Tag Archives: Mom

End of the Endless

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My father died on Monday. He was buried on Friday. He had an aggressive cancer that he left untreated because “God told him” that he could heal it himself by taking extra Vitamin C and by giving himself enemas with coffee.

His dad had a similar cancer a few years ago.  He had a doctor advise him on treatment, instead of God. Grandpa is alive and cancer free to this day.

One time, before he got so bad, I argued with dad about his decision. The books and articles “God was using” to direct his treatment sounded distinctly like conspiracy theories to me. The conversation ended when he told me I was making him think he was crazy and roared at me to GET OUT.

Which I did.

I was very angry.

I was in the process of moving out already. Not because I had enough money.  I just couldn’t stand being home anymore. It was too crazy making.

Towards the end, when it was clear that he was going to die, he wept pretty frequently. About even little things. It’s possible the tumor was growing into his brain. It had started in his throat, after all. One day he wept and told me he was so sorry he had yelled at me- that day when we argued.

I was sad too. I didn’t give a flying fuck that he had yelled.

The evening after his death I went to see my family. The front room, where he had been all day every day for the past week, hallucinating and begging to be allowed to get up, had been cleaned.

The furniture had been brought back in. The hospital bed had disappeared.

The spring peeper frogs were singing in the ditches. A night wind was flowing through the fields around the house. Someone had set a jar of lilacs on the dresser. Words and phrases from a poem were eddying in the back of my head, but I couldn’t recall them all or fit them together.

The dresser is an antique. I believe it came from his mother. I never knew her. She died in a car wreck when my dad was- 19? Hit by a drunk driver.

He was angry at his dad about something then and moved out.

Dad was born in March- like me. His mother died in May.

The drunk died in the wreck.

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers…
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow 
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
                      Frisch weht der Wind
                      Der Heimat zu
                      Mein Irisch Kind,
                      Wo weilest du?
“You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
“They called me the hyacinth girl.”
—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
Oed’ und leer das Meer.

-T. S. Eliot, The Wasteland, The Burial of the Dead

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The Good Wife

She was on the phone, puttering around the kitchen and living room. Cleaning up.  People, kids, around.  Like always.

I was in the door to the mudroom, peeling off my boots. And the mud.

Dad was somewhere in the house, slowly dying.

They had waited too long. When it had been discovered, a surgery could have removed the cancer. ‘God had lead them’ to treat it with extra vitamins and by having a biological dentist dig out his root canal, and by going this one time to sit in a hyperbaric chamber because that’s what the atmosphere was like before the Flood of Noah and people lived hundreds and hundreds of years before the Flood so this would fix it for sure.

When the tumor on his neck was the size of a Florida grapefruit, or larger than both my fists, they decided it was a swollen lymph node. From his body killing so much cancer.  When it peeled itself open and started gushing and dribling fluids, that was his body expelling the cancer.

When he couldn’t turn his head without pain and his right arm and hand swelled with edema to twice their normal size from being pinched by the tumor- they finally broke down and went to a doctor.

But at that point it was too late. It was everywhere.

She was talking to a friend. I couldn’t tell which one. Her voice was animated and eerily enthused. She was talking about his now inevitable death.

“At least he’s had a wife who served him. Not many men can say that!”

She’s fixed him sandwiches whenever he told her. She treats what he says as God’s word for her life- finding reasons for him to be absolutely correct even when God express irrational fears about surgery and then nose dives into conspiracy theories and quack medicines.

And now he’s slowly dying.

Funny.

Many men have wives who are sad when they die.

 

 

 

 

The Worlds of Creation

One of the saddest moments in my life. It was last week.

My little sister was showing me her minecraft world.  I showed up on the doorstep and she ran to get the cracked ipad.

My sister’s world is beautiful.  She has an extensive railway system.  The passengers are mostly cows.  Scattered across the map she has a museum and a mountain castle and a deep cave dwelling (under renovation).  She has a staircase that towers all the way up into the clouds. A king and queen live there.

She showed me the throne room. The king’s chair was golden. It dominated the center of the room.

The queen’s chair was wooden. It didn’t even have a back. It sat unobtrusively in a corner.

She walked her minecraft self into the bedrooms (which were separate). The king’s was impressive. Gold. Crystal. The queen’s was wood. Plain wood at that. She adds an explanation.

“I used to think queens and princesses were better. But now I know they’re not.”

*

I will probably never have a child. I hate being a girl too much.

*

When little sister was a baby, our mom didn’t have time for her. Didn’t have time to make her toys talk in silly voices. Didn’t have time to read to her or show her new things. Was too devoted to her ailing father (who thought he had cured his cancer through prayer) to spend time with her tiny child.  Too obsessed with the horrific end of the world to spend any time on life in the here and now.

I had time.

*

My mother spent my childhood and youth beating into my head that women were created by the all knowing all righteous infinite source of the universe for the sole purpose of handing men sandwiches and getting pregnant as often as humanly possible.

*

None of them talk to me. Oh they talk to me. They smile. Sometimes they even ask me how my day was.  But they never talk about anything below the surface. Never about anything of the organizing beliefs of our lives, never, never answer any of the questions I’ve asked them. Once in a while the mask slips a little. Little brother will mention something that I told mom in strict confidence. Mom keeps little sister away from me at church. The little kids stopped hanging out with me, despite being excited to see me when I show up.

I’ve seen her do this too many times- to too many other people- to not know what she’s doing.

*

I have honored my agreement to not talk about my questions with the little kids. I would have been, and probably still would be, cut off from them entirely- for doing that.

*

The screen shifts, and the view moves through block built trees- cascades of mountains.  A cow is stuck in a train car, being carted off to the farthest horizon for no apparent reason. The world that little sister created pours through our eyes.

The world my mother created  pours through them too.

My little sister believes that she is worth less.

There is nothing I can do or say.

*

Sia

*

Party girls don’t get hurt

Can’t feel anything anything-

When will I learn?-

I push it down, push it down…

I’m gonna swing from the chandelier

From the chandelier

I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist

Like it doesn’t exist

I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night

Feel my tears as they dry…

Help me, I’m holding on for dear life

Won’t look down won’t open my eyes

Keep my glass full until morning light

‘Cause I’m just holding on for tonight

On for tonight

Out of Nowhere

There was a stock tank below the pulpit  The first row of seats was reserved for people being baptized. The next two were reserved for the families and friends of those being baptized today.  We took up most of a row.

It was my cousins’ church. Evangelical, non-denominational, non-Pentecostal, so hip that I regretted sitting in the aisle seat by the wall. Speakers pumped out repetitively cheerful choruses so loud that you could feel the music coming out of your mouth if you tried to sing.

I wasn’t there to sing. I was there for my family.  For my cousins.

So were a lot of others. ‘Saved’ and ‘unsaved’ alike. The church had pushed this as a life event.

They were talking about evangelism. They were so on top of things that they even mentioned colonialism.  Real evangelism had nothing to do with that, we were told.

“Now, I know a lot of us like to do something called friendship evangelism.” the pastor said.  “We become friends with an unsaved person and expect that, in the course of the friendship questions of faith will just naturally come up.”

“But here’s there real problem. Here’s where it can go wrong. We become so comfortable in the friendship, we value it so highly that we don’t want to rock the boat by bringing up the unpleasant things like sin.  We don’t want to offend”

Verses were invoked.  Darkness and light. Not yoking with unbelievers.  It’s not just about marriage, after all. It’s about lifestyle.

“We can’t become friends with people without evangelizing. We can’t be friends with people.” he repeated. “The friendship can only happen if evangelism the whole goal.”

The baptisms began.  Prerecorded video testimonies played in the background and the lighting shifted emotionally, people moved from the category of mere potential converts to that of full human beings whom one could befriend without ulterior motives.

It was mostly kids. Children who had accepted Jesus when they were six, and then again at summer camp, and were now trying to make it become real. My young cousin.  My uncle was also baptized. He was the only adult baptized that day. He was also the only black man in the entire extended family. He had said he was a Christian years ago, but (behind his back) no one in the family believed him.

No one believed him now either.

As we left the parking lot, my mom seemed cautiously optimistic, despite the loud music.

“Wasn’t that a great message for Sue to hear?” she asked my dad.

Sue and her family had come, of course.  She wasn’t a Christian, but she and my aunt had been friends for such a long time. They had been through so much together.  She’d come anyway.

***

“You should have been there for the earlier part.” my sister said.

I had intended to come to the Bible study today.  My  little brother had asked me to come, all hopeful and wide eyed, where the others buried my non-attendance in starchy silence.

I had gotten involved cleaning and had forgotten the time.  When I walked in, everyone looked up.

I hid in a corner.

“Pastor seemed so sad.  He’s worried about his nephew in the IDF.”

I hadn’t known Pastor had a nephew in the IDF.  His family is all in the East coast, but they aren’t Jewish that I’d ever heard. So this would be someone married in?  How does that work?

I fretted as I reviewed what I had heard, trying to see how the earlier part would have played into the later.

Not enough people had showed up, so they were taking a break from the official study til next week. It seemed they were doing a question and answer session instead. My little brother asked why  there are so many translations of the Bible.  The short answer popping into my head was that words have more than one meaning and can be translated many different ways, and also most languages change so you have to keep retranslating into the new version of the language so that people still understand.

Pastor started in on Evil Greek Alexander imposing Greekness on everyone everywhere and the seventy translators of the Septuagint magically all coming up with the exact same translation. Therefore the Bible is true.

I sat in the corner and drew.

“I’ve tried to reason with the KJV only people, but even when presented with the evidence they don’t seem to see.”

It went on and on.

But maybe he was scattered and not at the top of his form.

Finally, it came around to prophesy.  It usually does.

Apparently, at the end of the world, the state of Israel will be defeated and almost all Jewish people killed  as “the power of the holy people is broken”  Then, and only then, will God deign to come back.

“People think that since they’re so strong, since Israel has one of the best militaries in the world, they can take care of themselves. But that’s not how it’s going to be. They’re going to be almost totally destroyed.”

Various passages were discussed. The Lord, The Lord Almighty has a day of tumult and trampling and terror, of battering down of walls and crying out to the mountains, after all.

“But don’t you see? God has to let that happen.  Of all the the people in Israel today, only 10% take God seriously…”

I am trying to imagine how this would have sounded, with the additional fact that Pastor was worried for a family member.  It sounds worse, to me.

I mean, sitting around and saying God should totally wipe out some group of people is cold and frightening and apathetic and passive aggressive, but you could argue that no one loves a faceless stranger and that groups are abstractions.

But he was thinking of a specific person? A family member?

God has to kill you, nephew, and all your countrymen. Because you didn’t believe what I think you should believe.

You can’t even say he was lulled into complacency by distance.

When I came back to my home and home state I told my mother that I wouldn’t discuss my questions with her or her underage children unless asked.  In all this time, I haven’t been.  Maybe I could have gotten away with it under the ‘but this is a question and answer session’ clause.  That didn’t occur to me, and frankly, my throat was clogged with angry. Maybe I’m passive aggressive too.  I hadn’t thought about that.

I think, if I had been there for the earlier part, I still would have walked out.

He had had a little quaver of emotion in his voice.

***

Mom was sitting at the computer as I walked in. We exchanged pleasantries.

“Have you seen the news today?”

I had. I had spent the afternoon with an elderly gentleman, watching footage of rockets in Gaza and tunnels into Israel while he slept in his chair.  Anymore, I don’t tell her anything.

“Why, what’s up?”

She mentioned the things I had seen.  Then what her websites had said.

“It’s like it was before World War II. There’s a wave of Antisemitism going on. People are demonstrating against the Jews, and even here in America, at a school, they drew pictures of ovens and showed them to the Jewish kids.”

“It’s so weird. It’s just come out of nowhere.”

snapshots and a rainbow

Sister 3: “Excellent, Sir!”

Brother 1: “Wait, why did you call [sister 2] ‘Sir’?”

Sister 3: “I called her Sir because she sounded brilliant and scientific!  Not like a lowly woman!”

***

My mom was explaining to my younger siblings  (aged 18, 16, 13 and 8) how the vast conspiracy aiming to take over America and destroy Christianity is getting the upper hand.

Me: “But if the Government was controlled by a conspiracy like that, they would hardly have given Hobby Lobby their case.”

Mom: “Oh, but that decision wasn’t unanimous! And I think They throw us a bone sometimes just to keep us quiet. Just to- test the resistance.”

Brother 2: “Ah!” He’s a lanky 18 year old in a rotting t-shirt full of holes. “So when people say that we’ve won something, it’s actually just Them tricking us into thinking things are getting better, so we wont fight Them.” His newly deep voice sounds confident and cunning.  He sees that he understands something Most People don’t.  Most People aren’t clever like We are.

Me: “So if things don’t go your way it’s proof that They’re winning, and if things do go your way it’s also proof that They’re winning?”

***

Pastor stood behind the podium of the summer camp’s main hall. Everyone in the auditorium knew why we were here. So much of Christianity in America was corrupt, frivolous, and lacking commitment to God.  Also, years ago, the main church body had kept the building when they kicked Pastor out.

“Some people act like it’s a big deal that they turned their lives over to God.” he said. “They make it into this dramatic story about how they decided to give their lives to God. As if they did something.”

“No!’ he went on. “We are only saved because God allows us to be saved.  He does it! Not us!”

I felt a tad dizzy and kept my head down, focusing on my sketch.

He had spent the first part of the sermon explaining how people who didn’t accept God and didn’t become Christians did this because they didn’t want to know the Truth and deliberately turned away.

If you don’t chose God, it was your own evil choice and you are held responsible. But if you join God’s side, not even your choice counts as good.

No matter what happens, God is the only one responsible for Good and YOU are the one responsible for Evil.

Despite God having all the power and you having none.

God’s a tricky devil, isn’t he?

Mom’s Art and Religion

I was shocked. I didn’t know such things were possible.

After spending years – at least two- treating books, pictures, and papers of every kind with respect, this was some kind of twisted revelation.

My mom finished cutting the photograph. She held up the piece she had cut out.
It was the shape of an oak leaf.

She fixed the photo oak leaf on the end of a tooth pick. Touching it to her paint, like a rubber stamp, she began stamping the shape of an oak leaf onto her painting of a tree.

Less than four years old, I sat and stared, wide eyed, at the thought of the millions and millions of leaves on every tree.

***

One year, when I was home from school for Christmas, mom had found one of her paintings from back in the day. Our house was full of Bob Ross style paintings done by great grandparents, but her paintings had all vanished a long time ago.

It was unframed, leaning against the wall for lack of a permanent home.

It was a painting she had made when she was a teenager- I think- before Dad and before us kids had come along.

It was almost photographic.

A deep well or pit, in an overshadowing forest. It had a worm’s eye view that looked up, almost out of the pit, but took in the sides and floor as well. The floor was deep clear water. Who knows how far down the pit actually went. A little strand of a waterfall was pouring over the edge of the pit, into the depths below. It glistened, shining in sunlight that must be finding its way through the canopy somehow.

Ferns hung over the edge of the pit and clung to niches in its sides.

They glowed in the murk around them, shapes made of green fire. Their veins and fibers visible, the ferns were suspended in time and space, perfect in detail.

Grandpa, her father, had died that year. She had found the painting in some storage room, while helping Granny clean out the old house.

After leaning against the wall for a while, it disappeared.

***
“I’m not your mom. I’m a crow.”

She was saying this in an almost joking tone of voice, but I was starting to get scared. She wouldn’t stop saying it.

“But Mom, if there were a crow living in your chest, controlling you, your heart wouldn’t work. You wouldn’t be alive.”

I was a little over five. Me and my two younger sisters and her were alone, out in the country house. We had moved here because the gun shots you could hear at night in the city scared her. But the empty sky at night, the wind moaning in the boards of the farm house, the endless solitude- they were scary too.

“Well, she’s not here. I locked her in the freezer and took over her body.” She grinned.

Eventually, she admitted that she was our Mom and wasn’t a crow.

Apparently this was her form of stress relief.

***
Nearly grown up, standing at the kitchen table I listened to Mom. She was talking about her younger brother.

“Oh, he says Grandpa abused him. But none of the rest of us remember it that way. He’s making it up.”

***

We were sitting at the kitchen table, with a piece of paper. Mom had sketched out train tracks. They were wide at the bottom of the page, as if you were standing on the tracks. They got closer together and smaller and smaller as they streamed away from you- till they met and disappeared in the center of the page. The horizon spread out like wings, from either side of their meeting.

She was showing me how to create the illusion of distance.

The closer anything was to that point, the smaller you drew it. That made them seem farther away.

She tapped the point with her eraser.

“That’s called the Vanishing Point”

She had spent her entire childhood drawing. She had drawn in sketchbooks, drawn on pieces of butcher paper, drawn while the kids had laid on the floor and watched TV together, drawn with chalk in the basement of her grandparent’s house. There was even a story about the bunk bed getting drawn on at night.

Mom had learned about the Vanishing Point. She knew how to use it.

***

At our Grandpa’s house, there was a stone fireplace. Grandpa had built it himself, despite how poor they had been most of the time. It was topped by a wooden mantlepiece- a single solid piece of wood, rugged, yet polished and smooth.

As a child, I would run my hand over the surface of the wood, marveling at the strange texture.

A lifetime before that, the beam had been laying on the concrete floor, surrounded by piles of unplaced stones and tools. It’s surfaces had all been flat and straight.

Possessed by whatever unmentionable emotion that had possessed him, my mom’s younger brother had gone into the room alone. He had taken a hatchet that was lying nearby. And he had smashed the entire face of the beam.

Then my Grandpa had walked in.

Over the mantlepiece, it’s warbled surface sanded deep enough to hide the hatchet strokes, was a pair of horns. They weren’t deer or elk horns, with multifaceted surfaces and many conclusions.

They were cow horns- almost as long as a man is tall. Their strong beautiful lines curved up into two graceful points.

They could impale you, I thought, if they swung just right.

They were Longhorns. My Grandpa was a Cowboy.

***
We were having Bible study, our morning routine. Sitting on the floor with my sisters, Mom was reading to us from Isaiah- Isaiah 64.

You come to the help of those who gladly do right,

who remember your ways.

But when we continued to sin against them,

you were angry.

How then can we be saved?

All of us have become like one who is unclean,

and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;

we all shrivel up like a leaf,

and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

“When it says filthy rags,” Mom pointed out to us. She had been reading up on it. “It means menstrual rags. It’s not just that the rags have dirt on them. It’s not just gross. It’s that that blood should have helped you get pregnant, but it didn’t. What should have brought life, was wasted. ”

Women were saved through childbearing. Menstruating was the result of God’s curse on Adam and Eve. Being pregnant erased the curse.

Our little brother was asleep in the other room.

“This is what our good deeds look like to God. Filthy menstrual rags. No matter what good things we do, without Jesus’ death, it’s worthless.”

Maybe I was eight. Maybe I was ten. Maybe I was fourteen. Every  year seemed the same, with the wind rolling past outside.

***

I crawled through the scrub, weapon in hand, scanning the trees through a paintball mask, watching for movement. Some shots went past me and I got up behind a tree, safe in the direction they’d come from. I peered out.

Across the gully, a mask appeared from behind a tree. I shot reflexively, and paint splattered across the goggles.

‘Dead’, the masked person got up and went to the edge of the trees, out of the playing field.

After the game ended we went to meet the dead, outside of the trees, and laugh and talk about the game.

It turned out it wasn’t my uncle who I’d shot. It was my crush’s Dad. The father of six boys, his oldest son was the same age as me. The boy claimed that the guys at the professional paintball course called his dad ‘The Jackal’. There were stars in his eyes when he said it.

The dad was impressed. “Good shot!” he complimented me.

I considered it lucky. I decided I needed to improve.

My mom’s younger brother was one of our few adult relatives who would play paintball with the kids.

I remember sitting, listening to him explain the difference between cover and concealment, watching him sketch out on a sheet of paper the different formations a squad could take to move under fire. There were combat manuals at his house that he refused to say how he acquired. Rumors about weekend training courses that he went to.

He was considered a little obsessed with self defence, but he never came across as a gun nut. He avoided things that would make him look like a hick. Or poor.

In our games, if he was on your team, he would organize the players more knowledgeably than the other dads. You, move- now you, cover him. And so we would move through the woods behind Grandpa’s house.

***

My sister, youngest of the three, was telling the story.

“One time, back when we lived in the city, she told me that she had had other kids before us.”

My sister’s eyes got a little wide as she laughed at the joke.

“She said they didn’t mind her, so she put them on the curb and the garbage man took them away.”

***

None of my grandparent’s kids were named after Grandpa. None of them were named after Granny.

My Grandparents met when they were sixteen. One time (while they were broken up?) Grandpa had met some other girl.  In the endless stories Grandpa would tell me when I was nearly grown up, sometimes he would talk about her. She was a dream girl.

Her family moved away. He never saw her again.

My mom was named after the Dream Girl.

When my mom got to be a teenager, she became quite shapely and beautiful. She dated a lot of boys and would go on long walks with them, out in the woods.

One of them, an older boy, was very attached to her. He went into the Navy when she was  still just sixteen.  She broke up with him when he left.  He ended up becoming an alcoholic (and killing himself?). To his dying day he blamed her for his ruined life.

Granny has told me that she didn’t like my mom as a baby and toddler. Her first baby, the older brother, had been so quiet and compliant that she thought she had this parenting stuff figured out. Then my mom had come along and had a will of her own.

That little squirt made her so mad.

I remember my mom once telling me that when she was a teenager, she was so scared of her mom that she threw up every day.

But Grandpa would protect her. She was his favorite kid.

***

It was Bible study.  It was me and my sisters, mostly. The boys were too little to understand. She was explaining the Holy Spirit to us. She had, perhaps, run into some difficulty and was searching for a metaphor.

“The Holy Spirit is like an Alien.” she said finally. “It’s like, when you pray and ask Jesus to come into your heart, there’s this alien that comes down to live in your brain and control your body. After that, if you struggle against him and don’t let him control you, you’ll end up doing evil, ungodly things like you did before you were saved.”

It scared me so much.  I wanted so badly for her to stop talking- to stop saying this. I wasn’t able to make words come out.

I didn’t want an alien in my brain, controlling my body.

“But if you submit and let him control you, he’ll make you do good and be kind to people instead.”

She was completely serious.

***

“I wouldn’t run away.”

We were talking about the end of the world.  About people coming to kill you for your religion.

“I would just stand there- and let them shoot me!” she said.  She seemed exultant and a little blissful in her martyrdom.

I ran the pictures through my mind like a movie. In the movie, we were standing in the mouth of some cave, where we were hiding because we were Christians. Mom went out of the cave for no apparent reason, exultant and blissful, and was shot.

And I was left with a dead mother and five  younger children.

***

Papers were churning out of the printer.  They were churning out slowly, because of how old the printer was, but churning they were.

Mom collected them up, said goodbye, then was out the door.

Grandpa was dying.  He had fought prostate cancer for years and years now.

But this year he was dying.

Granny insisted on taking care of him herself, at home. She had been a nurse after all. She could tough out anything. She could do it.

The stress and grief and the weird things Grandpa would say on morphine seemed to be sending her into complete emotional and mental breakdown.

Mom was over there a lot.  Most of the time, it seemed like.  And when she was home, she was on the internet, looking up websites and printing off articles for Grandpa to read.

Their shared passion was the Apocalypse.  It always had been.  How God was going to destroy the earth and the human race- slowly- using meteors and plagues and starvation and Sci-Fi Demon-Locusts from the Pit of Hell- before destroying the universe and damning to an eternity of pain the vermin who had refused to love him enough.

I turned away as the car backed down the lane.  I was sitting with my baby sister, watching a fuzzy VHS video.

She was my mother’s eighth child.  She was two.  Everyone thought she was adorable. With Mom gone, she seemed to be alone all the time.

I was showing her the Ninja Turtles.  They lived in hiding, underground, taking care of each other and generally being awesome.  Their enemy was Shredder, of course, like my childhood crush had told me all those years ago.  But they had another enemy- Krang.

Krang was an alien brain, exiled from his own world.  Shredder had built a body and given it to him. Time and time again, the turtles kept Krang from taking over the world.

We snuggled together and watched the movie.  She loved it.

***

A few weeks ago I was at the store with Mom. We both had a few things to pick up. She was looking for something.

“Oh, where is it? This store is exactly like the one in Pontiac, but they put everything in different places.”

We found the office supply section. She stood in front of a wall of thick packages and contemplated.

“Copy paper is getting pretty dear” she said finally.

“Do we really need it, if it’s that expensive?” I asked. Dad, the family’s main provider, had a brush with cancer a couple years ago. Now his lymph nodes were swollen for no apparent reason.

“It’s more important to me that the kids can draw.” she told me and picked up a package.

“Do you ever draw any more?” I asked her.

“Oh, no. It’s been so long, I don’t even know if I still can.”

***

My little brother came to me.

“You know the Lego Bible, from the library?”

The seventh child. The older boys tend to leave him out.  He acts too young for his age- even according to homeschoolers.

He can solve math problems like its no one’s business.

“What about it?”

“Mom said it makes God look too mean.”

The Lego Bible was a big hit when it first came home.  Mom and the kids were admiring how exactly it’s photographs reproduced the Bible- in every detail- right down to Mary’s pregnant belly.  I couldn’t bear to look at it.

“How  so?”

“Well, like the story Jesus tells where the rich man makes a wedding for his son.  And then sends soldiers to kill people who wouldn’t come to the party.”

“I don’t know what to tell you. Jesus really did tell that story.”

“And Revelations.  It makes it look like God is killing people for no reason.”

“I don’t know what to tell you. God is so powerful, he could just blow the planet up and be done with it.  I don’t know why he does all that stuff in Revelations. But it does say he does it.”

His eyes flashed.  He thought he had a solution.

“But it was made by an atheist, after all!”

Well, it would be, wouldn’t it?  Not many theists seem to be able to picture the Bible as if it were really happening.

And even in such a simple way- using children’s toys as graven rubber stamps- who else would dare create photographic images of God?

 

 

listen don’t talk just pray

“listen- don’t talk – don’t get mad- just pray”

That what the index card said.  It was taped to the cabinet door with all the other quotes and jokes that get my mom through her day.  This particular card was new, though.

“So who’s making you mad?” I asked as we stood in the kitchen. My mom hesitated for a fraction of a moment.  All of the things we haven’t been saying jumped into my mind.

“Oh, you know…” she turned away, putting a sauce pan in one of the cupboards.  “I’m having to learn how to deal with your sisters.”

I knew what she was talking about, then.  Both my sisters are still at home.  For the past few years they and my mom have been grating on each other.

One sister doesn’t do her own laundry and cries when Mom and Dad try to push her to do more,. Or threaten to throw her out.  She’s in her mid twenties, smart, funny, talented and apparently with no plans but to continue living in their garage forever.

The other sister is a year younger than her. She does a lion’s share of the work around the house, cooking, cleaning, gardening, teaching the little kids school.  She seems to have taken it on as her personal identity.   And anytime Mom has different ideas about how the house should be run, giant explosions result.  She’s a loving person, running over with generosity and passion.  She apparently has no plans but to continue living in their kitchen/garden/schoolroom forever.

My parents are getting old.  Dad’s hair and beard are mostly white now.  I can’t remember when that happened.  Mom’s hair is full of sparkling silver threads.  They are both tired in the evenings. Dad reads a book and falls to sleep.  Mom puts the little kids to bed.

When we girls were young, and the other kids hadn’t come along yet, we used to talk with Mom a Iot. I remember the end of a long conversation with my mom, just her and me.  I don’t remember what it was about, but Mom handed me a book (Where have all the children gone?  Maybe?).  With a quaver of emotion in her voice and a little flash in her eyes, she told me- when I read this book, I would be willing to die for this way of life.

I felt a wave of revulsion that I neither understood nor had the words to explain.   I obediently went off and read the book.

I was the golden child, you see.  The one who obeyed.  The one who was diligent and never complained.  The one my parents thought of to encourage themselves, when they were depressed.  I had their approval.

I had carefully arranged myself  to make sure that I would.   I had other problems.

My sisters- I don’t know how it seemed from inside their heads.  But from what I saw, the story was different for them.   My smart, talented sister had chaffed under the endlessly repetitive drills of our home school curriculum and earned the stigma of being lazy.  This stigma snowballed Into other things. She had been given a mountain bike. Biking together on the roads, the thick tires wouldn’t let her keep up with the rest of us on roadsters. Why was she slowing everyone else down?  She was lazy.

But when mom gave us a book that was supposed to teach us composition by having us write a novel, she was the only one who finished.  Mom, our teacher, who was supposed to be reading and grading our work, was too busy to bother reading it.

My sister had been so excited about her novel. She cried about it for what seemed like weeks afterwards.

I don’t remember much about the other sister. She was the youngest girl- but not the baby, because after her the boys were born. I think that by the time she was bumping her way through the system I had developed my strategy of tuning everything out and reading in a corner.  I do remember her sitting under the table crying at the top of her lungs, with a voice that filled the whole house, and mom pouring a glass of  cold water over her head. I remember her startled eyes and her gasp.

I had my parents approval.  My sisters seemed like they were trying to get it.

Mom used to read Mary Pride  and James Dobson and so many other books. She quoted verses about Women Being Saved Through Childbearing and gave us Beautiful Girlhood to read.  America would be saved by girls becoming wives and mothers and cooking and cleaning and stuff.  Children took orders from (‘honored’) their parents and the wife submitted to her husband, and the husband was the spiritual leader of the house (except our dad liked to watch television which was a horrible evil that endangered our souls)

And that was the future before us.

Except it was a future that never happened.

“I try not to let them get under my skin” Mom said. “I did they best I could, the best I knew, raising them.  I had no idea the culture would shift so quickly.”

A note of bitterness came into her voice. “Now, boys are immature selfish jerks and don’t want to- to settle- and girls don’t want to marry immature jerks-”

I’m not sure which culture she means.  Her homeschool mom-friends commiserate with her about how the up and coming home school boys in our area aren’t getting married.  Does she mean them? But their culture is only as old as their parents.  Does it really count as culture change when one generation tries an experiment and the generation who grew up in the experiment declines to repeat it?

I don’t really know.

“So here they are, at home still.” she finished.

She hesitated again for a moment.

“I feel guilty”

 

 

a weird dream and how I feel

I was sitting at an old lady’s house, with just one lamp, in the dark.  I had an overnight shift as a caretaker, and the lady had finally calmed down and gone to bed, but I couldn’t go to sleep.  I was writing in a journal that I hadn’t touched in months, trying to explain to myself what I was thinking and feeling. It was all a mess.

It seems to me that God is a story we made up, an unreality, but outside the story there is only energy, mass, and biology.  More unrealities.   I’ve spent a lot of time with the elderly lately, with my job.  I’ve been with them day in and day out.  I’ve seen their conscious minds’ struggle, their fear, as their bodies unravel- except their minds are unraveling as well.  Consciousness- doesn’t it end in death?  And in death there is nothing. 

I have been struggling with my imaginary God.  The more I read about him- his past- the things he used to be- I hate him.  I hate the fact that he passed himself off as a moral being when he hadn’t the slightest clue what morality is and apparently lacked the self awareness to even make a consistent deception about his own character.

I hate most of all that I believed him.  That I…  idolized him.  All the agony I poured into the hope that some how I could… become… what…

I loved him. I did. More than anything- or anyone.  Now- in so many ways- he’s gone.

I am eaten up with jealousy of people who can believe.  What’s wrong with me?  What singled me out for this bizarre fate searching for and hating God? 

I can’t go to church anymore.  The fat happy smiles, the words, the praise of a person who never existed, and who, if he did exist, exalted himself, lied about almost everything, and then committed murder in the darkness of our eyes.

It all hurts like literal fire.  Is this Hell?  The Absence of God?  Only I am the only one who seems to feel it, and people look at me jovially and ask, ‘So, how are you doing?’ And I have to smile politely and make up a correct answer.

I finally realized why its been so hard for me to make the necessary preparations for this spring. I keep procrastinating on  important things, and wasn’t sure why.  Maybe it should have been obvious.  My plan is to set up near my family- but I dread going home. 

My mom has refused to respond to anything I’ve said about religion. But she overwhelms with concern for me, can’t wait for me to get home, will send someone out right now to help me move.

My mom- whose spent the emotionally worst moments of her life obsessively researching the apocalypse- hoping that the world will just end, now, and she’ll be in heaven.

I can’t help wondering if she thinks that, if she could just get me home again, all of the evil will seep out of my mind like water out of a sponge and be replaced by Love and I’ll be Saved again.  And everything will be happy.

Finally I couldn’t think of anything else to write.  Exhausted, I turned out the lamp and curled up on the couch.  I had an odd feeling that I would dream- that all the pieces in my mind were in the right place.

And I did dream.

Here is the dream.

I dreamt about at old man.  He worked at a grocery store or a cafe at a stopping point for an airline flight. There was one flight that stopped there- and one flight that went on further.  There was a young man (late teens?) whom he had seen come on the incoming flight over and over.  The young man had never gotten any further though- something was stopping him.

In fact, the young man was a wizard.   He came from a wizard family and he wanted to go and see The World. It was the thing he most wanted, in a wide eyed, desperate, Little Mermaid style- but he could never get all the way away.  He lived with his family and relations, deep underground.  It was like a cave, but there were no tunnels, no outlets. Just a chamber, with muddy walls, deep underground.

Finally, after all his other attempts to leave failed, he had conspired with an other man- an evil person. This person was devious, hidden, hunted and never caught.  He was immensely powerful.  There was something about a girl, at the stopping point.  She had become romantically involved with the evil person, and he took her out to the country, to a farm nearby. They could still see the stopping point from there.

The young man’s family was together, inside the chamber.  He was gone.  His younger sister, the only child there, asked about him.  Why he was doing such and such?  One of the adults answered her, hesitant and sad, that’s why we don’t —— about David anymore.  David was sort of lost to them.

In the meanwhile, David was on the surface.   He had acquired (from the evil person, I think) a strange substance. He ate it. Immediately, his eyes and jaws started chattering.  He became a Giant.  He walked to the stopping point, and started tearing up great handfuls of earth and buildings and trees and shaping them into a giant ball.  The ball was made out of mud and people, packed together as if they were the same thing.  I saw a mother and her baby. She was crying and struggling to get them out, but the mud was too sticky and thick.

He had made a giant globe.  He had made The World.

Out in the country, the evil dude was standing with the girl, staring up at the globe.  His eyes were wide with fascination and wonder.  He wasn’t very old, either- maybe no older than David- but he was young because he was eternal.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmwRQqJsegw

If all we are is a candle flame- that- flickers for a moment and goes out-  I will still do the best that I can.  To be a good person and to heal the world.  Even if this is all I have, it’s still my responsibility.

“Even the comatose, they don’t dance and tell…”

The fields were going past the windows.  Half melted, half frozen, dark plowed soil, clotted with snow and spiked with stubble.  The sun was shining on it all.

“Can you answer a question- honestly?”

My week long visit home had been a blur of social visits and playing with the little kids, and my mom going back and forth in the background, keeping everyone up and running. The day before I left I had volunteered to go on a grocery run with her. So that she and I would get to visit. We had talked about stress and the holidays and the friction between her and my sisters, who are still living at home.

She had told me I shouldn’t have low self-esteem and shouldn’t avoid people out of fear of offending them.

This sounded serious.

Not that those other things aren’t serious.

I hesitated then said something that sounded polite, but neither confirmed or denied anything.  I hope.  I don’t quite remember.

“How is your faith?  I mean… how far are you along…” She hesitated, trying to make it not sound bad.  ‘How close are you to apostasy?’  was what she was trying to say, and she eventually said some thing like that.

“I want to know so that I can pray” she finished.

The fields went by for a long time.  Our house is a long ways off from any place that sells in bulk.

“I have a lot of questions”  I finally said.  “I think that if this is all true- answers must exist.”

“But are you looking for answers? Or are you waiting for God to reveal himself?”

This is a trick question.  There’s a verse somewhere.  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and he will direct your path.”  It was a memory verse she had taught us when I was young.  The idea (as we? I? then understood it) was that if you try to figure things out by yourself it is the result of evil self will; pride, that first and most fundamental sin.

Adam and Eve tried to figure things out by themselves. They were cursed and damned by a righteous God.  They and all their descendants were condemned to death and eternal torture.  The innocent animals and all their descendants were condemned to death as well, so terrible was that crime. Like a werewolf falling under the light of the moon, friendly flowers were wracked by the hideous transformation into thorns.  Entropy began.  The stars started to cool and burn out.

But if you wait for God, then eventually he will give/show you what you need.  Like when our Aunt decided to sell her car but not advertise in the paper or tell anyone she knew, but then a week later a guy walked up out of the blue and offered to buy it.  Or when our Aunt decided to become a missionary in England (that horrible hell of darkness and suffering, ungraced  and innocent of the slightest knowledge of Christianity) and then after living there fifteen years someone proposed to her and she got to have a baby and be a mother and that is what she had really wanted all along.   Or how every time our dad made a little more money than we actually needed to survive, something would break or go wrong and we would need the money to fix it, because God only gives you things when you need them.

I thought about this for a while.

“I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive.”  I said finally.

After all. How can God reveal Himself to you if you aren’t looking already yourself?  If you weren’t already looking for Him yourself, you might think that all this evidence of Him was actually evidence of something else.  Like human intuition.  Or pure chance.

(And whatever happened to, ‘pray to God, and keep your powder dry’, anyway?)

“How do you pray? What do you pray about?”

The phone rang.  One of my sisters needed to know something, and only Mom could answer.  When the call finished, she reoriented herself, and the conversation went on.

“I pray… dear God- please don’t let me crash this car!”

I do pray like this sometimes. Praying is a deeply ingrained response for me, and when I’m frightened, I pray without consciously reflecting or deciding to do so.   I didn’t mention the fact that my instinctive prayers are now followed by lectures to God on why he really ought to be less imaginary and less evil.  Or by cussing myself out for having asked an abusive genocidal maniac for help.   Maybe that part doesn’t matter so much.  She asked me what I was praying about, not what I think about the fact that I’m praying.

“Hm… foxhole prayers. That’s good. Not crashing is good.” she said meditatively, her eyes on the road.  “But do you pray about your questions?

This time, even more fields went by.

My throat felt creaky.

“I used to pray so much… so intensely…” I looked out the window “I feel like…”

A verse, something about praying on street corners and pagans using many words flew through my mind, and was immediately canceled out by a verse about an unjust judge and a widow.  But I have to say something.  Why not the truth?

“I feel like he either heard me then, or he was never really listening in the first place.”

“What did you pray about so intensely, back then?”

“Well.”

Pages swim before my eyes. Swathes of lined notebook paper, swarming with words.  All of them,  I had written. “Dear God- please, change my heart.  Please, make me want to want you. Please, make me want to love you.  Please make me into the kind of person who will follow you.  Please- let me find you in the end.”

Over and over.

“Well. To know God.  To find him”

“Do you think you have?”

How does one say yes?  That, yes, you found your long lost God.  And you found out he’s a myth.  A dream.  A Nightmare.

“I don’t know.”

“Do you read your Bible?”

Yes.  For the purposes of research.  To see if God is really as creepy as my memories of him now make him out to be.   To try and piece together where the delusions end and reality begins.

“Yes”

“But do you read it academically?  Or do you get anything else from it?  Does God speak to you through the text?”

Do tears of rage and shame and long silences of  despair count?  I try to read as academically as possible now.

I don’t really know how to spin that.

“Well… do you believe that Aunt and Grandma Speak in Tongues? Or do you believe they’re just making up sounds?”

“No… I don’t really.  But there was this one time with your Aunt.   She and I were praying together, and she saw visions while we were praying.  Things I hadn’t told her I was worrying about because they didn’t seem important, but they were important… she went on to tell the story.  It was a part of our family’s history that I had heard about in other contexts, a time when she had been very uncertain of herself.   “…and the pictures she saw that she described to me were exactly what I was worrying about. ”

So… Aunt is a Psion?  I suppose that explains the car thing.

“While we were praying, God must have plucked those thoughts up out of my heart and just plunked them down in hers!”   She paused and got a little quieter.  “That, for me, gives credence to some of the… crazier parts… of Aunt’s spirituality. Things I am too proud for.”

Well that was like a bottle rocket going off in a trash can.  So my Aunt could possibly have gotten in to Hogwarts (that or else she’s just massively intuitive).   And my mom- who had eight children on the salary of her mechanic husband because she believed there was nothing a person is justified in refusing God… has things’s she’s too proud to do?  And my mom believes its pride to refuse to fake spiritual manifestations that she doesn’t actually experience… not integrity?  Or is she really only refusing in order to avoid social embarrassment and not because its a lie?  And if so- what were her actual reasons for having all these kids?  She suffered a lot of social embarrassment over that.  Or did she simply word it that way as a tribute to her sister’s dedication to a certain way of life, without actually believing that its right to fake stuff?

Not as grandiose as God Being Dead. But still.

“Reading the Bible is hard for me to describe.   I don’t know what part is God and what is my own reaction… what is spiritual and what is simply psychology…”

She seemed to accept that. I don’t remember how the conversation ended.  It seemed to end on good note- a much better note than I thought it would when she asked me if I could be honest.

I don’t know what to think about the fact that I didn’t tell the full truth. Was it wrong? Should I have told, and just let the chips fall where they may?   If I had forced my parents to deal with my difference of belief and opinion, would it be easier for them to consider other view points in general?

Or would they have kindly… lovingly… prayerfully have cut me off?

Would I be allowed to see my little sister again?

Or would I be abandoning her to a Nightmare God?

I suppose I will tell everything, eventually.  When there is less at stake.  But not today.  

We pulled up in the driveway and hop out. We’re Home.

We live in cities you’ll never see on screen
Not very pretty, but we sure know how to run things
Living in ruins of the palace within my dreams
And you know, we’re on each other’s team.

I’m kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air, so there
So all the cups got broke shards beneath our feet but it wasn’t my fault
And everyone’s competing for a love they won’t receive…

Dancin’ around the lies we tell
Dancin’ around big eyes as well
Even the comatose they don’t dance and tell

-Lorde