Happy Mother’s AND Father’s Day to me
It was a disagreement that did not sit well with me. Talking with my boyfriend who never knew his father and was reared by his mother, I commented how I like it when children growing up with single moms celebrate their mothers on Father’s Day. “Yeah, my mom always wanted me to do that growing up. I never liked it,” my bf said. “She didn’t do what a father does; no mom can,” and that was that. I deliberately chose not to press him on the matter because I felt heat rise in my face, a tell-tale sign when I’m getting angry. We were on the phone, so I quickly got off and blamed it on work.
And our conversation got me to thinking what defines a father from a mother. Clearly in a two parent, two gender household the differences are clear. Mothers are different from Fathers in so much as Mom is different from Dad, but I don’t think any family decides that Mom isn’t so much Motherly if she’s into sports and Dad isn’t so much Fatherly if he stays home with the kids. In whole family homes, you just celebrate mom and dad on their respective days and why put any more thought into it than that? Mom gets celebrated on her day and Dad gets celebrated on his, and everyone is happy.
But for the single parent, Mother’s or Father’s Day takes on a whole new meaning. And I don’t mean the single parents who are actually co-parenting. Those parents, though they don’t live together, ARE still in their roles of mom and dad. Maybe one tends to step up more than the other (and let’s be honest, it’s probably the mom if so), but on the whole, single parents who are co-parenting with their ex I’m gonna venture to say don’t wrestle with the same questions and vexations I, a sole single parent, do…does…grammar here??
Years ago when my son was young we (my husband and I) had a nanny. She was a single mom with two grown daughters and I remember on Father’s Day her talking on the phone with one of her daughters and cooing and saying thank you and when she got off the phone she recounted how her two girls were wishing her a happy Father’s Day and always have because they told her she did everything a Father would do for them. That really made an impression on me and I’ve carried that sentiment in my heart all these years, and when I finally became a single mom after my divorce and when my ex moved to the opposite side of the country never to see or speak to his son but for a handful of times I year, I found myself feeling very much like my old nanny. But I had a son, not two grown daughters, and he was sorely unaware of how much I want to be honored on Father’s Day. So when my boyfriend quipped he didn’t believe in that sort of thing, my skin burned.
So what makes a Father a father? What makes a mother a mother? I’ll start with mothers because they seem to be easier to define:
Mothers take care of you when you are sick
Mothers pack your school lunches
Mothers make you breakfast and get you ready for school
Mothers cook dinner
Mothers get involved in your school
Mothers clean the house and do the laundry
Mothers sign you up for extracurricular activities
Mothers remember important dates and make sure you attend them
Mothers teach you etiquette and good manners
Mothers take you to doctors’ appointments
Mothers buy you clothes and school supplies
Mothers decorate the house
Mothers set up play dates
Mothers go grocery shopping
Mothers teach you how to treat a girl
Mothers are softer than Fathers
Mothers are gentle
Mothers kiss you where it hurts
Mothers sing to you at night
Mothers rock you when you’re a baby
Mothers literally carry you in their bodies as a baby
All of these traits I carry for my son – except maybe the being softer than Dad part. When I was married, my husband was the softer one in our parenting.
What do father do?
Fathers teach you how to be a man
Fathers talk to you about sex (if you’re a boy)
Fathers take you to sports games
Fathers teach you how to mow the lawn and do handy work
Fathers teach you how to be tough and throw a punch
Fathers wrestle with you
Fathers throw the ball with you
Fathers teach you how to treat a girl
Fathers buy big purchases like cars
Fathers take you on camping trips and one on one trips
Fathers teach you about finances
Fathers are the breadwinners
Fathers speak for the family
Fathers protect the house and their family
Fathers are tough
Fathers show you how to love a woman
Fathers show you how to respect a man and how to respect a woman and the differences there
And half of those I do for my son. The second half actually. I didn’t even intend to write it that way – the first part being things I don’t do and the second part being the things that I do, but what miffs me is that because my son’s father has shirked his responsibilities as a father, I have to pick up the slack, and for that I should be celebrated on Father’s Day as well. All single parents who really truly are doing this on their own, should be celebrated. Maybe I don’t have a penis, but I certainly am the only one teaching my son about how to respect a woman, and though I am terribly underqualified to teach a boy how to be a man, his father isn’t, so that work is left up to me. I don’t even know how to talk to my son about sex – that doesn’t seem to be the department he nor I want to be near together, but it has to be done. Everything my ex shirks, I either pick up the slack or my son misses out on. And this is what keeps me up at night: the guilt of knowing there are things my son is missing out on because I can’t or won’t do them. I’m not taking my son out to throw the football; I don’t want to and I don’t know how to. Every male family member in my son’s life I ask to teach my son sports and they all nod and then don’t follow through. They don’t get it, and after asking so many of them, it becomes unnerving. Don’t they see! Don’t these men see that their grandson/nephew/cousin needs a man in his life and that I’m asking them to cover some of that lost territory?! Is this something I should add to the list of what mothers do: take the emotional and social temperature of their child and act accordingly? But I have to think single Dads would be sensitive to this too. I think it’s the people that AREN’T single parents who don’t get it despite being told, despite being asked. And I guess I can’t blame them – I didn’t think a whole lot about single parents until I was one. I just knew I never wanted to be a single parent! Yet here I am.
Making the above list has been helpful because I see that in many ways I’m not a Dad. But in many ways I am, so maybe what would feel right is to be celebrated for half of what makes a Father – or maybe even ¾ of what makes a Dad. I know I don’t embody it all, but I do embody way more than my son’s actual father, so the fact he gets patted on the back every year on a certain day for being a Father seems wrong and is actually quite upsetting. He’s getting half of my glory. Half of my hard work. He craps out a quality here or there and is celebrated simply because he ejaculated inside my vagina and his sperm tackled my egg. Other than that, he’s not contributed much else to the Father category.
I deserve to get half celebrations on this day and the fact that I hear almost nil publicly on the subject is surprising to me. In the face of women’s equality and same sex couples with kids, shouldn’t we be exploring what it means to be a father and mother? As we redefine what it means to be a family and gender roles, wouldn’t that include what it means to be a father or mother?
And I know my reward is my actual child. First, that I have one as so many want kids and can’t have them. And second, that he is mine. I get the joy of seeing his sweet cherub face every morning when I wake him up and every night when I kiss him to sleep. I get to see that. I get to experience that. I get to talk to him in person every day. I get to hear about his days and who he likes and meet his friends. I get to see his report cards and clutch my proud heart. I get to hear from people on a regular basis what a stellar son I have. And his father experiences none of that. So I guess if he gets a special day once a year, so be it. I know who the real winner is.
But it would be nice to get an acknowledgement on this day. Just a word or two to say, hey we see your hard work and we honor that hard work and we also recognize how shitty his father is and even shittier it is for your son how much he misses out. I still would really like to hear something like that. That would be nice. That would go a long way to satisfy the rumbling in my heart. And would cool the heat in my cheeks.
I wear a ring on my left ring finger. The finger that is for brides. But I’m not a bride anymore. I was once. But not anymore.
The ring I bought when I was married. I bought it during a time when I wasn’t wearing my wedding ring anymore. Because my husband had hurt my heart one too many times. It had been almost a decade of abuse and adultery and I could take it no more, so I stopped wearing my wedding ring.
It felt good. Like a real “Fuck you” to him. To our marriage. To his attitude and general being. He was an asshole. Then I started rehearsal for a show with new people and I didn’t wear my wedding band. That was okay. Most of the people there knew I was married, but the new ones didn’t. I kinda liked feeling like I wasn’t married when I was.
I had an affair during that show. I don’t think not wearing my wedding band did it, but it certainly dressed the stage.
Then I started rehearsals for a new show with all new people and I thought, ya know this is kinda trickery not wearing a wedding band, advertising that I’m single. That’s not fair to anyone, so I should wear something. But I’m not gonna wear that shitty ring that means nothing. But I need to wear something.
So I drove to James Avery, THE Texas jewelry store and found a ring for me to wear on my left ring finger. It’s silver and it consists of small rings encircling my finger but it’s one solid piece. The individual rings are kinda twisty and broken looking. I liked it because that’s how my marriage felt – broken.
My marriage ended and I continued seeing the man I had an affair with. He gave me a ring after we’d dated a couple years. It is my favorite ring I’ve ever received, let alone ever seen. It was his great aunt’s and it looks like it was made for my hand. It’s so beautiful. But that man has hurt my heart a lot lately, and so I stopped wearing that ring. It started feeling hollow and the ring started losing its status.
I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage lately. Well, relationships really. Broken hearts and stolen hopes. Hopes that one day I’d be happily married. I’m not married anymore, but I feel I know marriage better than most people. I relate to the married and the single folk and the parents and the single parent folks. And in the midst of relating to so many different kinds of people and nursing my breaking heart as another man steals my focus and shatters my dreams, I put the ring back on. To remind me that I’m indeed broken, but that marriage was never too far from my reality nor my heart and that the ring I wear on my left hand is for me, bought by me and no one else and that God is kinda my husband right now.
Funny, but the affair man commented on this ring yesterday. Said he liked it. That felt weird.
Two kinds of ice cream, getting along.
Five different crayons and I forget the rest of the lyrics.
Happiness is sleeping in late,
Chocolate chip cookies,
Fitting into a smaller size
Bumping into friends,
Jason Bourne movies
Warm sunny days
Puffy Clouds in the sky
Texas summer nights
Christmas in New York
The smell of fall
Your boyfriend writing you a song
Laughing with your children
I came upon this blog I wrote when I lived in LA. It's apropos still today, even in a different town.
Acquaintances. This city is full of acquaintances. I’m so tired of fighting for friendships. Relationships that mean something and actually stand for something. This whole city is full of wannabes – people who are trying to make it in this industry, and yet no one wants to help a brother out. No one, save a few exceptions, wants to support someone beside themselves.
Right now I’m in a show. It’s a big show – My Fair Lady – and I’m playing Eliza – a big role. It’s a damn good production. Our leads are stellar, and everyone I know who’s seen the show is beside themselves. The main mantra I hear is, “I’ve seen this show a thousand times, and this is the best production I have every seen of it – including the movie.” So, with that kind of feedback, I feel confident that if my friend shells out the money and time to come see me in it, they will not be disappointed. It’s also an 8 show a week, 3 month run, so basically, one has about 100 opportunities to see this sucker. It’s also a little out of town, so I’m not around at church or parties these days. In other words, everyone knows where I am and what I’m doing. Before I left I also told everyone, and everyone said they were so excited – that they wanted to come. Again, most of these people are or have been in the industry, so we’re all on the same page of what it is I’m doing and what it is they’re proclaiming to come out and support.
It’s during moments like this, you learn who is a real friend and who isn’t. I’m over, OVER, the lip service. I’m over this fake “I am coming – can’t wait”, then procrastinating til the last weekend and feigning astonishment that the show is sold out. Or even worse, making up some lame reason why you can’t come the last three weekends of the show. What about the other 8? Again, these are not the computer nerds my husband works with that are flaking that I have a problem with. It’s my friends, my close friends, who are in the entertainment industry, who invite me to their shows and their open-mike nights in their kitchen, and I come to see them. I kill myself getting to their shows sometimes. If it’s a one-nighter, I still somehow make it. And yet. And yet, with the close ties, the many opportunities, the industry understanding, and the promises spoken, a whopping 3 people show up to the show. 3. 3 out of I don’t know how many I invited and how many said they’d come without any prompting from me.
So, here’s the end of my rant, and the beginning of my plea. Can you tell I’m pissed? People, get over yourselves and go out and support your friends. The “busy” excuse has got to be eradicated from our lips. No one’s that busy. Okay, maybe a few, but most of us, when we use that lame-o excuse are really just saying, “At the end of the day, I found better things to do.” I would much rather hear that, than “Oh gosh, we wanted to come, but blah blah blah.” Stand by your word, people. Make plans. Write things on your calendar and go. Whenever I get an invitation, I immediately write the address and phone number of the theatre on my day planner, so I have no excuse. All the information’s there, and when I check my calendar, I already see I have plans and won’t find something to squeeze the event out. This is what friends do. Do I want to go see all my friends shows? No! Do some of my friends have serious lacks of talent, and I know that I’ll be squirming in my seat most the night? Yes! But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I’m there telling them by my presence that THEY matter. That I love and care for them. And you know what? A lot of times I see GREAT theatre! I see some shows and some actors I never knew about, but they blow me away and it’s really exciting. I get ideas, I get tips, I get monologues, I get casting sneak-peeks, I get inspired, I get moved. And I never regret going.
I once heard someone say, “A friend isn’t someone who necessarily remembers your birthday, but they’re the person that shows up on your doorstep to help you move.”
I think that’s true. It’s the people that sacrifice their time and money that are your real friends. Don’t believe me – look at your credit card or bank statement. Whatever is on there is what’s important to you. If someone called you at the last minute and said they had tickets to go see your favorite band, but you have to go in two hours, would you go? I think so. You’d find the time. Even last minute. Even at a monetary price. If we can do this for strangers, why can’t we do this for our friends?
Through all the years to come
And through all the tears to come
I know I’ll be yours
From this day on!
It’s a little line at the end of a not well known song at the end of an equally not well known musical called Brigadoon. It’s a fanciful musical that hasn’t seen the Broadway stage since 1981. And yet this line haunts me.
It’s some of the most gloriously romantic chords I’ve ever heard in a song, complete with perfectly synced lyrics. It makes me stand in awe of the writings of these men from the 60s who wrote such timeless, aching, hopeful music.
And this refrain at the end of the song just gets me. I cry every time I hear it and I’ve been hearing it a lot lately as I've been practicing singing the refrain.
There’s something so eternal about that line of music. It escalates so effortlessly and protests of an eternal love we all long for and maybe feel every once or twice in our lives and yet still cling to the hope that that kind of love really does exist for us.
Some people get that love. A few couples’ faces come to mind. I often wonder about these couples: do they lay in bed next to one another and dream together and whisper their undying devotion to one another year after year after year. I think they do.
I used to have those moments, as I lay in my boyfriend’s arms half asleep after making love and I’d hear him whisper, “I wanna marry you.” But he doesn’t believe or say those things anymore, and I don’t know if I want to marry him anyway.
But the dream is still there.
I want to punch my friend in the face who this past weekend started asking about that dream.
She inquired if I wanted to get married again. I brushed her question off with a very, in my mind, well thought out and confidently mature response of “Nah, I’m okay without it. I’m not opposed to getting married again, but it’s not something I need. Been there, done that.”
“Is it because you feel like you don’t deserve it?” and I waved her query off just as easily. I have no regrets over my marriage or my fight to save it. I have no regrets for falling in love with a married man and trying to make it work. Yes, adultery is wrong, but cheating on a cheater doesn’t register as too foul in my book, so I have no regrets.
“No, that’s not it at all. I don’t need to get remarried because last time it was so hard fighting for it that I don’t have a burning desire to do that again. It’s not out of fear, but rather fatigue, and so I’d be peachily content with a long term commitment of sorts. And the second reason is is that speaking to women who are separated or divorced and me being remarried just kinda sounds annoying. It rings a little edgy and progressive not to need a ring.”
“Yes,” my friend says, “but you really don’t think it’s because you feel you don’t deserve it?” and as I started to repeat my so-sure response, tears welled up in my eyes and I realized she got me. Dammit. I actually said that out loud when I realized she was right. Dammit.
It’s not that I don’t think I deserve remarriage, it’s that I don’t want to fuck up someone else’s life. I don’t want to burden someone with so much baggage that comes with me. And I realized it’s why I turn away men in their 20s or 30s because I see how they have their whole lives ahead of them and even though I’m smack dab between 30s and 40s, unless you have an ex-spouse and children too, I don’t want to give you that kind of weight if you don’t already have it.
Dammit. I’ve been sitting on this thorny truth the last few days and I don’t like what it brings up, because what am I supposed to do? Pray to God that he’d make me feel worthy – that He’d orchestrate some poor guy to want to take on my burdens, my past, my fucked-up-ness? And then what if God doesn’t answer that prayer? Then I’m left feeling whole and healthy and ultimately unrequited in the love I’m ready to give?
No, it’s easier to believe I am damaged goods and not that I’m undeserving of something good, but in my humanity – my humane-ness, I don’t want to weigh a sweet man down. And the kind of man what would want to be with me would be sweet and wonderful, because I am sweet and wonderful and therefore HE doesn’t deserve the ugliness that comes with my past.
And so I come full circle to this beautiful song that haunts me because it cries of an everlasting love – a love that transcends time and plunges the depths of all knowledge and pain and the mysterious eternity. I want a love like that. I always have. I always have, and when I hear it it brings tears to my eyes because I want to believe love like that exists. For me.
I am staring at an ocean, God.
I think back to where I was a while ago.
The ocean looked different then.
It was wide and glorious and I was happy looking at it.
Then You came and threw in the fish.
And the sea was teaming with life.
And it was more glorious than before.
And I stood in awe and thankfulness.
And then you took the fishes away.
And the ocean wasn’t teaming anymore.
It was empty then.
And it doesn’t seem as beautiful.
I cannot forget the way I once saw it.
I cannot forget how it had been.
And now I feel You asking me to stare at an empty ocean again and be happy,
And forget it’s empty.
I liked it better when I didn’t know.
Last night was the most significant conversation I’ve ever had with my son.
It was a normal school night and I tucked my son in bed around 8:30. Went to my room to finish a book for my new book club starting tomorrow. About half an hour later I heard a funny noise coming from my son’s room. I walked down the hall to his room and heard the tears before I got to the door. He was curled up, sobbing.
“I miss Dad.”
I pause here because there’s no way to accurately describe the type of feeling that comes upon a single parent when they hear this. For each parent I know it’s different depending on the circumstances (is the other parent deceased, on a long term work project far away, on the other side of the country because he doesn't give two shits about being near his son?), but the range of emotions is wide whenever I hear my son say this. Because there is nothing I can do to fix it. And there are no words I can say to fix it. It’s a mixture of helplessness and anger and frustration and sorrow and just about every feeling one can feel watching the creature you love more than anything in the world be tormented by the actions of their own flesh and blood. I cannot undo that divorce. I cannot make his father care. I cannot open up his Dad’s brain and scream into the abyss “DO YOU SEE WHAT YOU’RE DOING TO HIS HEART?!?!?”
So, I crawl into my son's bed and say, “Tell me about that.”
It's the phrase we learned in those adoption classes I took a few years ago after we brought my daughter back from Siberia. “Tell me about that.” It’s a magical phrase. It works every time – it’s direct enough to elicit a response and gentle enough to sound safe.
And my son continues to sob and repeat how he misses his Dad. And then the next line. “Everything was great until we moved to New York.”
And then the feeling of frustration and defensiveness overtakes the feeling of concern and openness.
Up to this point, my son has never phrased the timeline of our lives in that way. And I knew I was at a crossroads where I could continue to kick the can down the road of WHY his father and I divorced or I could be honest this time. He was 10. 10 ½ actually, and being the old soul he is, more with the emotional maturity of a 12 year old.
It’s time. Time to tell him the truth.
So I did. Gently. I didn’t talk about how awful his deadbeat Dad is, but I did correct my son’s understanding of the timeline: No things didn’t go bad once we moved here. Things were bad before. Way before. Before you were born kind of before. And the reason we moved here was BECAUSE it was bad.
I then went on to explain that his father just didn’t want to be married. And that the reason he wasn’t around was because the first year of our separation, his father was on drugs and making terrible decisions like filing for divorce because he had a new girlfriend, and moving to California to be near her. How else should I explain why his Dad chose to do that? I can’t shroud it in love. I can’t say it was due to work or that he had a great opportunity out West he couldn’t miss. What’s more important than being with your son? No, the only way I could make sense of it to Drew was to explain it away with drugs and that drugs make you do foolish things and that his Dad isn’t probably on drugs anymore and it’s why he’s making an effort to see Drew more now.
To quell any thoughts that maybe things could have turned around when we got to New York, I make it plain to Andrew that even before he was born Daddy betrayed me and that I forgave him, but that he just couldn’t will himself to stay married. That he wanted to have more girlfriends and you can't do that when you're married. So he didn’t want to be married and that’s why we’re not married.
And the thing that sucks about this is that I WANT to build his father up. I WANT to be able to say, “Hey, he was a lousy husband but he loves you so much and that’s never gonna change and he’s such a good Dad.” But I can’t. Because he’s a shit father who doesn’t pay child support but rather flies ladies on around-the-world trips with him. The kind of father who takes our daughter to Vegas for her 8th birthday so he can bring a ladyfriend and leave our daughter in the hotel so he can go out and gamble with a woman, but be able to tell everyone he went there for his little girl’s birthday. I WANT to say the opposite. But I can’t. And I won’t lie because how could I possibly say that THOSE kinds of actions are love? I can’t. I won’t devalue the term of what love is by bringing it down to some sentimental level with absolutely zero substance. No, Drew’s father is shit. So I just state facts. I don’t go into detail about how awful and hard it was or how angry it makes me – I’m honestly not trying to trash the guy because I know it will not help the situation. But I do want to bring clarity to the confusion my son has held for four years that I’ve never explained away.
And so sitting on my 10 year old’s bed last night, I did. I explained it. I let the cat out of the bag. And I did it in the most gentle and direct way I could. But there’s not a whole lot you can do to ease the sting of such truths. Adulterating drug users who choose an escort girlfriend from Vegas over their 6 year old son is kinda hard to sugarcoat. But I tried.
It didn’t work. Shocker.
My son started crying more. I asked him what was bringing on more tears and he cried, “I thought my father was good!”
Ohhhhhh. Oh, son. A truth a little body like yours should not have to ingest at such a young age.
“Just when you think you can trust the people you know, you can’t. No one’s good! No one!” and my son is quoting scripture though he does not know it.
“You’re right honey. No one is good. Not one.” And with this I think he is confused because he is expecting me to say otherwise – to ease his fears: no, people are really good and your Dad really is good and here’s how your thinking went wrong. But I’m not gonna do that either. I can’t. I can’t lie like that.
I explain that ultimately no one is good and everyone makes mistakes and sometimes people make mistakes for years and years and years but the important part is that we eventually try to make amends. We eventually try to do good things.
“What’s the point of being good?!” my son cries.
MORE deep philosophical questions from such a young kid!
So then we’re off talking about temporary pain vs eternal rewards and how bad guys sometimes win though they have internal misery, and my son bats, “Well, what’s the point in doing good over someone who does bad? You tell me bad guys can't sleep at night. Well, I can’t sleep at night because I'm miserable, so what’s the difference?”
And then I tell him age plays a part and that if he wants to try being selfish for a while and seeing where it gets him and how it makes him feel, he can try it.
I finish with some stories about God and answered prayer in my life and that God still loves Drew’s Dad and hasn’t given up on him even if I have at times. Drew starts to smile with these stories.
And then Drew shares a way in which he heard God speak to him that day, and it is the most incredible thing I’ve heard in a while. I am surprised by the simple truth that God has a private separate relationship with my son and hears his prayers and speaks to him. I know I’ve always known that’s true, but had never really considered how very real that bond is, as real as mine, and just starting, but the newness doesn’t make it any less intense or real. Drew, in silence that day, posed a question to God. And then asked for a sign. And God answered.
God spoke to my son yesterday. And he heard Him.
At this point Drew has come full circle. The tissue box is spent and has sputtered a flurry of white all over the floor. But my son’s face seems at peace. We’ve been talking for nearly two hours. It’s late. I tell my boy I love him and he falls asleep.
I know my words weren’t perfect. I know maybe I said too much at times or too little. But I rest assured that every other time Drew has asked about what happened between his father and me I’ve always told him I’ll tell him when he’s older. I haven’t wanted to rush this. And in that moment it felt it was the time.
This morning before school Drew seemed happy – at peace. I meant to bring up last night and if he wanted to say anything, but instead we were busy learning how to unlock a lock he was bringing to school for his new locker. He was very excited about learning how to turn the dial and get the shiny thing to open.
Going from closed to open.
I watched The Passion of the Christ last night.
So many thoughts.
First, couldn’t believe how long it’s been since the film was released. Twelve years. Has it really been that long?
So many memories.
Living in Los Angeles at the time made for a hotbed of frenzy around the film. The church was ecstatic and defensive of the piece. Mel was defensive of the piece, going on Dianne Sawyer, talking about the Gospel. It was a good time for Christians.
At the time I worked out of a private home in Malibu in a small neighborhood that housed Britney Spears, Olivia Newton John, and Mel Gibson. A co-worker and fellow-believer of mine commented how she saw Mel walking the neighborhood streets one day and wanted to pull over the car and say, “Hey, we all support you,” because the publicity was also brutal on Mr. Gibson.
I saw the film with my then boyfriend who later became my husband who later became my ex-husband. But as we sat innocently in that theatre that night, I remember being struck by his sobbing at one point. He doesn’t sob. He’s not a sobber, and one particular scene made him bowl over. Ironically, it was the scene about the adulterous woman. Years later when I questioned my husband’s salvation, this memory came to mind, and it became an answer that yes, at least once upon a time he loved Jesus. Also ironically that night after we watched the movie with all our church friends, we went back to my apartment, and he tried to feel me up. I pushed his hands away a couple times, then finally caved. I felt guilty about it later.
I also worked at Disney TV animation at the time and I remember my two bosses, one a believer, one an agnostic (or maybe atheist) went to the film and brought THEIR Jewish executive boss. It was kind of amazing how far the tendrils of that movie stretched to all peoples.
I remember hearing Jim Caviezel speak and accept an award on behalf of Gregory Peck’s film and moral goodness legacy at some Catholic film event, and Jim, after having just played JESUS, went off! I mean like in a good way, shouting/preaching about the sword of the Spirit and the Shield of Mary (what? oh, he’s Catholic) and going into the land and spreading the word, fighting the good fight. It was a beautiful impassioned Braveheart sort of speech (another Mel movie), and it was quite surreal because Jim Caviezel was like a movie star and he was all talking about Jesus and stuff. And years later I’d find myself laying in bed with my boyfriend asking him about the time he was on Person of Interest and what Jim Caviezel was like. “He never broke character, after every take he’d stare squarely into a focused space…or do push-ups,” I was told. And yes I said “in bed with my boyfriend” as I’m talking about the guy who played Jesus and yes I feel guilty about that.
And I remember Mel’s downfall after that. Sugar tits. OctoDad. Face beatings. My heart breaks for him. You can’t make a movie that big about Jesus and not set yourself up square in Satan’s target. There was a red laser mark on that man’s forehead, and though he’s responsible for his own behavior to be sure, his fall was so public and humiliating and black-balling, that I can only imagine it was because of the good that he did with that film.
And after all those memories hash out in my mind, I am brought to the today, watching The Passion in 2016, the night before Maundy Thursday with my little 9 year old boy, as he’s screaming at Judas, wishing he’d “die a terrible brutal death only to be revived again so he could die some more.” I tried to explain to my son that if it wasn’t for Judas, Jesus wouldn’t have died, and in some way we wouldn’t have wanted to avert Judas’s actions. He didn’t care. He wanted him tortured. And he also wanted the Romans tortured too for what they did to Jesus. I tried to remind him that the point was that Jesus forgave those Romans and those Jews for what they did. And he wouldn’t have had to die if WE hadn’t messed up too. I didn’t like seeing Jesus whipped and tortured on account of me, and I wrestled with weighing my sins: were they really THAT bad? And yes, some of them were. Some of them are. And some of them aren’t, though theologically I’m not supposed to say that. And I found myself questioning what sins I was willing to give up because look what this man did for me! And I didn’t like that some sins I didn’t want to give up, even as I’m watching Jesus writhe in pain, because I can’t reconcile how some of my sins are worth THAT. But they are. And I am heartbroken over my sinfulness and God’s loving grace.
And then as the movie wore on (and yes I say wore on because watching Christ’s agonizing walk to the cross beat down was a beat down), my son asked, begged me if we could skip the crucifixion part. And I wondered if this movie was too much for my child. Probably, I found myself answering. But it’s also kinda the most important thing ever to happen in the history of mankind, so no, we’re not gonna skip this part, plus you play Call of Duty Black Ops, so you should be used to gore right now (but let’s be honest JB, no one’s using leather strips laced with metal spikes and gouging them into the back of an innocent’s skin in Call of Duty, so) no he’s not used to this you’re a bad mother showing him this…or am I maybe a GOOD mother for showing him this? Is this going to scar him, these images of Christ? What’s a mother to do? And I assured my son we were NOT going to skip the crucifixion, thought I said he could go to bed if he wanted. He didn’t want. So we finished the film and he was scared and asked if he could sleep with me.
And after he fell asleep, I found myself wanting to tell the world what I just saw. This movie that disturbed me and moved me to tears and convicted me and angered me and surprised me. This movie that no one’s come close to doing justice like it did. This movie that holds so many loaded memories and continues to affect my life. This movie. This Jesus. This man who came for Jews and then saved me too. This man who loves me. This man who if I was alive when he was would’ve looked into my soul and seen everything there. This man who would’ve put his arms around me as my earrings dangled and said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” This man who would’ve kissed my cheek in joy if I was his mother. This man who walked the earth and suffered a violent and brutal death. For me. This man. This God. I am in awe and humbled. Thank you Jesus.
I watched The Karate Kid this summer. By myself. I was in a hotel and it came on TV and I thought, what the heck, let’s watch this. So I did.
For anyone growing up with that movie, watching it as an adult is no less thrilling than the first time seeing it. Remembering scenes or character mannerisms that struck me when I was 7, strike me now 30 years later. The way Daniel bangs the apartment building wall after he gets jumped, “I hate it here, Ma! I hate it here! Why can’t we just move home?!” Or the way Ali mauls Daniel with her locks of hair as she grabs his neck after his tournament victory. Or the way Daniel’s mom was always so…happy.
I remember watching her as a kid, knowing I knew nothing about single mothers of boys, but being fascinated with her. There was something about her I admired. Her strength. I understood it even as a child. I don’t know why. I knew no single moms at 7. The only moms I knew were ones who were married. The single moms were always gone, I guess working or something. So I never really had any kind of relationship with a single mom until I was out of college. But before that, even as a small child, when I’d see them in film or on TV, they fascinated me. Lily Tomlin in 9-5? I was mesmerized with her. And it wasn’t the divorced moms. It wasn’t the moms co-parenting. It was the single moms who were completely single. No boyfriend, no ex laying around somewhere. Single. On their own. With no help from a man. Why did I find these women strong? I don’t know. But I did.
I watched The Karate Kid again last night. But this time not alone. This time with my 8 year old son, about the age I was when I first saw the movie. And as I remembered my 6 and 3 year old brothers kicking each other in the backyard and signing up for Tae Kwon Do class after they saw the movie, I sat there and watched my boy do the same last night. Fully engrossed, exclaiming that yes! he’d like me to sign him up for Karate class.
And I cried as now the strength I so admired in Ms. LaRusso I find I must exhibit now in my real life. I am more like her than I ever imagined. Moving across the country with just my son. No mention of Dad anywhere. I remember being puzzled why she was so happy – she was poor and on her own, but somehow she was happy. And that happiness struck me as a child. It stayed with me. And it strikes me now. I admire her strength and the happy hope she carried. I want that. I want that sunny outlook on life. That never-gonna-get-me-down attitude. It was beautiful. I noticed it then. I notice it now.
I wonder if my fascination with single moms in the movies was an omen for my own life. I never imagined in a million years I’d be a single mom. It is quite the opposite of what I imagined for my life. I knew I wanted to get married, but I never daydreamed of kids. Ever. Like ever. Like I’m not exaggerating. I never imagined me pregnant or holding a toddler or driving kids to baseball practice. That thought never entered my mind. Not once. I daydreamed of getting married and having a husband and growing old together, but never in my 30 years before I actually got pregnant did I ever even have a flashing image of having children. Only marriage. And I never contemplated divorce. I knew I’d never get divorced. I was gonna marry for life and I was gonna marry a Christian, and if I was lucky enough to find a Godly man who loved me, that was that – my life was set. Happiness achieved. And now here I am, having been married, newly divorced, and with a child. I am a single mom.
How did I get here?
I often think God gives us the children we never expected to have to teach us growth. I meet so many macho dads that despite their trying, never gain a son. Instead they have five princesses to take care of. I see girly moms sigh as their two boys have it out for the third time that afternoon and look wistfully at their neighbor’s daughter coloring quietly. I see adults who want babies so bad never get them and kids who never want them get pregnant out of wedlock. Why does God give us exactly the opposite of what we want? I don’t know. Part of me thinks it’s cruelty, but the other part knows He’s good. And that He has His reasons.
“We were adopted as sons…”
Whenever I would read that verse, I would always get a real wholesome, hearty feeling. Adoption. That sounded so theologically great, and when applied to adoption by humans here on earth, I would think of how much I would understand God’s love in a new and different light if I ever adopted. If I ever adopted and got to hold and caress a child, tenderly gazing into their eyes, thinking how much I loved them and how much they must love me.
Well, I have adopted, and to be true, there is no sweet gazing. Though my daughter has no issues locking eyes with me, something most adoptees wrestle with, it’s more of a “Who are you and can I really trust you” than a cooing “Ahhh, mommy daddy, I love you, you saved me” kind of thing.
When I compare my relationship to our daughter, I find that I really have learned nothing about the overwhelming fluffy feelings of love God has for us as His spiritually adopted children. But what I have learned is the difference between a pure blood relationship and one that is forced.
Our biological son had no problem trusting his father nor me. The moment he came into this world, we his parents were there. There was no Drew in the world without mommy and daddy in the world. Drew’s world has only included his father and me. There is no world that exists to Drew that does not include his father and me, his parents.
Enter Julie. Her world started with no acknowledgement on either party’s part of each other’s existence. When we did finally meet 10 months later, we were strangers. Us more of a stranger to her, as we had at least seen pictures, knew her name, and had the mental capacity to understand even what was going on. But her world was rocked. New people, new language, new smells, new environment, and what was this…love? What is that? Holding and caring and tending to needs and wants? This new way of doing things was foreign to her. And foreign was and is not welcome.
So today as I was pondering the spiritual ramifications of this verse in light of the fact that I have now indeed adopted a child, and what does that mean, I realized I really just understand what it means to be a stranger. And an enemy. Through the screaming fits, and the temper tantrums, and the not listening and sheer disobedience, coupled with a definite language barrier, I have at many times been at odds with my daughter. I have not felt one with her, or that she is part of me, nor that she came through me. She didn’t. She isn’t. But I’m trying, because that’s what adoption is. And when I compare my relationship with her to the no-issues relationship with my son, I see the stark difference between what a pure Garden of Eden relationship God intended with us is, and now what we have due to that one initial sin that continues to trickle down every heartbeat. How much easier life would be if sin hadn’t separated us. If when we entered the world, we knew God. If we trusted Him without a thought. If there was no locking eyes in distrust and apprehension. What a much more beautiful world it would be. And here I understand God’s goodness through His ultimate intention of goodness, and what we have traded it in for, and what we continually trade it in for – fighting, not trusting, not knowing. Not knowing and believing that He is good and worthy and knows. He knows what I need like I know what my daughter needs. But she doesn’t believe me. Doesn’t believe that I am good and that I love her and that I want the best for her. So we are at war, and it’s hard to be at war with your daughter.
I just listened to a new CD. It was from a man I met on a plane and we ended up realizing we had a mutual friend. Then I found out this new person was a Christian. And a musician. We had a fantastic conversation and as we de-planed, he handed me one of his CD’s. I was excited. The guy seemed legit and really to love God and he was a professional musician, so I figured the CD would probably be good.
Oh how wrong I was.
It was awful. Worse than awful. One of the songs actually spelled out J-E-S-U-S-C-H-R-I-S-T which wouldn’t be so bad if I was five and learning how to spell. But I’m about 30 years over that and take no interest is spelling words in songs unless it's T-to the A-to the S-T-E-Y TASTY from Fergie. That’s as elementary as I’m gonna get. Fergie and her posse are great song writers. And they’re not writing for Jesus. But people like my new plane friend are. They have the Spirit of the Creator God LIVING within them but their music suuuuuuuuuuuucks.
Why is that?
I think it’s a combination of laziness and somehow thinking that your elementary stabs at music composition are worthy enough to be shared. They’re not. Keep them to yourself, like your prayers and journal entries and all the things you share with God but are for the two of you, not anything anyone else wants to hear.
It truly made me sick when I heard this guy’s CD. And what made matters worse was I had just received an unpolished copy of another friend’s new song he just wrote and my God it blew the doors off my mind. It was gorgeous. It was riveting. It was beautiful and thought provoking. My friend wasn’t out to preach, he was out to express. And maybe that’s another problem with Christian music. It’s often born from a place of sending a message than an expression of Spirit. Because if you’re really in tune with the Spirit, He’s not gonna tell you to write some shitty lyrics and put it to shitty chords and spend hundreds of dollars recording in a studio to then spend hundreds more dollars to produce these CDs and pass them out to people. Why do we Christians think that if you stamp the word GOD on your work it’s somehow blessed? It’s not. Shit is shit. You wanna call is GODSHIT, it’s still shit. I’m sorry, but I get really angry at this kind of laziness when it comes to Christians and the arts. Most worship music in church is lazy. Lazy lyrics, lazy composing, lazy arranging. Lazy. Uninspired. Seriously. If my husband or boyfriend were to come to me with lyrics like:
You are so good to me
I love you so much
You are so awesome
Thank you for loving me
And then repeat it 18 times, I would not be impressed. Maybe if my 5 year old did that, but not my 25 or 35 or 45 year old paramour.
And do you think I’d be impressed if he then decided to sing me this poem every few weeks? Would I get excited about that? I already heard it the first time and it sucked. Why would I want to hear it again? Does my boyfriend have nothing new to say to me?
When I drive in my car, do I listen to the same music every day? No, I don’t. And when a radio station keeps playing the same song over and over again, I get annoyed and find another station.
All these questions are rhetorical and we of course would say no to all of them, yet this is exactly what we do to God every effing Sunday:
I don’t wanna be I don’t wanna be a casual Christian
I don’t wanna live I don’t wanna live a lukewarm life
I just wanna light up the night with everlasting light
I don’t wanna live a casual Christian life
Ugh barf vomit shoot me in the face. Those lyrics are the worst. THE WORST. Using my lover analogy, that song can be translated into:
I don’t wanna be I don’t wanna be a casual husband
I don’t wanna have I don’t wanna have a lukewarm wife
I just wanna light up our life with everlasting fun times
I don’t wanna live a casual family life
Oh. My. God. How dumb is that? And yet, that’s exactly what we’re saying to God. All the while thousands of non-believers are out there creating the most magnificent art and moving people and hearts and ways that point to God. Or don’t point to God. But they’re moving people somewhere. Why are we crapping out on God? He deserves better than that.
i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite a new thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which I will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh...And eyes big love-crumbs,
and possibly i like the thrill
of under me you quite so new
i like my body by E. E. Cummings
That’s a poem. That’s a song. That’s Song of Solomon material. Hell, let’s SING Song of Solomon during church. That’d be appropriate. That’d be poetic and lovely. That’s worship. That’s praise. That’s expression. Don't tell me E.E. Cummings wasn’t worshipping something when he wrote that. My God it’s beautiful and erotic and sexy and amazing. God deserves no less tantalizing or pondering worship from His worshippers. Didn’t the lady at the well say the true worshippers will worship in Spirit and Truth? We got the truth down with our lyrics at church – let’s please let the Spirit come in and bring something truly beautiful and profound. And worshipful.