Turning points

Dear One,

When you died about one month ago, you caught me off guard. You became suddenly ill, and 24 hours later, you were eating pizza, fruit cake, and pudding cups in heaven.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI can’t say I didn’t see it coming. There was something inside of me that whispered, “Go see her more often” about one year ago. I don’t know if it was in reaction to Big Jim, my father-in-law, moving on to The Great Resting Place, or if it was because Maggie finally became a better traveler and visitor. Regardless, I’m eternally grateful for God’s voice nudging me to visit you more often.

Even though you suffered from mental illness, you were almost always pleasant, welcoming, and in good spirits. Your little smile and bright eyes let me know you were enjoying our time together, even if you preferred that I do most of the talking. When you had something to say, it was always smart, quick-witted, and on point.

I remember two turning points in my relationship with you.

One was when Mom and I visited you at the time of her high school reunion. We stayed with my uncle, but we came to see you almost all day long while we were there. As the day evolved into evening, we knew we needed to head to Mom’s reunion.

As we drove away from your apartment, Mom continually expressed that she just didn’t feel right about going and leaving you all evening.

“Mom, then we just don’t have to go to your reunion. What are you going to regret if you don’t do it in 10 years?”

That was about 10 years ago. And Mom still doesn’t regret turning the car around, picking up a pizza from your favorite diner, and surprising you by spending the evening talking and laughing, just the three of us.

The other turning point was when we visited after your mother died. We didn’t attend the funeral, but we’d been invited to look through her belongings to see if we wanted  specific items before they were sold or given away. I’ll be honest–prior to that day, I lacked compassion for your mother and only saw her in negative light. Something about sifting through an entire apartment’s worth of silent items spoke to me.

Then we visited Mom’s cousin. I wanted to do nothing–even though I was only a junior high student at the time–but sit and listen to Mom’s cousin recant your life experiences, both as a child and into adulthood. These were stories you had never told me yourself, and chapters you rarely flipped back to, probably in an effort to avoid those memories. Being sent to live somewhere else as a child–not knowing why. Undergoing exploratory, inventive procedures in a time when doctors didn’t understand that what they were doing did more harm than good. Being homeless. Feeling alone.

When we remembered you the evening after you died, these untold stories are what I reflected on in my mind–not because I wanted to focus on what felt sad and painful, but simply because these moments made you who you were. I can be grateful for you even though parts of you were broken.

I do not regret who you were nor wish to change my time with you. I know all of you, and I accept all of you. You were always enough.

 

Day 5–Remembering rightly

*Big thanks to Brandon Davidson for agreeing to serve as today’s guest writer in my “28 days of love” project. His post speaks to me personally; I can relate to his story. I’m sure some of you can as well. I’m grateful for the chance to see love bloom in unlikely places.*

Remembering Rightly.

emilyMy Daughter loves my Dad. I’m learning to love him again. It’s hard.

Not long ago I went back to my hometown of Batesville, AR. 

I had just finished reading Miroslav Volf’s book: The End of Memory. Simply put, it is brilliant.

Volf is now Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale University Divinity School and Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. He has also been a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary.

You’re probably wondering what this book by a Croatian theologian has to do with this picture taken in the second oldest town in Arkansas? (If you’re not wondering, you should probably stop reading.)

Volf was once considered a national security threat in Yugoslavia. He was tortured and interrogated for months.

My parents didn’t get married until I was three. My mom then 18, loaded me on a Greyhound bus and headed toward San Antonio, Texas. My dad was in his early twenties and had strong doubts as to whether or not I was his son. He still does.

My brother was born when I was five. I was sexually and physically abused for the next few years by family members and neighbors. Both of my parents used drugs, and my dad had a problem with alcohol and his temper. I often found myself being beaten with whatever was handy. I still scratch at these wounds. Mental illness is no stranger to my family tree.

Volf found himself confronted with his memories of abuse during the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal. He replayed the hours of interrogation and saw the faces of the perpetrators.

In his book he talks about “remembering rightly.”
Not adding anything to it. He said he found himself having imaginary conversations with his accusers.

I have had more imaginary conversations with my dad than real ones.

I cannot change what happened to me. I will not forget it either. But, I would be repaying his mistakes with a double mistake of my own.

To be honest, I am not sure what kind of relationship Emily will have with my dad, if any.

I know that I will never leave them alone together. I know what little time they have been together has done great things for my soul. I watched them collect “rollie-pollies” and construct a habitat for them. All of Emily’s memories of my dad are positive. 100%
It doesn’t change who he is. It doesn’t change what he’s done.

I am forever grateful for seeing him through her eyes.

I will remember a tyrant.

She will remember a “rollie-pollie” catching old man.

We’re both right.
me[Brandon is a New Media Journalist at the Tyler Morning Telegraph in Tyler, Texas. He tries his damnedest to be a loving husband and father. He also performs stand-up comedy across Texas and hopefully close to you soon. He’s sorry this post isn’t funny. Follow him on twitter for that stuff @brandondavidson]