We laughed about it years later but I learned that completing your work is important, and you put others’ needs in front of your own. 

My dad contributed to my love of board games. I looked forward to those Friday nights when he would get home from work at the post office, and we would stay up playing Axis and Allies or Conquest of the Empire.  He taught me to play cribbage the hard way: by declaring “Muggins,” which meant that if I made a mistake, he profited from it in the game.  I got better faster that way.  He made me competitive, and I love to win, but by being good at games himself, I learned how to be a good winner and a good loser.  Usually.

My dad paid for me to learn to play the classical guitar, and it’s my fault, not his, that I’m not a professional.  He cultivated a love of history and the US Navy in me that I still have even though I never served. He enjoyed telling the story of when he “conned” (or was in charge of) a naval destroyer because he was fixing the rudder. I remember that when I was obsessed with planes he and my stepmom took me to see Top Gun in the theater, and it’s a good thing that the Navy recruiters in the lobby wouldn’t take 12 year olds, because I would have caught the first arrestor cable there.  I remember when he took me to a restaurant, just the two of us, for my 13th birthday and I informed him that my favorite plane was the F-15 Eagle, and so I wanted to join the USAF.  He joked, “Air Force?  I thought you LIKED being in this family!”  

My dad took me fishing, and he took me hunting.  He bought me a 410 shotgun which I was allowed to carry unloaded when I acted as the dog, flushing out the quail and pheasant for him.  Maybe this is why I still don’t like bird hunting: I was always the dog.  He taught me how to fool a squirrel, and how to clean them after they got fooled. After my father-in-law introduced me to deer hunting, my dad let me hunt deer on his 100 acre farm in Missouri, where I hunted almost every year for 20 years.  He told me I was doing him a favor because the deer were eating all the corn, and I said, “Dad, you have a hilly forest where nobody ever goes that practically touches the corn fields, there’s a pond way in the back, and a few private meadows…you don’t have a farm you have a deer preserve!”  I did my part, though, and he always listened to my stories about how I got each deer.  He used to tease me that if I hunted fairly I should just go out there with a knife and hide in a tree, waiting for the deer to walk underneath.  I said, “You first.” 

My dad was a writer, among other things. He loved to write, and I enjoyed reading some of the things he wrote. He instilled in me my love of reading, and I remember how sometimes my punishment for doing something wrong was that I wasn’t allowed to read for several hours, a day, or whatever.  Agony.  He had custom bookshelves built in his house that he filled with so many books. When other kids were collecting baseball cards, I remember that I saved up my money to buy a set of Time Life books (on planes, of course) that I wanted. Reading changed my life.

My dad was complicated. It’s hard to put into words how I feel about the fact that he’s not here anymore.  He has had early-onset Alzheimer’s-type dementia for the past several years, which was gradual at first and then got faster. He contracted COVID-19 a few weeks ago and the damage caused by the virus was too much for his body to overcome.  His greatest tool was his mind, and he had already lost most of it. I am thankful to God for my dad, because if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I woudn’t exist at all, come to think of it.  I miss my dad, but I also miss what might have been in our relationship.  I sincerely hope that his profession of faith in Jesus Christ was legitimate and he is now in the presence of the Lord, sinless and finally aware of how many times in his life he was wrong.  He had many faults, but at the end of the day, he was still

My dad.  

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

One of Those Days

I had a moment tonight. 

I stopped to get gas on the way to work around 9:45pm.  It was dark out, and about 45° F.  Cold.  The roads were almost empty due to the quarantine as well as the hour.  It’s my third night shift in a row, so my sleep schedule is all messed up and I didn’t get enough sleep today. A friend in Colorado has been missing since Sunday and her husband and two daughters don’t know where she is, if she’s safe, or what.  So that’s on my mind.  

It’s my birthday.  I got off work around 6:30 in the morning, stopped at the store, and then got home to get about four or five hours of sleep before getting up in time to celebrate my birthday with my wife and kids.  Played a few card games and watched a movie. Took a nap before going back to work at 9:30.  Kind of a ho-hum day. 

And then I found myself standing at the gas pump where it was cold and wet and dark, and I have to get through the next eight hours of work. The quarantine and the weather and some family issues were weighing on me and I started to feel a little low. 

Until I remembered that God is in charge. God knows.  He is not surprised by anything, and He has a plan that He is working out specifically for my good and His glory.  He has both hands on the yoke, and though our aircraft is experiencing turbulence, we are going to land at our destination at exactly the right time.  I prayed as I got to work that Jesus would come back soon.  But until He does it falls to us to slog through the dark days, the sad times, and the ho hum stuff, trusting Him and doing our best in His power to obey and serve. 

I think I need to go fishing. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

COVID-19 Response

I keep telling people that this situation is going to get worse before it gets better, and they don’t believe me.

There’s no vaccine for this.  That means there are only two ways to avoid being killed by it:  1. Don’t be exposed to it, or 2. Get infected and survive it.   The first one is a sure thing if you can completely cut yourself off from society.  This thing is contagious BEFORE you have symptoms.  That means that any of the people you interacted with in the past week and a half could have infected you and you don’t even know it yet. 

So we’re pretty much left with number 1: don’t be exposed.  That is why the government, schools, churches and businesses are all saying, “stay home” to one degree or another.  If you can avoid coming into contact with infected people, you won’t get sick. 

The first person to be reported to have this disease was December 1st in China. Now there are over 100 countries with infected people, almost 200,000 people confirmed infected, and over 7,000 deaths.  The average mortality rate worldwide is 3.92%.  To put that into real numbers, if every person on earth (7.8 Billion people) gets infected, the death toll will be around 300 MILLION people.  Imagine if tomorrow every American outside the state of Florida died.  That’s how deadly this is. 

Back to the beginning: this is going to get worse before it gets better.  I don’t have a crystal ball, I haven’t received any new information from God regarding the future, but I can use my medical knowledge, and my understanding of how the world works to let you know that people are going to start panicking worse than they are now.  More people are going to get infected.  The hospitals in the United States are going to start feeling the pinch.  Nurses and doctors are going to get sick, and there will be nobody to replace them on their shifts.  That means the hospitals’ capacity to care for the ill will go down.   I truly believe we are going to get to the point where, like Italy, the government tells us all to simply stay home unless absolutely necessary. 

At some point it’s going to start getting better.  The number of people infected and recovered is going to be higher than the number of sick people and people who haven’t gotten it.   Ninety-six percent of people who get this virus will survive.  We all just need to keep our heads, be safe, take precautions, mourn the dead, and move on.  I pray that this virus is more like measles which, once you get it or get vaccinated, you are protected, and not like influenza which mutates.  It would be horrible if this virus killed off 4% of the population every year. 

So for now, understand that the precautions that those in charge are advising are for everybody’s good: we are trying to prevent the rapid spread of this so that our healthcare system doesn’t have to make decisions like they are making in Italy, where some are reporting that people over 60 should not even come to the hospital because they are prioritizing care for those who have the best chance at survival.

God is still in charge.  If you don’t know Christ as Savior, what better time than now to trust in Him, when you have a 1 in 25 chance of dying in the next few months?  You should figure this out anyway, because you have a 1 in 1 chance of dying (a sure thing) in the next 100 years.  And if you think running out of toilet paper will be bad, imagine living for eternity in hell because you ignored God and your own sin. 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Deer Hunting

I used to go to Missouri to hunt on my dad’s farm/woods every year. Well, almost every year. There was a run of years when I didn’t miss a single year, but then I stayed home when my wife had radiation therapy, or other situations like that. But I haven’t been there to hunt since 2016.

2018 I had a bum knee. 2017 I’m pretty sure it was job related (I had just started a new job 2 months before, and didn’t want to take a week off).

So I missed two years. No big deal. But now I’m going to miss this year too. I put in for the time off last month so I could drive down there Wednesday (tomorrow), and hunt until Saturday evening when I would drive home. Three days of hunting. But then last week I got some cold virus, and although I’m about 75% over it, and getting better every day, I don’t think the wisest thing to do at this point is to go sit in the cold for 11 hours a day. Plus I don’t really feel physically up to the task of dragging a deer out of the woods right now. So I will have to forego Missouri hunting yet another year.

Looks like I will have to pull my muzzleloader out and try to remember how that thing works, so I can hunt in Iowa in a few weeks. Oh well…at least it will be cheaper.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment