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Saturday, February 6, 2010

I scared the dog

It is not pretty. The mucky non-productive cough of pneumonia. The Daisy dog is permanently scarred, and scared to come near me. I hope we can patch this up one day. I hope I stop coughing one day. It's been a week now. And I, for one, am not enjoying it. But at least one thing is better than the last time I had pneumonia. You. Christmas Eve 2000. I shook several hundred hands as the congregations left worship services. Somebody had Influenza B. The bad one going around that year. Christmas morning 2000. I woke up feeling like I'd been trashed by a team of roller derby queens. Which is to say, not good. But there was a worship service and it was my turn to do Christmas Day duty. The next day was a funeral and burial. The day after that was the church staff Christmas party. At my house. A kitchen full of guests, last minute preparations, gravy, mixing a salad. I could hardly stand up. So when they all went in to the dining room to sit down for the meal, I went upstairs "for a few minutes" to rest. I woke up ten hours later. I had this wicked Influenza bacteria and I got pneumonia. And, as some of you have been relating similar stories, pneumonia is nasty. And it lasts a long time. One friend wrote tonight of being sick for a month and a half. As it was, I was down, ennervated, totally wiped out for three weeks. It was six weeks before I really felt back to almost normal. I saw the doctor weekly and was on mega-doses of antibiotics. You can check my insurance records. It's true. As you have been following this blog you know that I am recovering from an attack at work. That happened in October of 2002, so about a year and a half later than this bout of illness. After I returned to work at the parish, I learned (not right away) that the "word on the street" --- which is to say gossipy emails, parking lot conversations, coffee klatches and telephone calls --- was that I didn't have the flu or pneumonia at all. In some versions, alternately, I was not sick at all and just faking it. Or, this was the most popular, I had a mental breakdown. The irony of that story was that 18 months later, in fact, their incessant and devilish harassment, sabotage, and abuse did result in my having a severe mental injury. I guess they were just planning ahead. The congregation was behaving according to a long pattern. And when I say congregation I should clarify that a core group of perhaps as many as fifty persons were gung ho on Operation Kill Jan, and others got dragged in or caught up in some of the gossip. And of those fifty, perhaps only as many as twenty or so were the most vigilant and diabolical in their behavior. The pattern that had worked for them before worked for them again. Pimp up the young assistant, undermine the senior pastor (me) and split the staff apart. It only works when the young assistants are guillible and needy. It hadn't worked with the previous team but oh, did it ever work this time. Moral of long story made short, my getting pneumonia and Influenza B became the first opening, the big opening, for mischief. (Mischief is as appropriate a descriptor here as bombing is for describing what happened at Hiroshima.) It was the opening campaign of the war they won on October 22, 2002, in the parking lot of the church. The next eighteen months were pretty much unmitigated hell. If you can imagine it, they did it. I've been reading all this week, Sophie's Choice about the holocaust, The Things They Carried, about the Vietnam war, All the King's Men about corruption in the early 20th century south, Willa Cather about the hardships of life and the moral breakdowns that were part of early life on the Nebraska prairie. The things we are capable of. Doing. To. One. Another. I realized how naive I still am. How genuinely hopeful I am about the human race. But mostly naive. Even though I know it happened, these and other terrible things, I have to confess, I have a very hard time wrapping my head around them. Really? People do these things to one another? There is still a big part of me that is in denial. Sometimes I have to watch the reality crime shows on TV just to convince myself that people, "normal" people really do terrible things. I will confess one thing more. I'm not sure if the denial isn't a perverse flip side of cynicism. Maybe I'm not so hopeful as I want to believe. Something changed inside of me as a result of that experience. Not unlike veterans who come home and talk about having become numb, even cold. I get it. Whether or not that's healthy, I'm not sure. Thanks for all your good wishes, suggestions and encouragement. I really DO have pneumonia and I'm not especially worried this time about a raging gossip campaign asserting otherwise. Thanks for being trustworthy. And kind.