I talked to my parents last night.
My mom's cholesterol is coming down. Her blood pressure is stable.
Dad is going to El Savador.
Yeah. He's going next month for about a week with a Christian aid group that digs wells to bring fresh, clean water to poor, remote villages. This is nice and good, except for a couple of things:
1) My father has post-polio syndrome and can't walk a whole lot. He uses a cane, he tires easily. He's essentially a 61 year old man in the body of a 76 year old man. The group he's going with has assured Mom that they'll be in flat-ish land - better for digging wells - so it's not like he'll have to heft up slopes just to get to an outhouse.
2) It's EL SALVADOR!!
I keep thinking back to the handful of teenage boys my church provided refuge to as they passed through West Texas en route to DC and New York City, 17 years ago. They ranged in age from 14 (my age then) to 19. They fled door-to-door conscription by either the rebels or the government. I can't remember which. All I remember was that they were forced with an option: take the gun we're thrusting you, or we kill you.
I know technically, El Salvador has been "at peace" for the last 16 years, but it's a country where that peace is tenuous at best. And if some FARC-style faction attacks their group, my dad is not in the kind of physical condition where he could run or hide out in the jungle. Do they have FARC-style groups there? I hope not.
Dad won't be doing any well-digging. He's physically incapable. He won't be one of the educators who give hygiene classes, because his Spanish is merely conversational. In fact, he said when the group approached him - usually this organization sends teams of various folks, but this time the entire team is from his church - he declined for the above reasons. But they persisted, so he's gonna go and ... hang out. "Maybe they'll ask me to do something 'spiritual.' I dunno," he told me. The organization has sent been sending teams to build wells in tiny 3rd world villages for 20 years or so. They usually go to Africa, but have done a lot of work in Central and South America as well as Asia. The team-leads for Dad's group have done about 6, themselves. He'll be with a group of about 10. There's a liaison in the town with whom the group has been working, so it's not like the locals will be startled by a group of smiling Americans with shovels and soap. Everything about this trip sounds just great. It's the kind of thing I've always wanted to do, but have not yet had the chance to do. It's the kind of thing Dad used to do when he younger and abler. My brother used to do stuff like this in Mexico. Everything about it sounds find, except for the location.
Maybe I'm being too worried. When I was in college, at least once or twice a year, our church would send groups to Nicaragua to small towns to build churches and schools. (I was always working.) And one of Dad's good minister friends went to Nicaragua years ago to help clean up after Hurricane Mitch and discovered a hell of a lot of orphaned street boys. So he stayed and established a home and school for these kids whom society has abandoned. Heck, Honey and I got lost one night driving around in Johannesburg - and anyone will tell you that Joburg is the most dangerous city in South Africa, the carjack capital of the world. And we weren't with any organization. The point is, if people go into other countries which have suffered war and political upheaval, as aid workers or as tourists all the time with no troubles, then maybe I should just relax. At least Dad can speak the language. I know the children and old people in the village will love him. (Dad's always a hit with folks on either end of the age spectrum.)
Still, he's my poppa. And he's got physical limitations. And it's ... El Salvador. It's going to be a nerve-wracking week for me. I can tell you that!