I’ve been falling down on the blog lately. This has been an incredibly busy couple of weeks, totally unusual for the kids and I who have spent so many days here whiling away the hours.
“Falling” is a good adjective to describe the last few weeks as well. I’ve been falling away from Christianity faster than ever. I’ve had a falling out with family over how we should deal with my mother. My mother is falling away from life, in her last few months because of cancer. And I fell off a ladder.
Our neighbor, Mr. Nichols, had a son who fell off a ladder three years ago and broke his neck. He was repairing a roof from Rita’s damage. Since then I’ve been a bit skittish on ladders though I love heights and do not fear being up on things as long as I can hold on. But this time I was in a hurry. I’d put my 12 volt wench up high between two trees in our front yard to prevent one I was worried about from falling on the house during the hurricane. A couple days ago… Wednesday/Thursday…? I forget… I was up trying to get the wench down so I could use it to pull the remaining part of a roof down on a house my paw-in-law was tearing down. I wasn’t thinking too well.
The wench was held to the tree by a chain that has grown into the trunk. The chain and wench was up there doing the same duty during Rita and I didn’t get them down before the tree absorbed the chain. Time goes by. Anyway, a link was through the bolt hole in the wench with a lag-bolt for a pin. I was leaning out, trying to get the lag bolt out. I leaned too far. The ladder flipped away from the tree. Ooops!
On instinct I grabbed for the tree. Details are a bit vague but I swirled around the tree and then hit the ground square on my back with the ladder landing on my legs. Not sure how that happened. I took down an old squirrel feeder fastened to the tree that had a yellow-jacket’s nest in it. They got me twice.
My wife, watching from a little distance, screamed. I remember hearing that before my WHUMP! She ran over to see how I was. She was telling me not to move yet and asking if I was hurt but I was laying amongst yellow-jackets so I moved rather quickly.
I was pretty lucky. My arms have scrapes and bruises from the tree and I’ve been sore as hell for a few days but other than that I am OK.
My son was watching. Scared him bad. My oldest who was behind the house at the time heard the scream but didn’t even bother to come see why. She never said she was sorry I was hurt. What a cucumber that dear girl is. My littlest two did, as they always do, hugging me and saying they love me. My boy was shook up and I had to comfort him.
Daddy survived to do something stupid another day.
My brother was with us for several days last week. As I’ve said, he’s very Evangelical, very dedicated, read-his-Bible-at-bedtime dedicated. Hanging around him has made the chasm between me and that former religion of mine stand out and open up wider. I still believe there is a Creator and I still believe Jesus was his son, maybe not the only one, probably the only one to be a Bodhisattva, but one who came on behalf of the human race. That, however, is the only similarity my beliefs have with my brothers. There was a time when he and I were virtually identical in our beliefs. He has not changed at all.
My brother believes God has his hand in everything that happens, turning and tweaking, guiding and directing. The leaf that falls is flicked by the finger of God. He prays fervently expecting answers. He reads that book and studies it intensely, looking for insight. He hopes for those “streets of gold” when his end comes here. His insistence on God being in everything really is a bit irritating and, to my mind, totally illogical and ill-founded. Did I really believe that way once? Was I really that stupid?
If he reads this blog ever he’ll be offended. (I do love you, bro’!) So will anybody who are dedicated Evangelicals, fundamentalists, Pentecostals or whatever. Of course, they shouldn’t be. That they (you?) are offended validates one of my main points, that Christians never follow the directives of their faith. Forgiveness, acceptance, forbearance, those things that Jesus taught (and Paul, too), if followed, would keep Christians from being angry, resentful, offended by something someone not of their faith would write. But what can I say?
The point is, I am in free-fall from Christianity and my brother’s visit (he was staying with us at night and with our mom in the hospital during the day) has caused the wind to howl around my ears even louder. I don’t know what’s at the bottom but I believe with little doubt that I’ll float in the arms of our creator and be suspended and sustained in the Truth of Jesus’ words and those of the Buddha.
My mother, as I have shared, is dying of cancer. Her first and only chemo treatment very nearly did her in. I wrote about that. She was released from the hospital yesterday on a plateau, able to get around some on her own. She’s staying with my sister.
Her doctor is a real prick. He refuses to talk with us and help us make the hard decisions we need to make in the next few months. He will not even meet us at the window of his office for one minute to answer a question. His visits to the hospital when Mom is there are unpredictable. And he has released Mom knowing she cannot be alone safely but without a care what will happen to her, apparently. Pathetic.
My family (see below) got together last week. The four of us (my brother, two sisters and I) drafted a letter to the jerk-wad and the cancer doctor putz insisting the doctor tell Mom the truth about her condition. He eventually did that. I was not there because my wife told me not to be ugly and not to say anything and I was so pissed at the guy I sat in the lobby until he came and went. I would surely have told him off. I might, still, if I ever get a chance.
We also requested a time for him to meet with us. That he has refused to do.
We also insisted upon a new round of tests and a second-opinion before my mom takes any more chemo. That the rest of my siblings have balked on. Doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. From all we’ve learned in the past three months it’s likely the chemo will not help. It will, in all likelihood, kill her. But the doctors have manipulated my mom into believing the chemo “might” help and they have refused to do testing before she takes one more round.
I plan to sue the crap out of them if the chemo does as we expect. I also made it clear I will not take her to the clinic for it. I won’t be a party to this travesty.
My brother said he did not want the family to “drift apart” after my mom dies. I wonder what planet he lives on. We’re no Waltons. Like I told my wife, my siblings and I are people who share the same genetic code, we’re not a “family.” The four of us have nothing in common except a set of childhood memories around an old, run-down house three miles from where I’m sitting. That’s all. Over the years the most we’ve learned of each other has been Mom relaying this or that piece of news. Little more.
My sister has been in bed the last few days from some kind of sickness. Her husband believes it’s just nerves and worry over Mom. Her husband, my brother in law, asked us to bring mom’s bed to their house. She wanted it so she could sleep better. My wife was at Mom’s house yesterday pulling stuff out of cabinets so we could get the house sprayed for bugs–mom has them bad. In the afternoon I loaded the bed up on my trailer and we took it over to my sister’s house.
We had a short, pleasant visit, talked a while and looked over the improvements my sister and her husband have made to their house. They have a roof over their porch that I had not seen. Leaving out I said the roof was cool. “When did you build it?”
“Three years ago,” my brother in law replied. Damn. It never occurred to me that it’s been over three years since I’ve been to their house at all. They live about ten miles away, give or take. Truth is, I’ve been in their house maybe a dozen times in the last dozen years. They’ve been to mine less. Even when I was trying to save little children in the ill-fated foster care effort and my brother in law was on my board we did not socialize. In fact, the last time I was in their house was probably when I asked him to be on that board, four years ago.
My little sister, Becky, and her husband are some of those totally dedicated work-at-the-church-all-the-time types who attend one of the two mega-church congregations in town. I find their watered-down feel good religion (that seems to be failing miserably at the moment) disgusting.
My older sister, Vickie, has been married to an insane man for forty years, a guy named Rusty. He’s totally nuts, cruel, greedy, lazy, the kind of red-neck crazy person that is best to avoid by a wide margin. I’ve seen my older sister more recently because of Mom’s health but otherwise I stay the hell away from her bunch. Her husband has been a major cause of our family’s distance. We could never have a family function where we either worried he’d show up or if he did who he’d get mad at and threaten. My brother can’t get along with him at all. Rusty loves to bait him and piss him off. It’s a miracle someone hasn’t killed Rusty or he hasn’t killed one of us.
(I almost did, once. When I was a kid, maybe twelve, Rusty and my mom were fighting. The man made our lives hell for several years while I was a kid. He hit my mom. I went for the shotgun. I grabbed the 12-gauge. It jammed. I went back for the 410 gauge, a single shot and would not jam. My sister held me down or I’d have blown his head off. Our family would have been far better of if I had done that.)
So, my big sister and I have zip, nada, nothing in common. They’re living in northern Arkansas where they’ve been for the past several years. When Mom’s gone I doubt I’ll ever see them again.
My brother, Bob, I’ve talked about before. He and I were once very close. His religion and his choice to follow his wife’s wishes to live near her family has changed that. The latter has done most of the work of distancing us. Only since my re-birth as a Buddhist has the religion built a wall he will not cross. I love him and he loves me, I’m sure, but he does not understand me at all. I know my lifestyle and attitudes confuse him immensely. I do understand him far more than he does me but knowing him as I do makes me sad because the wall is unlikely to come down any time soon.
Bob’s life is full of fear, pain and confusion. He is terribly disabled and lives on pain medications. He does not understand why God does not heal him. He’d never admit that but I know this is true. I’m pretty sure he believes his physical pains are the result of his “bad” life before. Or maybe these days he’s rationalized them some other way. Whatever it is, his Christianity does not make much sense, not to him and absolutely not to me.
My family, like I said, is not a “family” other than by genetics. Mom has been a point of information, reminding each of us on occasion that we do have siblings. Once every few years someone might manage to get us all in the same place at the same time but it’s fleeting, weird, and then over. Last Thanksgiving, for example, my brother and little sister were here with spouses, along with my wife’s family (except her wayward sister). It was kind’of nice. But Becky had to rush off in a hurry after the meal and Bob was not completely here either in mind or spirit so it wasn’t all that cozy. My oldest stayed in AR.
The fact is, we don’t know who each other are. We are all strangers. None of my family know or realize the horrors of mind and spirit I’ve traversed the past three years. None understand at all why I am now a Buddhist. And although I understand them in a vague sort of way I don’t really know them very much either. It’s been that way for a decade or two.
My sisters and I, especially, have lived on separate planets for a long time. Around twelve or so years ago my Dad, my brother and I had some good times. My brother lived here then and I was on disability from my broken knee, he from his ever-worsening illnesses and injuries, and dad was retired. We bummed around a lot. But then my brother moved up near Texarkana. Not long after that Dad died. The ice-flow we were riding on broke apart and the sea filled in between us.
Walking through my mom’s house yesterday as my wife was there clearing out cabinets and digging up memories I tried to figure out how I felt. The only word I could come up with is just sad. Real sad, the lump-in-the-throat kind of sad. There were very few pleasant times in that old house. Most of the memories were not good. I looked around thinking that in a few short months everything will all be over. My mom will be gone. That old house will belong to someone else. All those haunting, fun, silly, tragic, sad, rustic, antique memories will seep into the cracks of that house and hide there, never to be brought out again. I doubt I’ll ever lay eyes on that old place again once Mom has left us.
When we say our goodbye to Mom we’ll also be saying goodbye to our family, our yesterdays, those fleeting years when life was mostly hell but interspersed with blips of fun times, a few smiles, and a hand-full of “I love you’s.” Those were rare jewels. They’re gone. So, too, will be gone that house and all it represented. Sad.
I’ve spent more time this morning pecking at this keyboard than I have in weeks. In doing so I’ve let my kids play outside and I’ve put off fixing breakfast. Now I better get busy.
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