Circumstances exist in which Christians can be plunged which cause great pain and suffering for no apparent reason. Such is happening to my family now.
I don’t know what will happen to us.
I am grateful to God for the time I have had with my father. I love him more now than I did as a child or young adult. I have taken the time to get to know him, as a man and a person, not just as a father. Our personalities are very different — I’m nothing like my mother either, so must be some sort of recessive fluke that reappears after many generations. I appreciate him for what he is.
Father is an exacting man. Very ritualized and patterned. Here’s an example: He told me that while taking swimming lessons as a freshman in high school, he learned to dry off his body with the minimal number of towel motions. He decided, then, that this was the best way to dry off and has NEVER deviated from it … not once. He has dried Himself the exact same way for more than eighty years. Don’t you find this amazing?
This is a sort of personality that I can’t identify with on any level. Yet, I love and appreciate him. And, I now believe, for the first time in my life, that my father loves me, too.
Christians have a tendency to project their relationship with their earthly father, good or bad, to their heavenly father, God. I know how difficult it is to feel God’s love when human love has been elusive. So, loving my father, as I have learned to do the past couple years, has been a stretch of faith, too.
For readers who don’t know us, we are a family of three — three generations. My father, me and K, his grandson. We are intensely loyal to each other and have learned to love each other deeply through these difficult years.
What has become more clear to me, is how different we are than the prevailing culture, particularly the people who live in this area. To sum, we are upper class. We have upper class values and an upper class mentality. We value things like conversation and learning, non-fiction and politics, limited forays into the culture while indulging in fine arts. Our values include treating people honorably, always being anonymously generous without expecting any kudos or thanks, and giving back … always giving back, to the society which spawned us and has given us so much with which to work.
As the culture coarsens, it’s increasingly difficult for people like us to find a niche within it. Most of us have withdrawn. I’ve withdrawn into this little, ugly house where the three of us hide from society as our love and support for each other intensifies.
My support for my father has been intense and totalizing. For years, I have cooked, cleaned, entertained, laundered, conversed, nursed, taught and watched over him. This has been a full-time job. Much has had to be given (up) to love him including my own career, dreams and desire to love and be loved.
My father’s support for me can be seen in his personality and stability. He has always been a plodder in life and has lived in this little house for many years. He moved here, originally, because my mother was very ill. They sold the house they had been living in in Florida and moved here to be near my brother-in-law and sister. But in short order, mother died. The house he had bought as a temporary residence while he built another one, was memorialized in mother’s memory. He didn’t move. He didn’t build a more appropriate house. Nothing in this house could be thrown out or changed. Recently, however, father has been willing to get rid of disgusting old couches, for example, so progress is possible!
Both of us support his grandson, my son, K, in any way we can. K, in turn, helps us. For the past twelve years, K has driven more than a hundred miles to mow his grandfather’s lawn, do all the fixing and repairing in the house, get advice from his grandfather about his business (he’s an entrepreneur), shop and so much more. My father has six grandchildren — K is the only one who dotes on him, loves him and has been loyal to him. Now, because his grandfather has recently fallen twice, K takes him to all his doctor’s appointments. This responsibility used to fall on me, but I’m not strong enough to pick up and steady my father. So, this responsibility, too, is one that Kyle assumed, uncomplaining and always willingly.
As all of us age, our physical and emotional needs rapidly increase. What my father can do is a small fraction of what he used to be able to do. And without his wife, he depends of me to meet his emotional and intellectual needs. We have long conversations about all sorts of things — these conversations seem to sustain him. I read him books and the Wall Street Journal when his eyes tire. We argue about politics — he’s a neo-con, I’m a libertarian — and tear over the arts. Father loves anthropology, which is odd for a scientist, so I’ve had to learn about this so we can converse. His mind is sharp. He always follows the train of thought and contributes quite a bit to the conversation. It is NOT like talking to an addled mind, as some errantly think. Not at all.
So, where is the suffering? For me, it’s in opportunity costs, what I have given up to love him — marriage, good jobs, travel, friends, a congenial environment, fellowship and so much more.
Would I do it again?
For one, it’s commanded of all Christians to honour their parents. I’m obeying that command. I treat my father as a whole man, respect his wishes and even — drum roll, please — obey him! After being a rebellious child, I have finally learned to do what he tells me to do. This protects his dignity, which many people, particularly health professionals, social workers and others, seem not to care.
I care about my father. I respect his dignity. I see him as a whole man, a complete person. When he can’t recall a word, I gently insert it into the conversation. This is the way I love him, my father, my dear and beloved father. I would never disobey him at this point in life, in part because it would be so demeaning for him.
As the world around us “goes crude,” the three of us draw closer. Among us, we’ve created a sanctuary, a place of peace separate from the disgusting values and language of the Western world. We see ourselves as part of a shrinking remnant of what used to be the finer aspects of civil society. When this society collapses, which it will, we’ll be there to do our part to quietly pick up the pieces and set America moving forward on a better trajectory. We’re not alone, but are rare. There are many others.
Outsiders to our values and beliefs are harming us, now. They’ve accused us of things we have not done or would ever do. This is very, very wrong. Borderline evil. Our values are being “investigated.” Generosity, a core trait, is being questioned.
God is in this and will deliver us. He knows our values and innocence. We will continue to give to each other in the ways we are able, to serve each other and do whatever we can to support each other.
Such is love.
Love within suffering.