A dragon defeated…

Okay – I’m back. A little slappy and rubber-kneed, like a boxer who has gone 9 rounds fighting outside his weight. But I’m back.

And I thank you, so many of you, for your prayers. I believe I felt them.

It’s a terrible thing – or one feels like a terrible human being – when one is given awful news about another human being and that news sends one’s focus completely inward, in a self-interested manner, instead of outward, to the person who needs help.

I had no choice, though. I got a psychic sucker-punch that left me staggering. I’m usually pretty optimistic forward-looking, so I didn’t see this thing coming up from below.

The folks in this drama who are living (and dying) are not the source of the wallop. While those relationships are deeply complicated, there has always been, and always will be, forgiveness there. It’s of the “ongoing” variety. We are always nervous around each other – we are always (intentionally?) unintentionally, stepping on toes and re-opening old wounds. We are people who flinch around each other, in pain and in anticipation of pain, because we are all held together with slings and braces and psychological bandages and traction. When we gather, we are all too likely to bang into each other’s still-healing boo-boos, and so “I’m sorry…it’s alright, never mind,” is the order of the day.

Away from each other, we all function very well. Placed together…well, together we bring so much with us that rooms fill too quickly with the vapors of mists of awful, awful times, and so we have difficulty finding each other. We flail. We reach out and just miss the other’s hand, instead somehow connecting in a way that leaves a bruise.

Like I said, it’s a complicated situation.

But I’m used to the mists and vapors. We have been stumbling through them for decades and have all come to recognise that for us – for my birth family and me – things are an eternal peasoup of fog. It’s like we live in the Highlands and it is always twilight, and the weather is always soft. While it may not be sunny, it’s livable.

No, What threw me for a loop was a sudden and completely unexpected by-product of the news of this relative’s illness – and that was the reappearance of the Mad Patriarch, dead these 23 years.

The Mad Patriarch was a psychopath – a truly disordered human being with a more than passing acquaintance with evil. Both a coward and a bully he was larger than life, destructive and dominant. And I still wake up sometimes, gasping, thinking myself still trapped by his looming malevolence…after a minute I’ll gulpingly remember that he is dead, and thank God for it.

I used to have a fantasy that I would visit his grave carrying a flowerbox for long-stemmed roses. I’d stand at the grave, open the box to reveal a shotgun (or whatever, I know nothing about guns except they go bang) and I’d fire into his grave. Click, click Bang! Click, click Bang! Click, click Bang! I would picture myself placing my fingers into the holes I’d blown into the grass, to make sure they’d penetrated the earth. Then, whistling distractedly, as though I’d just done the very thing that needed doing, I would pack the shotgun back into the box and walk off.

I always thought it would be an excellent scene in some movie. And yes, I did get therapy, thanks. 7 years of it. I didn’t feel like I needed to go shoot up his grave anymore – I’d even come to feel some compassion and forgiveness for the Mad Patriarch. Some.

This relative’s illness brought up a particularly heinous 6-8 week torture period during which the Mad Patriarch had me tied to a psychological rack and was pulling and pulling trying to get information from me that I simply did not have, could not give. Torquemada would have been proud of him.

I went down and hit the mat, hard! Friday I was all tears. Saturday I was numb, staring blankly ahead, eating ice-cream from a half-gallon container with a big spoon. It wasn’t even good ice cream. Saturday night, at 8PM began the big sleep-n-pray. I splept. I’d wake up, offer it all to God with a “make something of this, will you, use it for something? Maybe use it for someone’s healing!” Then I’d sleep again. Got up for mass on Sunday, then slept again until about 8PM Sunday night. Awoke. Worked a crossword puzzle with my husband, proof-read an essay for Buster and went back to sleep, knowing I was coming ’round.

I have come to the conclusion that the Mad Patriarch was a particularly loathsome, filthy and toxic dragon in that – although he is slain – there is something of his essence in those smogs and gasses which sometimes rise, like bubbling steam from a tar pit. The only way to stay out of the reach of all that is to avoid the shadows and keep walking in the Son.

In the Son – I can stop mewing about myself and pray for a family facing something awful. Please pray for them, too, if you will.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://www.myownthoughts.com Suzi

    As I am sure you know, evil can be destroyed, but it leaves effects long after its demise.

    I will pray for the mitigation of its effects in you and the family.

    He who is within you is greater than he who is in the world.

  • http://happycatholic.blogspot.com Julie D.


  • karen

    I know you know this, as well: Even when you cannot feel the warmth of the Son, nor see the rays of His Light trhough that awful smog, He stills shines for you and yours. That has always been His gift.
    Your humility in being human enough for us to touch your pain- is an inspiration. It allows us to realize that there is no shame in the falling down of humanness- knowing that we have the reaching hand of the Son to grasp. And, the hands of human brothers and sisters- even if we cannot look in their faces. We are the hands of eachother. We are the hands of the Christ.

  • gcotharn

    “Embalm him, cremate him, and bury him. We’ll take no chances!”
    -Winston Churchill

    “Embalm him, bury him, and shoot his corpse full of holes. We’ll take no chances!”
    -The Anchoress

  • maria horvath

    When I hoped I feared–
    When I hoped I dared
    Everywhere alone
    As a Church remain–
    Spectre cannot harm–
    Serpent cannot charm–
    He deposes Doom
    Who hath suffered him–

    ~ Emily Dickinson

    You go, girl!

  • mcpotap

    The Lord Jesus informed us that the Devil prowls around looking for who it may devour.
    The Devil personifies evil.
    Jesus’ words remind us that evil is always near, ready to pounce and destroy.
    IMLO:I find times when I am secure in my relationship with the Lord, and I am resting in His everlasting arms that the evil one jumps and slams me to the mat. Tho at times it is difficult, I come to the realization that God’s Word speaks to this unresstrained evil attack in the book of Job.
    I too have survived a Mad Patriarch, who has been dead for thirty-three years; but still brings dread into my mind and heart at times.
    We hold tight to the promise that if we abide in Christ, He will abide in us, and will take us to be with Him for eternity, where there will be no moth or rust or thieves to steal away (our peace, trust, being).
    Blessings on you and your family.
    May the grace of God’s everlasting love embrace you in this time of testing.

  • Owen

    I am glad another Smog has been declawed. One thing about not being in formal ministry anymore is I see far, far less of them. A book {I no longer have it} that was helpful was “Well Intentioned Dragons”. There were just so many of those in the ministry.

    My wife, when she was still my finance, asked whether I actually believed 1 Corinthians 5:17 or not. I did but living in the freedom of that truth takes time and godly effort.

  • http://ohhowilovejesus.com Jeanette

    I love gospel music and a song that immediately came to my mind when you talked about looking to the Son was this:

    Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
    Look full in His Wonderful Face,
    And the things of earth will grow strangly dim,
    In the light of His Glory and Grace.

    If you want to hear it performed in such a way it will touch your spirit go here.

  • JMC

    I had a Mad Matriarch, coupled with a father who had survived a Mad Patriarch of his own and so would do anything the Matriarch wanted, just to keep peace in the house.
    I’m one of five kids victimized by this Matriarch. She systematically treated each of us so differently that, as we grew up, we were never anything even remotely resembling a “family;” just seven people who happened to live under the same roof.
    The Matriarch is long gone, but the scars she left still remain. Like your birth family, we cannot get together without…well, not re-opening old wounds, but trying to pull old strings, to manipulate, to control, the way the Matriarch did us.
    I think what I’m trying to say is, I know EXACTLY what you’ve just been through. I’ve been through it several times myself. And the stress of death-watches and the subsequent funerals just seems to make it all worse.
    Hang in there. There’s always a Light at the end of the tunnel. And at the beginning of the tunnel, and all the way through it.