Wednesday, April 8, 2009

My Father and Religion

My father has been very ill since mid-November.  He first had pneumonia (for months) and finally got over it in late february and then suddenly devloped further breathing problems and found out that he had copious amounts of fluid surrounding his lungs and making it hard for him to breathe.  He was admitted to the hospital a few weeks ago; they tried to drain the fluid but were unable to get all of it so they operated on him to get it all out.

He is now on the mend and is supposed to be released from the hospital friday or saturday.  They say he should recover completely and be back to his normal self.

This has been a difficult ordeal for all of us; my older brother has born the brunt of his care and I have been helpless to do anything since I am so far away.  His illness, though, has taught me a lot about myself and my feelings for my father.

For as long as I can remember, I believed that I didn't love my dad.  He is not a good person; he has hurt many people in his life, he is not kind, he has no empathy for anyone, is narcissistic, abusive, critical, a pedophile, sexist, racist, and downright mean.  My first nightmare, when I was young enough to be in a baby-bed, featured him as the boogey monster; killing my mom and brother so he could have me all to himself.  All of my nightmares as a child were a variation on that theme... always him, big and powerful, killing and torturing my loved-ones so he could have me.

For I was his favorite child, and he was very obvious about it.  And even though (or perhaps because) I was unattached and didn't like him, and my brother followed him around like an abused puppy, I was always his little princess and got (forced to endure) the mass of his affection.

As soon as I was able  to stop regular visitation with him I did.  I saw him as rarely as possible and believed that I didn't care about him at all.  In the past few years I have patiently listened as he talked for hours about nothing in particular, I saw him as much as my sense of daughterly duty required, and have basically provided the bare minimum of my time and thought.  I have little anger for him, because I don't think he is capable of being a better person than he is, no expectations that he will change, and very little bitterness about what I should have had from him as a father.  All of those things would do nothing to change the past and would only make me unhappy if I were to hang onto them.

And I always thought it would not bother me when he eventually died; until January when he thought he had lung cancer.  When he told me that news I cried for hours, I was sad for days, and preoccupied with his loss for the months since then.  Whether or not I actually LOVE him, he is a huge part of my life.  I can't actually imagine the world without him in it, and I have come to realize that I will lose a part of myself when he is gone.

There is nothing for me to do now except be as good of a daughter to him as I can be.  To listen without reproof when he advises me, counsel him to forget about petty worries and concentrate on getting better, pretend to follow his wisdom, and tell him that I know he did his best for both of his children.

Because, I feel sorry for this man.  The only good I know of that he has brought to this world is the children he created and the children we have produced.  He has lived as a selfish and mean person and is alone because of it.  He has hurt, even destroyed, other people and I'm sure that he is now regretting his bad deeds.  He knows he is nearing the end of his life and he is very much alone in his suffering.

Many might say he deserves this suffering, and more.  Perhaps he does, but it is still hard to see. And now he is finding God and I hope he is finding comfort in it... I hope he will come to peace with what he has and has not done and end his life in comfort.

And this is what I believe religion is for on a personal level.  It is a vehicle for finding comfort and meaning throughout the hardships of life and in the yawning endlessness of death.  I do not have religion or it's comfort, but I hope that Lily will possess the faith I cannot find.  I believe that religion, or belief in God, makes people happier and that the happiness it brings to individuals is reason enough to support its being.

For that is what is important in life... happiness.  We all look for it and will hopefully find it during our time here on earth.  I know that many people cite the cruelty and war that has historically been wrought by religious fanatacism as a reason for religion to be done away with.  I know that religion has been the cause of more death and destruction than any other source in history... but I would say that it was not relion that caused such wrong-doing, but rather a fanatacism that can be attached to any belief, any cause.

I have personally seen faith as a mostly good influence in the lives of my friends and family.  It is, for them, a source of strength and satisfaction.  I would not want to see that taken away from them any more than I would want to be forced to lie and say I have faith when I have none.

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