They may not mean to but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had,
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn,
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern,
And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.
Philip Larkin - “This Be the Verse”
My parents’ marriage has fallen apart. They’re both in their sixties, and instead of retiring to Del Webb Sun City’s tennis courts, or traveling anywhere outside of Texas, they decided misery. I only wish they had done it sooner. Or rather, I wish my mom had left sooner. Maybe then she could have gotten help instead of simply have more means to nearly disappear. She won’t travel, though; they never traveled.
My mom was repeatedly raped as a child by her father and grandfather—two men of God, no less. It wasn’t them, though, it was Satan, as my dad now says, but we’ll get to that later. I don’t want to write this through the passionate hate of a non-believer—someone who doesn’t think that blame for pain or miracles can be issued out to the Almighty or his devilish, cartoonish creation—I want to write this to people who love other people: people who love humanity, because that has become my only religion. I wouldn’t want to deprive a person of their faith, but faith has deprived my family of their humanity. So, in my view, they have no religion I care for.
“I've given up on your mother, but I haven’t given up on God.” That’s what my father assured me yesterday morning over a McGriddle and a large Diet Dr. Pepper, the perfect breakfast combination. All I did was nod. I kept my left hand and wedding band over my mouth. I know more than few people would overhear what my dad said and hear nothing but beauty: a man of God.
I heard apathy.
A lot of people would read that and see that I missed the point of a man’s faith, but he has no faith; he has a platitude and verbal reassurance. My dad went on to talk about freewill. “Do you know what that is?” he asked me. “It’s either accepting Jesus or not accepting Him.” No other choices? No other definitions? Well, I think I believe in freewill, at least much more than I believe in God. They are both equally artificial, though. There just aren’t many choices in our world, granted there are more than simply belief or un-belief; Heaven or Hell—thought I’m sure there are a few secular believers who have transcended their own doctrine’s dichotomy. Choices do expand: the more you chose, the more choices you’re faced with, but that goes without saying since it’s now a science fiction trope in every movie about time travel. If there is any philosophy I could possibly follow, it’s uncertainty, and I hope I’ve never pretended to be anything else—recently, at least. Because at one point I think I could sit on my dad’s side and say that my mom rejected Jesus Christ because she won’t stay with my dad. But I could only have said that a long, long time ago.
The only truth is my mom won’t stay with my dad because she is delusional after decades of prayer, hundreds of hours Christian couples meetings, receiving nothing that resembled therapy, and certainly not because “Satan has ahold of her!” as my dad proclaimed halfway through his breakfast pancake/sandwich hybrid. In his version of my mom’s story, Satan controls everyone at some point. Rapists: Satan. Runaway moms: Satan. Families are Satan, fathers and grandfathers. But what about husbands who don’t help? Incompetence isn’t satanic, I guess. But what happened to freewill? You can’t hold to a philosophy if you can become possessed by some sort of demon. This is where I’ll do my absolute best (a test to myself) to write maturely and honestly about this sort of horseshit. There is no Satan. It’s great fiction and a compelling reason to tether your eternal soul to eternal goodness, if you’re a Christian, because ancient Jews only thought of him as being who tested the faith of the faithful: God’s chosen people. He is an archetype adopted from ancient Zoroastrian/Persian religion. But that doesn’t fit for my father who maintains “He’s the reason your mom left, just like he’s the reason for pornography, homosexuality, roleplaying games, Hormel meat, and epilepsy. But God can work on me and He can save her.” Here’s where some sort of determinism comes into play. My mom was fated to be ruined because of what was done to her; any type of freewill has never existed for her. Of course she wanted a family, but after we grew up and finally left, she had nothing, and living with the memories of a family were something she just couldn’t do.
Bad things = Satan. That’s bad math that deprives you of reality—there’s nothing that resembles freewill to be found there. There’s just an excuse that will stop you from facing what’s actually happened. There could be hope that the fallout won’t be so bad, though. That God will be there, and I’m sure there’s Biblical poetry to back that up that makes others feel good, but that doesn’t do anything to help a woman who’s suffering through her own unrecognized mental breakdown, does it? In fact, it’s that exact same mindset that aided in my mom’s maturity into madness.
I thought we had freewill? That was what ran through my head like a squirrel on amphetamines as my dad said, “All she needs is to be saved, and then I’ll have my wife back.” All he needed to do was try. Now, I don’t blame my dad for my mom’s mental health, but he did hold to hope as opposed to helping. He didn’t try because he thought God has the power to start and stop: he thinks God is a constantly running river that can change its own streams. In reality that is the inconstancy that turns people away from any higher power. It even hinders a person’s logic. Praying to God that your wife is healed isn’t the same as demanding that He stop rape from happening. Prayers miss the point. They’re not meditative and nowhere near as cathartic as simply unpacking our ugly problems. Praying is smoking under stress: it’s a habit.
Does each one of us need help? Yes! Does each one of us need saving? Yes, but not by a transdimensional spirit. We need to save each other. This isn’t a call for blind altruism, but a proclamation of optimism that family members will recognize when they have harmed or warped a loved one—or to fix that happened in the past. Now, I’ve alluded to mental health a few times already, so let me say this: I know my mom isn’t well, and she never has been well. After meeting other moms all my life, other women, and growing up, I know she’s deteriorating. She’s never been well. Her mother, my Nana—a terrible self-given nickname that I can’t shake, was thankfully put into a home about this time in her life, after she began to exhibit signs of dementia—or satanic control. She has no freewill, either. Even her diapers are picked out for her.
Even if it’s a small amount of freedom, I want my mom, and any other person, to live a full life. But for my mom, I want her to find help. I don’t want her to because God’s finger puppet to make one man happy—satisfied, safe, accustomed.
Families are Satan. I said that not too long ago, just a few paragraphs ago, and for me it’s still true. I never wanted, or even thought, I could get married. Like Philip Larkin’s poem said, my mum and dad fucked me up. They’re the role models to thank. But it was up to me to change. It’s difficult not being the person I was raised to be, I’m happy to say. It wasn’t secularization that warped me at a young age, it was a Godly family. I wouldn’t want that to be an excuse, though. I want it to be something I accept and a truth that makes me examine myself deeper, right into all those crannies I pretend doesn’t exist on my bodies—the ones we each pretend no one else sees, even when were naked. I want to talk to myself and my wife just so I can face myself.
Love those you love because you love them, but know although you love them, they could be suffering, not because of your love, but because of themselves and their past, their present, and what could happen to them tomorrow. So say something. Rape isn’t dinner table conversation, but there are thousands of other opportunities to do your duty to the human that you love. Don’t leave it up to God. He’s an achievement of fiction, so He’s a failure in the real world. If you do use God has an adhesive, as my dad did, the one you love could stick around. You could even love them more because you think they’re healed; you can even start a family with them, but that doesn’t stop the suffering. After decades together, they could go, and fuck up more people than just you.
For those who believe in God, love and trust are two different things, I’m sorry to say. Treat God like a crazed mother: leave nothing to chance. Fix yourself by yourself; be better for yourself. If you have a family that’s on the verge of no longer being something that resembles what’s photographed and hung on hallway walls, face it. If it’s obesity, addiction, a horrible past or a sad present, money management, or even a stolen childhood, it’s all up to you to spit in the face of determinism, of those who say that the devil is at work in person’s failures, or that chance and good fortune are only up to God. Be a person’s miracle, you have the freewill to do so.