You don’t know what to do
You don’t know how to do it
You don’t have the authority or the resources to do it
Once you figure out what’s getting in the way, it’s far easier to find the answer (or decide to work on a different problem).
Stuck is a state of mind, and it’s curable.
Okay, so I’m afraid. I’m really afraid. I’m call-my-doctor-and-get-meds-for-anxiety afraid. That’s how really afraid of my father I am. I’m so afraid that when I saw that someone reading my blog lives in the state where my father lives, I went and threw up. And then I immediately went back and photoshopped the picture of my dad holding me when I was a baby so you can’t tell who he is. Now he looks like a little bit like Sonny Bono. That’s sort of funny. Thankfully for me, I know that my dad hates both Sonny Bono and traveling. So don’t worry. I’m sure I don’t have any real reason to be afraid. Well, not much of a reason. I’m pretty sure I’m safe. It’s just you and me and the internet, right?
Another fear I have is that if I keep telling this story pretty soon somebody is going to suggest I go get some therapy. Please, God, don’t anybody tell me to go to therapy. I’ve had therapy. I’ve had A LOT of therapy. Good therapy that helped. And yet here I am afraid. Still.
After years and years of therapy with my main therapist, and then several months seeing this other therapist, I built up enough courage to write my dad a letter. In return, he mailed me back all the pictures of his grandchildren I’d ever sent him. And a few months after that he sent me The Box of Pain.
The Box of Pain is the nickname my husband and I gave this box of personal effects my father FedEx’d me right before he went to prison for holing up in an attic and holding off the S.W.A.T. team for several hours. (Now you think I’m making this all up, don’t you? I’m not.)
I don’t have The Box of Pain anymore because my sister wanted it, so I gave it to her. Among other things, The Box of Pain contained a large, white, three-ring binder of memoirs my father had typed out, neatly, double-spaced, each page encased in plastic. I read it up to the part where he outright blames me for finally ruining his life when I was 16.
The only thing I kept are the hand-written letters my father’s father sent to my father’s mother as he was dying of tuberculosis in the Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky.
|Waverly Hills Sanatorium|
This creepy place was sort of like a TB Patient Roach Motel. My grandfather checked in, but he never checked out. See? Not funny. I shouldn’t even try. TB isn’t funny. Some things just aren’t funny no matter how you spin them. He was 24 when he died.
I do have a picture of my grandfather as a child riding a tricycle. It is the only picture I have of him. A much larger version hung on our wall when I was growing up, but when I went back to Tennessee when my mom first got sick, all I found was the broken oval frame on the floor, the picture ripped out and nowhere to be found.
Here is one letter written in May of 1942. My father was 18 months old at the time.
As you read these letters, the first thing that should strike you is that my inability to punctuate correctly is genetic, and therefore not my fault.
The next thing is obviously how very sad they are. In case you can’t read them very well, the gist of the letters is this: My grandfather desperately needed a new pair of pajamas. It comes up in this letter and in every other one he wrote. It seems like he might have had only one pair to wear every day. He begs my grandmother over and over again to bring him new pajamas. Then he says something about her being with “some fellow” and he warns her to “Be wise and stay wise” and to mind her own affairs.
They really are sad letters, especially since my grandmother did not heed his advice. She took up with a man who had some sort of criminal record and had her third child out-of-wedlock with him. Her own sister reported her to DHS who stepped in and took her children away and put them in foster care. My father was given to a cruel couple who chained him up outside and fed him like a dog until he was six years old at which time my grandmother regained custody.
For my grandmother’s part, let us not be too harsh with her. She had been forced into her first marriage by her own mother when she was 13 years old to a 27 year-old man who threw her out of the back of a truck on their wedding day. A year and my Aunt Christine later, her family had to concede that the marriage was a mistake and helped her divorce him. My grandfather was her second husband; she was 17.
As I write this story and read Book Three of A Song of Ice and Fire, I am struck with just how complex and messy life is. We want to reduce everybody into some “good” or “evil” category where everything feels safe and predictable for us. From here we can make our judgments, discerning good from evil. But people are rarely all good or all evil.
My father did bad things, but very bad things happened to him. My mother was neglectful, but she was abandoned and left uncared for herself. How could either of them give me something they didn’t even know existed?
Mormonism brought me in contact with “normal” people and gave me a vision for how to live life. Mormonism pointed to the way my life could be if only I could meet three conditions:
1. I had to be righteous
2. I had to be worthy
3. I had to be perfect as my Father in Heaven is perfect.
If I could but pull off those three things then I could win God’s love, attain eternal life, and break this chain of crazy. Sounds easy, right?
The children’s song from yesterday says that Jesus just wanted me for a sunbeam. And, dammit, if that isn’t exactly what I really wanted to be. But if Jesus just wanted me for a sunbeam, couldn’t he have made it ANY easier at all? If any of these people could have acted normal for five minutes then maybe I could have been a sunbeam for Him. I’m left to wonder if Jesus maybe did not want ME for a sunbeam.