There are storms like Ike, natural phenomena churning in the Gulf, no malevolent intent (no intent at all) but feared and dreaded for the havoc it can wreak. Then there are storms like the one which crashed into our home yesterday, unwanted, maybe not totally unexpected (though I had hoped against its arrival), bringing a kind of destruction that can’t be measured and will linger long after the unfortunate town on the Texas coast that gets a visit from Ike has rebuilt and moved on.
There are times when I just wish for an end to come. Yesterday, with all the heartache mingled with incredible physical pain without rhyme or reason was one of those times. For now, the storm has subsided. I hope we’re not just in the eye. My wife has taken responsibility since we’re dealing with a girl and since, for the moment, I simply don’t know what to do with a teen I can’t trust at all. Today it is quiet, the little children are fine, and my ailment has subsided to a dull ache. Today I am not quite so eager for an end to all.
The lesson for the day yesterday is that Love does NOT conquer all. Love is not the fixer. It’s a very hard lesson for me. Very, very hard. In fact, it’s the hardest lesson I have ever had to learn. Yesterday was a watershed in the way I deal with people–all people.
My oldest, I believe, has feelings for us. Nevertheless those feelings and her knowledge of how much we love her (God knows how often I say it and the many ways I try to show it) she still defied our wishes, lied and deceived us, betrayed my trust, snuck off to meet a boy who cares nothing for her, and then sat stone-faced when confronted with no remorse, no apologies, no explanation.
I know her history. Part of it anyway. I know she was mistreated, raped, abused, neglected, for the first ten years of her life, give or take. I know she’s been a CPS poster child since her infancy. And I know what is said of children like that. I know what I was told by everybody from caseworkers to foster parents: don’t try, she will not change, she will betray you, she will wind up in the mess from whence she came and I can do nothing about it. I refused to believe it. Now, with great distress, I have to admit they were probably right.
My belief in love conquering all was misguided. The stories of good kids rising from the ashes of such history are anecdotes and represent the few-and-far-betweens. This knowledge breaks my heart. This young child whom I have loved so deeply may very well one day walk out into that world and end up in a gutter, a cell, or in a hopeless life. The thought makes me question everything about our humanity, faith, and God.
I don’t care if Ike comes this way. Even if it rips up U.S. 59 and takes my house with it I will survive. I have insurance, skills, abilities. I can fix broken things. If a tree falls and breaks the roof I can patch it. If water washes our drive away I can rent a backhoe and repair it. If windows are blown out, wires down, whatever, no problem, I am up to that challenge. But…
This storm, this personal whirl-wind, this horrific tornado that tears flesh from the heart and crashes emotions to the ground, this storm is beyond me. I can fix nothing. There’s no tool box, no saw or hammer or box of nails for this destruction. There’s no backhoe to fill in the holes left in the heart. There’s no glue that will patch up a spirit ripped to shreds. This storm leaves me helpless, hopeless, and groping for meaning.
Religious people from all over say “prayer” is the answer. In my experience prayer is only beneficial for the prayer, not the prayee. One who prays builds faith. The prayers, however, are not answered. When they seem to be it’s just wishful thinking. In my case, there is no faith in prayer for fixing people so not even I would benefit from a hypocritical attempt at persuading the Creator to do something that he leaves up to us and, for want of a better word, fate, to do.
God is our Creator. God is not our fixer. We are responsible for fixing that which is fixable, that which is within our ability to fix. Mostly that includes only ourselves and things in the physical world. No, not mostly. Entirely. No human has the ability, capacity, or the right to “fix” another human. “Fixing” does not work. Any effort focussed on fixing a person will fail. When the person turns out the way the fixer wanted them it’s just a coincidence.
Children however, if cared for from very early age or birth, can be guided, taught, directed. I believe in the Jewish belief that training up a child appropriately will led to the child being faithful in his or her later years. Every parent has the responsibility to be the guide, set the example, prove truth in every way they can by the way they live. This I strive for. I have had considerable success with the two little ones whom we have raised from early ages. My oldest, however, is another story.
Unfortunately most parents go much further than setting an example. They brainwash. I was brainwashed. I had a religion shoved down my throat. I also saw those doing the shoving living a life not exemplary of the ideal I was taught. But even with all the indoctrination I got as a child I have turned out to be someone those who taught me would despise. Their “fixing” didn’t work either. I have over time reject their theology completely. I still believe in a Creator and in a person named Jesus but my view of those two are far removed from the cruel and selfish Judeo God or the mamby-pamby Jesus Christians revere but do not follow. I cling to a philosophy, Buddhism, which they do not simply oppose but view as a false religion destined to send me to a sinner’s hell. Their “fixing” had no effect. I should know better than to try to fix someone else.
Admitting all this it is still difficult to accept that the “fixing” I want to do to my oldest daughter is not going to stick. The young ones, sure, they were very little. They’ve turned around. Not so for my oldest. She’d already built her shell. She’s already formulated opinions and attitudes and a point of view that only she can change and nobody else can “fix.” Still, I sure as hell want to fix her.
So the conflict, the storm of storms that crashed in my front door yesterday, was the result of fixing that didn’t stick. In her case, fixing that never held at all, fixing that dropped off her like water off a duck’s back. The times she and I were on the same page, moving in unison, when she was doing as asked and expected, had nothing to do with effective fixing.
I said before, we are responsible for doing our own fixing. God is not going to do it, nobody is going to do it for us. Not even if we WANT someone to do the fixing can we get them to. We may get great advice, great help, great love or concern or guidance or have great examples to follow but it is still us who do the walking, the working, the fixing. If we change, if we learn, if we progress, it is our doing. Nobody can make it happen, nobody can get it started, nobody can finish the job. We ARE an island or a boat, depending on whether we set a destination or stand firm. A gulf surrounds every person, every intellect and (pseudo?)personality. We live or die on the sea, close at times, distant at others, but never as a single mass. What came before and what comes after this life I cannot surmise but here we are alone.
Now, the thing that irks me, that drives me nuts, that makes me want to be “the fixer,” is a belief that while the choices must be made by a person there must be ways to get through to a person so that they are at least awakened to the possibilities. There must be a door into their psyche. If there isn’t doesn’t that make all religion moot and useless? If people will NOT change, if we are pre-programmed by genetics, what’s the use of preaching, teaching, expounding? There MUST be some way in. There just MUST be! And I don’t buy that “God has to do it” idea either. It, like the Christianity that promotes it, is too narrow, too selective, too exclusive of the billions of humans outside the fold.
No, if there’s a way in it has to be a way we as fellow humans can discover and use (exploit?). If there is, what is it? Until yesterday I believed that key was the four letter word: love. I believed that deep, total and compassionate love would, as every romanticist will tell you, conquer all. Now, I don’t believe that. There must be something else. What it could be I have no clue. Love and persistence? Love and a smack up’side the head? (that was a joke!) What could it be?
I don’t know. Finding out is going to take some time–if I can figure it out at all. There must be some reevaluation. But what we don’t have is the luxury of time. This storm is already upon us. Even if we could get to the proverbial store those proverbial D-cell batteries are all gone. The flashlights we need to find Truth in the darkness are not working. We’re battling the fire and our extinguisher has pooped out. So what the hell are we to do?
In the immortal words of Anne Heche in Six Days Seven Nights: “you know, I just don’t know.”
Don’t mind me. I’m just a little cranky, you know, from being ship-wrecked and all. (Another Heche line from the movie.) Unlike the movies this story will probably not have a happy ending. And unlike the movies, it’s real. There’s a real person down the hall sitting in her room, just a screwed up in the head as I am. Neither of us know what to do about it. Neither know what the next day will bring. The big, the huge, the astronomical difference is that the ball is on our end of the field. I’m the quarterback. Do I run it? Do I throw it? Do I just punt and hope for a few points? I don’t know and can’t tell at the moment. Fog has completely obliterated the end-zone and goal post. I can’t even see my players.
So Ike, you just come on. Blow! Rain. I got it covered. Aint nothing I won’t be able to stick back together or replace. That other storm, I just want the damn thing to blow over and the sun to come back out so I can see where the pieces are. Then, maybe, I can know how to fit them together again. And I’m talking my pieces. I’m in need of fixing. That girl of mine, that beautiful daughter that is further away today than Tokyo, who knows if she’ll ever even know there are pieces missing, much less try to refit them.
Storms. They come. Some days are quiet, some days there’s a big blow and some days just suck.
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