Visitors - Come on in and say hello!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Pilgrim - Chapter 1

I was a "miracle baby", only because Mom was told she could never have children.  Thus my older brother by two and a half years was a miracle, and I following,  was just a cute little bundle from God thumbing His nose at the pathetic "god of Science" that continues to reign in America. 

But I wasn't born into a perfect family, for who is?  Nor was I born perfect; it was only right that I was born of two imperfect parents.  Mom had been born into a large Catholic family, and had only one hand.  It was surmised that the umbilical cord had been wrapped around her left hand, refusing to let it be formed properly.  My Dad was born with Spina Biffeda and spend his young life in and out of surgery. 

I know my parents met at a dance and dated long-distance before they got married. Grandma on Dad's side had a conniption fit, apparently because Mom was "Irish Catholic", and Grandma, who had immigrated with her parents from Stockholm, Sweden, it was apparently a national hobby to hate Irish Catholics.  That's the impression I always had, anyway.  

As it was was, I grew up with a huge disconnect;  Dad was Lutheran, Mom was Catholic. That meant that Dad rarely came to Mass with us, and on Holy Days of note, our relatives on Mom's side were willing to travel...but those on Dad's side weren't.  

So we spent many secular holidays with Dad and his family, such as Thanksgiving, and if we were there for Christmas, they went to a plush-carpeted Lutheran church while Mom drove my brother and I, alone, or were dropped off at the local Catholic Church. 

I remember feeling like a refugee of sorts.  

It's not that we grew up with massive family discord; rather, I have many great memories of my grandparents on Dad's side, our travels to visit them and Mom's family in Minnesota. I mean only to emphasize that our own little family of four was very much split along religious lines, even as they tried to make it work.  

Even today when we get together for holidays, in honor of Dad, we say the Lutheran meal blessing along with the Catholic:

Catholic:   Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive.  From Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord, Amen
Lutheran:  Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen. 

It's a beautiful blend of the prayers of two religions, and even as I wish my parents had been unified in their faith, I'm grateful for Dad's contribution to the customs of our family in the name of Jesus.  


I said before that I wasn't born perfect. I wasn't.  I was born with a lazy eye. My earliest baby pictures show this terrible defect, and I remember this defect being constantly discussed.  I remember wearing a patch over my left eye, and I remember when the extreme part of the defect was miraculously cured via the power of prayer the day before surgery.  

But that didn't take away the need to wear the dreaded Patch, and it was maybe the ONLY thing my older brother didn't use to torture me during those early years.  Nor did I ever tease him about his struggle to learn to read, even as I surpassed his abilities before my own time.  

Even siblings can find peace.  Those were our early years.  

But things changed.  I remember Mom and Dad arguing at night, and I'll never forget the cold November day when Mom went outside and smashed a bottle against the Maple Tree, and, shortly afterwards, Dad left with a suitcase and never returned.  

I'm not sure if it was the following summer or later, but it was an awful day in our history.  Mom  began "pacing" down the long living room as though she were walking the aisle in her own wedding or serving as a bridesmaid. She was clasping her hands together and muttering to herself. A neighbor took her to the hospital, we went into another neighbor's care, and the next day, or a few days later, our aunts and uncles suddenly appeared at our home to take care of us.  Grandma on Mom's side was the most prominent of the caretakers.  

That summer Mom was diagnosed with Bipolar. Shortly after that, the divorce was final and the bank foreclosed on the house.  We moved to Minnesota courtesy of an uncle's cattle truck and a small caravan of passenger cars. 

A couple years later, Dad moved to Minnesota and found a place near the Cities, so we were able to see him more often.  

In 6th Grade I played a flute solo in the Christmas program at the Church of the Sacred Heart, and Dad was invited, but I don't think he ever came.  I wanna say he did one Christmas, but although he was invited every year, he chose not to come.  It was always a disappointment to me. Even as I remembered that Christmas Eve, trembling before an audience the likes of which I've never seen and haven't seen since.  Even as I remember the vibrato enforced by uncontrollable shaking, even as I remember struggling to hold my flute and play the notes through my frozen fingers...I don't remember Dad being there.  I know he was there ONCE...but never again. 

It didn't matter. That's what I told myself.  

But Dad DID help me learn to drive when I turned 16, taking me to the narrow, overcrowded streets of Uptown Minneapolis. He taught me how to drive on freeways, how to deal with idiot drivers, and his own lessons have often come into play as I later moved to the Cities and  made it my home. 

Grandpa died when I was in Jr. High, and as it was the middle of winter and the weather was poor, we didn't go to the funeral.  Dad did, though, and actually moved to Michigan in order to help Grandma.  So it was that I didn't see him much over the next few years.

During Jr High and High School, I remained active in my parish, as a progressing flutist, as a cantor, and a member of the adult Choir.  I'd have to say that my happiest memories of those years were from my connection to my parish, and my best friend, whom I met through a youth group that didn't last.  

In spite of that though, those were tough years. It's a much longer story, but suffice to say I nearly took my own life, truly believing that I had no contribution to this world.  Mom was in and out of the hospital, Dad wasn't around at all, and at the worst of it, at one point, I lost ALL of my friends.  There was a terrible confrontation in the cafeteria of my Jr. High school, where I gave my ONLY warning:  "Maybe I should just kill myself".

The response of my "friends"  was "Yeah..maybe you should."  

I nearly did.  It is ONLY God's hand that stayed my own.   

Troubled High School....

Life was awful.  I  was never one of the popular group. I don't know that I was officially a "nerd" any longer, but I had no status.  Half the time I lived with my best friend's family, sometimes I lived with relatives.  I remember sitting in the hallway before classes started, wondering where I'd sleep that night. I had clothing and a work schedule packed into my locker, hoping that I'd be able to reach someone...because I couldn't go back home.  I couldn't take it anymore.  

There were a few friends who knew what was going on at home. NO ONE knew how close I was to taking my own life. 

I even now doubt few people would have cared.

One day, in desperation, I went to the Guidance Counselor, having run away from home, unable to take any more. She listened to my story and told me to go to the school principal and ask about minor emancipation. So it was that one morning I sat tearfully in his presence and explained that Mom wouldn't sign a permission for something because of her mental illness.

He'd never seen me before because I was a good student, and was somewhat shocked by what I was saying. That, thankfully, gave me credibility. In his compassion he gave me other options; everything other than the legal proceedings I had been told to seek.

I graduated when I was still 17, and two weeks later, legally, I became an adult. Two weeks later, Mom attempted suicide and I not only signed the 72-hour-hold as her legal guardian, but I advocated for commitment. Thank God wonderful mental health professionals, both those who had worked with her throughout the years and the one who was in charge of her at the new hospital took the time to learn the facts and explain the consequences. Mom was saved from a very damaged 18-year-old daughter who didn't know what else to do.

That same year, right on schedule I went to college, a Catholic one.  I stopped going to Mass; I knew nothing about being Catholic because I'd grown up to believe our faith is in what we do during and surrounding Mass...and nothing else. And since I wasn't DOING anything anymore, it all fell apart.  I had nowhere to roost. I wasn't playing flute or cantoring anymore.  I was away from that parish family that had been cultivated over the years.  I missed them, but I also missed "performing" every Sunday, for that was what it seemed to be for me.

Clearly, I never understood what the Mass was REALLY about. 


I was one of the few college students happy to be away from "home". As it was, I had not home. We'd lost our home the summer, so really, I had no permanent address. The homesickness of my friends was mystifying to me.

During those years, I rarely attended Mass, and if I did, I was in tears, so just didn't go as I didn't know how to handle my own emotions or why they were happening.

I spent a semester in Mexico during my Junior year, and exactly a month after I returned, Dad passed away.  It was a devastating event especially because I couldn't talk to anyone. There were those who offered open doors, but I ran away from them.  The VP of the college himself offered his shoulder and his time, but I lied and told him I was fine. I couldn't speak.  Yet I'd stop in on occasion to "chat", and he'd try, clearly mystified that I wouldn't speak of my very obvious  grief. If I felt the tears coming on I'd quickly make an excuse and flee his office.    

I could not speak.  I wanted to, but couldn't.  It took months.  

And throughout my question was...where was God?

I learned in a very heretical class just after Dad's passing that "God is not omnipotent".  It destroyed me.  There I was, faced with one of the biggest questions of my life:  "Where is God in all of this?"  

And through that class was given the answer, "He can't help you. God doesn't really care. He doesn't have time."

As it was, at that point, I had no home, I hated my family (what little I had left), I didn't feel connected to anyone or anything, and I missed my Dad, whom, by the way, I hadn't seen at all since high school graduation and would never see again. 

Is it any wonder that I looked then to New Age and the Occult?  For they also have gods who don't care, but at least those gods can be theory, anyway.  

At the time, I worked in Campus Security and when it was my job to lock the chapel, I would genuflect even though I didn't know why. Something called me to wait, to remain, there in the warmth, there in the light of the tabernacle candle. Because He was the ONLY one who knew my suffering.

And yet I fled from the light, however flickering, however warm.  I was lost. 


Potamiaena said...

Adoro, thanks for writing your story. We can all learn from you. I am sorry life was so difficult for you and your family. Your struggles have made me more aware of what lies behind the masks that we wear.

Each of us is really alone in this world. Alone and with God.

Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

Wow, powerful stuff. I look forward to reading more

Kathy said...

am eagerly awaiting part 2 and the good news of our coming back to the Church. So sorry that you did not have the love and support you needed at home.

Adoro said...

Potamiaena ~ We are indeed, always, alone with God. Praise Him.

Jen and Kathy ~ Chapter 2 was posted earlier it not showing up in the feeds?

Will update this post to link to chapter 2. For now, though, here it is: