Archives For family

  As a teen, I read continously as a means of escaping what I then saw as a quotidian, banal, meaningless, dysfunctional existence. All white plastered stucco on the outside, and while not wanting for food and shelter, my upbringing was nevertheless starved of affection, notice, approval. As a latch key kid, there were really no boundaries, and thus no real sense of security. And without security, there was no feeling, no bedrock, of love to fall back upon. 

So I read to feel something, anything. To know I wasn’t alone. To know that, as bad as I perceived things to be, some folks had it worse. Oftentimes, these folks were the characters at the heart of a Stephen King story. One of my favorites was Pet Sematary. I read that book through three times (something I didn’t normally do) in rapid succession. Due, I think, in part to its sheer visceral appeal, but perhaps unconsciously also to its parallel to my own (limited) life experience up to that time. Consider:

1) The Creeds move was supposed to make their lives better, bring them closer as a family. Likewise, my dad’s promotion, transfer, and my family’s subsequent move west was supposed to do the same. In neither case did that prove to be true. Both families ended up falling apart.

2) In both life, and art, there was a father haunted by demons he couldn’t shake; both, while the specifics are of course different, succumbed to their unholy siren song.

3) While my cat was named Cornelius, and not Church, I lost him in a neighborhood accident. Whether animal, or a vehicle, got him I don’t recall.

4) Much like Judson Crandall in the story, we had a kindly older neighbor named Johnny. Like Louis in the book, my dad spent many a night drinking with him.

These are but a few of the ways in which life imitated art. Though as I said I wasn’t likely tuned into at the time, being an isolated, largely self-involved teen. I just share this as a means of explaining the book’s hold on, and power over, me. It appealed in ways I couldn’t then even begin to understand. Much in the way I couldn’t understand why my dad grew more and more distant. More and more closed off; until he just wasn’t there anymore at all. Like Louis Creed, he had his secrets, and those secrets destroyed a family.

Family is what I wish to write of today. As a husband and father myself, I’ve seen the devastating effects of my own secret sins wreak havoc on my family. Things, as they do in Pet Sematary, have a way of finding is out. And there is usually hell to pay. Oftentimes in art, as in life, warnings are given; yet we stubbornly, steadfastly choose to trudge right past them into our own (metaphorical) burying grounds. We believe somehow, as Louis Creed does, that it will be different for us–that we’ll, if not totally unscathed, escape the brunt of the consequences. That is basic human nature.

It is this power of temptation to work upon the mind, and heart, its wiles which lies at the heart of the Pet Sematary.

You see after reading it three times, I did not again revisit the Pet Sematary until just recently. Perhaps as a married man and father, knowing the general content of the tale, I was afraid to? This is likely. Perhaps it was because I knew that tales have a way of growing with us as we grow older? Yes, this, too.

So with trepidation and not a little dread, I reread the book. My worst suspicions were confirmed. Rather than diminish, the power of the book had grown. For what man among us, and despite the dire warnings, if he called himself a loving father, would not be tempted to do exactly as Louis Creed does? That is the insidious appeal and power which King has placed at the heart of Pet Sematary. Louis Creed is everyman who, when faced with a devastating loss, turns to the only way he can see out of it. It’s his fault, and by God (or other means) he’s going to fix it.

Only never works out that way, does it? Despite trying over and over again, we never can quite manage to squeeze some good out of something bad.

That, my friends, is the power of temptation, and the sway under which all of us on this side of the grave live.

God help us all, darling.

This isn’t a story I want to tell; rather, it’s one I have to tell. It may seem to meander some as I set it stage, but every word represents the truth as I understand it. 

First, the distant past. It would seem that seventy some years ago, my paternal grandparents split up because my grandfather was abusive (they had two daughters at this point). Later on, they tried to reconcile, and my dad was the result. Sadly, the marriage didn’t last, and my dad was forbidden from knowing his dad (or his dad’s side of the family). I’m told he saw him for the last time at the age of twelve. Fast forward to the early fifties, and as they were playing my dad and his sisters found out their mother was remarrying that very morning. I’m given to understand that neither my aunts, nor my dad, had any idea about the nuptials.

Not too long thereafter, at the age of fifteen, my aunt came down with a case of the pregnants. My understanding is that, at some time after their wedding, my step grandfather began touching his step kids. For instance, kids being kids they would have the radio on at night; because it was ostensibly loud, dad would come into the room to turn it down. Apparently, the radio’s knob isn’t what he fiddled with. It was, again, at this time that my aunt got pregnant and moved out. 

As is so often the case, no one talked about it at the time; it was much, much later that folks began to compare stories. There were other things, too: this same man would stay up late watching “snow” on the television. He also apparently jabbed babies in the back of the hand with his fork should they dare reach across his plate at the dinner table… By the time I was born, he was older, nearing retirement age. Perhaps he had beaten whatever demons afflicted him? Who knows? What I heard is that despite what my parents knew about the man, I was left there as a toddler (my grandmother was home). When my mom picked me up, she smelled a funny smell. In fact, she called my cousin, stating that “his sweet baby face smells like semen.” Whether this is true, or not, I’ve no idea; it is however entirely consistent with the man’s character.
Blessedly, I have entirely no memories of this incident. What I can tell you is that, as I briefly sketched out above, it’s not the only such story to swirl around this man. In fact, upon her deathbed, my grandmother threw her hospital tray at him, inviting him to “Go to Hell!” Apparently, she could no longer ignore the the reports she heard, and wanted to clear her conscience in light of her impending demise.

Ladies and gentlemen, abuse is cyclical. Growing up, my dad was distant. Sarcastic and cutting when he was present, but all the awhile emotionally unavailable. He was long gone before he ever left our family. I can’t say with any certainty what he went through as a child; he’s never spoken to me of it. In fact, we don’t speak at all.

That is the legacy of abuse. It destroys families and shatters lives.

Throughout my life, I’ve wanted a greater depth of relationship with my parents. Instead, they want to give me things. Yes, they’ve helped financially from time to time. But it stops there. When I want to go deeper, I’m met with either misunderstanding, or resistance. What more could you want? is the implicit question. What more?

Someone to call for advice.

Someone who’s there when I’m hurting.

Someone who cares beyond the surface.

Believe me, I’ve tried.

And I’m learning to let go of my expectations. I can’t make anyone be what I want them to be, shape them into someone, or something, else. I can only take what is, and work with that.

It’s the same with God.

He’ll only take what we yield to Him, and no more. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” He says. “If anyone hears My voice, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Jesus doesn’t force His way in; rather, He knocks, waiting to be let in.

It’s the same with other people: we can only go so far as they’ll let us. To which the only response–the only sane response–is:

“God, grant me the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

It just flat out sucks when it’s someone close to you, because you don’t want to be that person subsisting on crumbs, but you can’t make them give more than they’re willing, or able, to give.

You learn to take what you can get. Hope for more, but learn–as Jesus did–to accept this world as it is.

Not as you would have it be.

And that’s a hard thing. When you can’t make someone love you the way you need. Because it’s more than they have to give.

Straight Pride

randomlychad  —  November 5, 2013 — 12 Comments

(If you wish, you may skip the first part of this post, as it deals mainly with my personal convictions and interpretation of the Scriptures. The story I wish to relate begins with “Earlier this year”).

Just to be clear: whether one believes homosexual practice to be sinful, or not, God loves everyone, and sent His Son to die for each and every person who has, or will, ever live.

We are all alike in our need for Him.

My personal understanding of the Scriptures is that while homosexual temptation (as with any temptation) is no sin, its practice is. I think of it being akin to fornication–sex outside of marriage.

That said, I’m not here to debate the Scriptures, or the variety of interpretations surrounding it. God knows I have enough trouble with my own sin. Who am I to tell another how to live?

That said, we must all live with a clear conscience before God. And I want to, if I can in anyway, point with my life to Jesus Christ. He is the way the truth, and the life.

The preliminaries out of the way, my cards metaphorically laid upon the table, I would like to now relate a story which in its particulars is distressing to me. It goes like this:

Earlier this year, my family and I were enjoying a much-needed rest in the cool pines of Flagstaff, Arizona. At an elevation of 7,000 feet, it’s much cooler, and provides a welcome respite from our home in the Valley of the Sun. It seems that our time there coincided with the annual Pride in the Pines festival.

This in and of itself isn’t surprising, right? Gay pride is the cause celebre, the cause du jour, in our society these days. People are tired of hiding who they are; so more and more are coming out of the closet. God bless them for their honesty, I say. Because all of us are only as sick as our secrets.

That said, and I’m not here suggesting that anyone should hop back into the closet, if I had my druthers gay pride would not be so loud, brash, and in-your-face. Consider Ghandi, for instance. Or the late Dr. Martin Luther King, jr. Both brought to the light the plight of the peoples they represented through nonviolence–through passive protest.

In so doing it was like heaping coals of fire on the heads of their oppressors.

I don’t see that in the gay rights movement. Instead, I see pride. I see brash, and even crass, displays. Such as:

During our time in Flagstaff, in walking the streets of its downtown area, we (my family and I) saw something we won’t soon forget: a man carrying what appeared to be a large, thick-veined phallus in his hand. Where he was going we don’t know; what happened next, we’ll never forget:

At first glance, what appeared to be a (let’s call it what it is) dildo turned out to be a water bottle. How do we know? The man took a sip from a straw which protruded form the urethral opening of his (very) anatomically correct water bottle. (This image is, unfortunately, indelibly burned into our memories. And how does one even begin to explain this to one’s children?)

I ask you: is that gay pride? Or rather something to be ashamed of? Whichever, and again I’m not asking anyone to go hide in their closets, it certainly displays a lack of discretion.

It’s vulgar. And the only thing I can surmise is that it was intended to shock. Why else would someone do that? Let’s look at this way: you wouldn’t see me, or any straight person I know, walking down the street anywhere with a, I don’t know, vulva-shaped drinking vessels. Or titty-shaped coffee mugs.

Likely, anyone doing so would be reproached, or possibly arrested. It would be labeled a crass, vulgar display of straight pride at best, and objectification at worst. The point being that, no matter which camp from which it arises, lewdness is lewdness. Whether you’re straight, gay, or otherwise.

That being the case, why do those in the gay rights movement get a free pass with such things? No one (that I saw) approached that man, asked him to put away his penis. Why is that? Because we’re afraid.

We’re afraid of the backlash. We’re afraid of coming under attack in this politically correct culture in which we live. The fact is that if we spoke up in support of “Straight Pride,” we would be laughed to scorn, derided, or compared to white supremacists.

Which is not a fair comparison at all. Gay rights activists, and those who support them, want to be treated with dignity and respect? Start acting like it. Stop carrying dildo drinking cups out in public. Respect is a two-way street: one has to give it to get it.

Hear me well: I believe everyone deserves, as the pinnacle of God’s creation, to be treated with dignity and decency. This does not mean that we have to agree; rather, that we afford one another respect. That we listen.

I hope that you, no matter which side you come down on, realize there really isn’t any us and them: it’s all us. There is one human family. And we, as I said above, all need Jesus.

I’ll do my level-headed best to not get in your way, okay? Can I expect the same of you?

So I’ve taken some time off this summer to get out and live! I’ve discovered that there is indeed a whole wide world out there apart from social media, blogging, Facebook, etc.

Who would have thought? 😉

As those of you who’ve stopped in before know, my wife and I have been living out that “in sickness” clause this year. Indeed, the last year and a half has been tumultuous to say the least. Which is why, when she was feeling better, we vacated the valley where we live for cooler climes. It was glorious waking up to views like:

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What’s not to love about that?

We spent a considerable amount of time just driving around admiring the different views. And eating ice cream. A lot of ice cream. 🙂 (Seriously, my pants are tighter).

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This place was decent, but their ice cream wasn’t kept quite cold enough. More’s the pity.

Here are some more gratuitous landscape shots:

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Are you jealous? 😉

As indicated above, I’ve taken some time away this summer to travel, spend time with family, and to live. This doesn’t mean I haven’t been working; on the contrary, I’ve got some irons in the fire that I’m really stoked about <--see what I did there? Fire/stoked. 😉 One of these irons is a blogging eBook with Chris Morris and Tim Gallen. We have a structure, a theme, and some preliminary pieces written. When it’s done it should be a hoot! Can’t wait for you to read it!

Another project is a semi-irregular podcast with Ricky Anderson (because neither of us can commit to “regular”–maybe we need more fiber in our diets?), called Faith, Culture, and… You. This idea grew out of a conversion he and I had via Words With Friends chat (if you can believe it) about Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz movie. I liked it, but Ricky not so much.

Should be fun.

As for personal writing projects, I’ve an idea about a couple and and weekend trip gone horribly wrong. But like the late Orson Wells, I’ll sell no wine (in this case, story) before its time. I’m calling it Casita 106 At the Red Pines.

By the way, if you’ve been looking for something to read, I can’t recommend Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game highly enough. (I’ll leave it to you to make up your own mind about the sequels, although I’m tearing my way through them).

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Peace out,

Chad