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.