“Father forgive them for they know not–”
Luke 23:24 (my edit)
My mother used to say, “Pray.”
I didn’t know what she meant. We were not a religious family, though we had the following progression: She was born, like most Swedes, Lutheran, her mother converted her to Catholicism at age 8, then she converted to Judaism to marry my father, in the States. I’m thinking she must have been taught to pray by the nuns in Stockholm.
Right after the Rabbi converted her, he said, “That’s funny, you don’t look Jewish.”
After the family shattered, she raised us alone, in NYC and Sweden, with too many problems to incorporate formal religious structures. Also, Sweden was almost militantly atheist when we moved here, winter of 1976. I was at the time attending the Catholic School, Convent Of The Sacred Heart in New York City, and working toward a conversion to Catholicism. The move to Sweden ended all that–cut it off like a severed electrical cable. There was just no way.
Instead, the Swedish Communists got hold of my 12 year old soul. I have never written about this. My mother always said it would destroy my life in the US, and maybe that’s why I avoid it. I ran out of the communist faith screaming by the age of 14, after some bearded communist youth leaders nearly killed us all on a People’s Canoe Hike Without Maps. I can’t do that story justice now, but suffice to say: We got hideously and irreparably lost, nearly drowned, were covered in mud trying to scramble up ravines, wandered in the woods for days and days, became clinically famished, hallucinated–
Most devastatingly, I saw my socialist heroes–our moral leaders–protect their own food stashes, and warm dry clothes, after so many hours of preaching “solidarity,” to us. Believe it or not, that was actually crushing, in a very personal way. I can still taste the sulfur of betrayal.
My best friend Anneli actually did “die,” and went straight to heaven. Then she got an adrenaline shot in the heart, (which would have killed her if she had not been “dead,”) and came back.
She was openly furious at the doctors who brought her back.
We were 14.
Only once did my mother call my father for parental consultation, and it was around this time.
In 1978, prior to my leaving the Red Star Faith, I confessed to having attended a Communist rally, after I came home late and probably smelling of wet wool and moral switchblades.
My mother called my father in New York, wildly upset and furious. (My mother could really, I mean really, do RAGE.)
She wanted me shipped to Florida to live with my paternal grandparents until I was 18, immediate departure. My father (an anti-communist, Vierick-Buckley conservative) failed to respond with appropriate alarm and instead began laughing his head off. (That, I would call the Jewish side, but my mother had it too, usually.) On this occasion, not so much. She was screaming: “It’s NOT funny Barry! It’s NOT funny!”
I remember very little from my childhood, but I remember, (and it has since become a family slogan) what my father said, between gasps of laughter. “Ulla, you’re calling me to tell me Celia is a communist? I understand you are upset, but you can’t say that’s not funny.”
[Family Slogan: “You Can’t Say That’s Not Funny.”]
My mom also used to say, “Talk to God.”
Again, I didn’t know what she meant.
She also sometimes said, “Drink, pie pie!”
(She said I drank alcohol “like a bird.”)
I want to talk to my mother, but I can’t. And for some reason I always forget I can “talk to God,” and I remember it only in the deepest, darkest ditches, when my brain is an agony of black bears eating garbage.
So I talked to God today, by the water, with Patrick’s rosary beads. I had allowed ugly Godless ideas to get the better of me. Out here, there are asphyxiating cultural forces I am not accustomed to–people wishing away “other–” assaulting and trying to minimize “other.” The “other” elements I represent have to do both with ethnicity, but more troublingly, journalistic imperatives. The only thing that really hurts is when that weaponry is used among close friends. This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever dealt with, spiritually.
I plan to succeed.
First of all, do the children have to leave their parents in the same moment they turn from teenage brown to adult swan white?
Jack and Lewis are still in the house, but making daily advances toward me letting go (—) and trusting them to be outdoor cats. (There are no cars here on Runmaro, and few predators.)
Today I let Lewis outside and he got a one hour long taste of the wilderness, with me hiding behind trees, spying on him. It all wound up with him ducking under the big tent where they keep all the tractors and old bikes. Every time I crawled toward him, he crawled away, until I finally begged him to stop doing that. Then he let me catch him. I realized I was calling him “pie pie.”
I reminded him that he is way smaller than me, that it’s hard for me to dash under old bicycles like he can, and he should have some mercy. And also, that he is too precious to me for me to just let him go into the wilderness just like that, even though Ake keeps insisting he is a cat and will know exactly what to do.
As soon as the spy-collars arrive, Jack and Lewis will be “ute-katter,” outdoor cats (here on the island of Runmarö.)
But right now I appreciate their company, because I am alone in this house all day and I have to face a mountain of un-written material. 97% of it I have forgotten, and/or, nobody would believe it.
I will start again, today. Even if it’s three lines.
Frying two eggs, I listened to Joel Osteen, and I thought up my own motivational mantra:
“Pray away the ugly.”
“The ugly” can easily get into the house that is my soul, and now I intend to be less tolerant, to pray it away, rather than let it grow like killer weeds.
Pray away the hurt.
Pray away the weakness.
I’m not in America anymore so it’s not that easy to find anybody who will say the kinds of things Americans so readily say to one another, lit with faith, or even secular positivism. It’s just not done here.
Just means I have to pray more.
It’s very hard to pray for those who hurt you very badly. You want to just armor yourself from head to toe, ideally inside a body cast. You want to not think about it. You want to place them outside memory, and your heart–outside the house, like Dino in The Flintstones.
But more than I want to achieve that kind of numb nothingness, I want to know what happens if you work with God. I want to know if I can do it.
I also want to know if I am supposed to.
Sept 6, 2016