The following musings on Father’s Day are by ExCS Group Member and Contributor Chrystal. This is part 1 of 3, part 2 will be shared on Wednesday, June 21, 2017.
It being Father’s Day and all, I would love to tell you about my dad. He was the most kind man I have ever known. He died a few years ago. I think about him all the time. I just woke up from a dream where I was visiting him and we were being goofy together. I enjoy seeing him in my dreams and I wake up from them feeling wistful.
This mini (3 part) blog series is a small peek into his life.
My dad was the oldest of 4 siblings. His mom converted to Christian Science, which is what his dad was. Both of my dad’s parents lived through “The Great Depression.” Grandma was a hoarder and very negative. Grandpa was an inventor and an amazing mathematician. My Grandpa made friends everywhere he went. He is in his 9th decade now, and all of his friends are dead. My dad also made friends everywhere he went. When I was a child, I remember my dad introducing me to what felt like practically the whole town. He knew everyone and they all loved him. He was so kind and funny. How could anyone not like him and want to be friends with him?
My dad collected comic books. All of them. He kept them very well packaged under his bed, in a box, in plastic sleeves. I guess at some point, his mom decided they were “junk,” so, despite her hoarding tendencies, she threw them all out. My dad set about collecting them again, and never got over the fact that she had thrown them out. They were valuable. His collection eventually paid for his first home, and then his second home.
My dad’s biggest hobby was photography. He loved it. He carried that camera everywhere – all the time. He was never without it. If my dad didn’t earn straight A’s in school, his mom took away his camera for a minimum of a week at a time, which felt like absolute torture to him.
Grandma always had a leg problem. She fell while traveling one year, and went to a doctor to deal with it. That shocked our whole family – that the Christian Science matriarch of our family went to a doctor. She had problems with that leg for the rest of her life. At the time, I was told that she eventually died because she fell out of bed & couldn’t walk. She was rushed to the emergency room and died like 48 hours later. (I later learned that it’s likely she had a stroke. This makes sense because as she lay in the hospital dying, she couldn’t speak.)
Grandpa wore contact lenses, and I remember the judgement he and Grandma had for themselves – they both drank decaf coffee at McDonalds and Grandpa wore the contact lenses. As a result, both thought they weren’t great Christian Scientists. Though both served the church as much as they could, their whole lives. Grandma dutifully arranged flowers for the church every Sunday. And Grandpa still ushers, though he is in his 90s and has had a few surgeries and STILL feels guilty for not being “a perfect Christian Scientist.”
Obviously, I am blogging on this web forum, so I am an Ex Christian Scientist. It breaks my heart to see my grandpa feeling “less than.” He is a kind, intelligent, thoughtful, generous gentleman. I would love to help him find his way out of Christian Science. He feels like a failure. But – he’s NOT. He in no way resembles a failure. He’s an amazing person, loved by so many people. (Happy Father’s Day, Grandpa, I love you so much, and my kids love you so much too.)
I would love to see my grandpa break away from the guilt he feels about drinking decaf coffee and the various surgeries he has had over the years due to “not being a good enough Christian Scientist,” but he is in his 9th decade, and I can’t change his whole life now. His friends are there at the church, his security is there, he knows how to drive (yes, drive!) to the church… That seems cruel to me, to get him to leave the church.
Well, back to my dad. He went through Christian Science nurse’s training. Having spent a few years training to be a Christian Science nurse, then actually being one, my dad’s biggest fear was to get put in a Christian Science nursing facility. In his experience, “no one ever left them alive.” Later, my dad was completely terrified of being put in a nursing facility. Not just a Christian Science one.
At one point, while working as a nurse in training, he was asked to clean a dead body. My dad was horrified and very scared to do this. He called up his Christian Science Teacher (who was eventually kicked out of the church due to cruelty), and she said to him, “it’s just matter.” This spoke to my dad somehow. And my dad was able to go clean up this dead body. Over the years, my dad was very good at cleaning up bodily fluids and dead animals on the road and things. It always made him deeply sad to see a rabbit or cat or dog on the road that had been run over, but he would promptly clean it up to save neighbor kids from seeing the animal bloody and dead on the street.
I remember being a little girl, and waiting too long to use the bathroom. I peed all over the floor in the bathroom. I completely missed the toilet. My dad quietly cleaned it all up. It has been probably 40+ years since that happened, and I still think about that. My dad never once yelled at me. He was the kindest man I’ve known. After my dad died, I realized that my dad’s dad is also one of the kindest men I have known. I wish both of them had been able to marry a kind woman.
In my dad’s case, he married two women who were both cruel. Thankfully, my bio mom had the good sense to leave. But my step-mom – everything I have ever told anyone about what she does and how she treats me, looks at me with shock. They are shocked at how cruel she was. I don’t want to go into all of it here. Christian Science women and Christian Science moms, it’s crazy how many stories I have heard of cruel Christian Science moms. It’s heart-breaking.
But, these posts are about my dad.
(To Be Continued.)