Sunday, July 7, 2013

My Dad's Dream Of The Impossible

I had a few days off from work because of the holiday and decided to just rest and catch up on a few things. One of those things was spending some time with my mom. I don't get to do that as much as I would like.
We had a nice time together, but she was troubled and wanted to talk to me about some things. One of those was her divorce from my father. And in talking about this she told me a story I had never heard or known about. I'm not sure if I'm better or worse for knowing this tidbit, but I do know that this was a very unpleasant conversation for me. I guess it was cathartic for her. And she apologized again (she has before in recent years) for the pain the divorce caused me and my brothers. I confessed that it was one of the two most traumatizing events of my life (my own divorce from my high school sweetheart being the other).
I remember having a man-to-man talk with my dad, before his mind got too bad, in which I was trying to find out why he didn't do more to prevent Mom from leaving. I guess I had always had some hard feelings towards him about that and thought he didn't do enough.
I remember him telling me: "Son, when a woman makes up her mind to do something - like leave you - there is nothing you can do." (I must say that over the years I have found that insight to be generally accurate.) 
But my mom told me of a dream my father had and a conversation it led to between him and her. She told me this with tears in her eyes.
It seems my father had dreamed he was out in a field watching some people playing with remote control helicopters. As he stood there in the field watching a voice called for him to climb inside one of the copters and go for a ride.
Of course Dad objected. "But there is no way I can fit inside;" he said back to the voice.  And the disembodied voiced admonished him that "with God, all things are possible." A quote from Jesus, and one well known to my Pentecostal, miracle-believing parents. 
Mom tells me that Dad felt the dream was God's urging that the two of them should work out their differences and work to heal their marriage, "before things go too far," my dad said.
Through tears my mom told me that she told him she felt things had already gone too far. Now - with the benefit of over forty years of hindsight - she tells me she regrets having brushed him and his dream off so lightly. His dream did trouble her, she confessed to me, but not so much that it halted the momentum in their situation.
I guess my Dad did try in his way to stop the divorce. I remember - and told my mom that I did - making a similar approach to my soon-to-be-exwife that we try to set things straight between us before we got too far from the shore. I had no dream, but I know I must have felt the same thing Dad had felt: that my wife and I were going outside the will of God.
My pleas were met mostly with silence. Dad's were met with outright dismissal. We both suffered the agonizing emotional train wreck of having a wife walk away. For my dad that meant a years-long fall into the bottle. I did much the same thing. And both of us tried to screw our way out of our pain. Maybe that is a guy thing. I don't know. But it didn't work, and only complicated matters for both of us.
After a period of apostasy (my parents were dismissed from the denomination upon their divorce), my folks eventually found their way back into their religion. Dad died in the faith and I have every expectation Mom will as well.
I tried to find my way back. There were times I would visit churches with friends and think about returning to my faith, but I never did. I never could. It started out as anger towards God. Along the way I came to believe that I had held wrong ideas about God. But, whatever.
So now I know a little more about my dad than I did. His stunning fall into sin, that I could not understand as an eleven year old makes much more sense to me now. I realize that for a time Dad gave up on God and thought His promises were void. Somehow he made his way back to God. I don't think I'm smarter than my dad was about this. My dad had a skeptical streak. But I'm certain that for him it was an emotional thing. And I believe my dad could feel more comfortable with women he met in church than he did those he met in my uncle's bar and grill.

My mom got back right with God, too. But it has always been an uneasy truce because she definitely feels she was wrong back then. Mom and Dad made their peace with each other in the waning months of his life. She told me all about that, too, Sad and bittersweet it was.  But as I told her, what can I say, I've made the same mistakes myself. I understand my parents better, being full of their genes and having traveled along some of the same roads they traveled. The fruit doesn't fall far from the tree.    


  1. Just pounding a few keys to let you know I'm still reading. The kind of things you are talking about are such that I don't much know anything to say. I will just mention here that we tend to assume how much better things would be if we had done differently in the past. That is a mere assumption. Beating up on ourselves for perceived mistakes isn't too joyous! Not to say we can't learn from the past, but on a personal level the process is fraught with bias and assumptions Wishing you well.

  2. This is a very interesting read. From my vantage point I think I'd be the better for hearing these tidbits. Just a little more insight into the "why?" of it all.

  3. After my mom's painful divorce, after watching my brothers both divorce in very unscrupulous ways, I made up my mind as teen that I would lead a different life, that I would stay with MY mate FOREVER. I would search for 'the one.' I knew myself. I pride myself at understanding others. I have been, since age 21, with that one person. We will be "till death do us part" this earthly realm, but together forever. We needed no God nor religion to put nor keep us together. I got lucky. I think it is a waste to put much thought into God when it comes to marriage, at least as far as keeping two people happy with each other. I cherish those "tidbit moments" my mom shared with me. They remain only her view, since my dad died at 56, but others collaborate her view. Still...I wish I could look my father in the face and ask, "How could you desert me? WHY did you? How could you wipe 2 sons and a daughter out of your history?" An answer I'll never get. And so it goes.

  4. @ exrelayman,

    Thanks for the kind wishes. I agree that it is easy to make assumptions about how things might have played out if we had acted differently. Logically that is so. But the heart - oh, those damned emotions - conjure up all kinds of flowery scenarios that seem all but real. I think the real pain comes from the realization that we didn't act appropriately in the first place. I know I should let some of this pain go, and yet somehow I can't.

  5. @ Zoe,

    It would be hard to understand me without knowing a bit of my background. People often accuse me of making excuses for the bad behavior of others when I try to take into consideration what I know about a person's childhood and past. "As the twig is bent, so grow the tree."

  6. @ Diane,

    If I had not had the religious framework I did I'm sure I would have thought in terms of Plato's "soul mate" mythology. In fact, no one since ever understood me or loved me the way my ex-wife did.

  7. There is a pang of sorrow in my heart when I hear you speak of your divorce. I am sad. My wife and I will celebrate 47 soon. I can't imagine how much and how often you have suffered over your parting with your love.

  8. @ Don,

    The thing that really pangs me is that I feel that I lacked the maturity to do the wise thing back then. It's odd that I have much more patience now that I have less life left to live! Every thing seemed a crisis when I was young.