Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Aftermath: How Alzheimer's Reinforced My Agnosticism

Dear God--if there is such a thing--ease my father's confusion tonight. Allow his fears to dwindle. Give him ease; grant him rest. Let him sleep sweetly, buried in the memories that are lost to him in the waking nightmares that torment him every day. Let him learn once more how to revel in the fleeting joys--a walk outside, or the deep-hued hue of a winter's night sky that sets the snow to glittering darkly. Let him dream of himself--not the self that's burdened by so much fear and anger right now but the younger self. The gentler self that fears nothing. 

Yes, please God--ease my father's confusion tonight. Let him be free of fear.

Dear God--if You really exist--let my father have moments when he remembers that he is loved by his wife; his children; his grandchildren; his great-grandchildren. Let the clouds of confusion melt away, so he once more is eased by the thought that his name, his history will not be forgotten. Let him remember--even for the briefest moment--who I am, what my name is, all the laughs and tears and anger and longing that any father feels for his daughter, his oldest child. Let him look on me with that lost clarity, and find it again even if it's only for ten seconds.

Yes, God--let my father feel loved tonight. Let him remember me.

Dear God--You know why I doubt that a deity exists--let my father prepare for his last great journey in the silent and now echoing in the vaults of memory that were once packed with the thousands of moments he collected in an amazing, full life. Husband and father, brother and grandfather, friend and ally, soldier and businessmen. My father's life reads like a bestselling novel of a man who learned how to live and sacrificed everything for his family's sake. Strengthen the child who grew to manhood in rural Tennessee, unable to attend more than half the school year because he was needed on the farm. Strengthen the young man who dreamed of being an architect, but joined the Army instead. Fortify him, like he swallowed his shyness long enough to approach a beautiful French ballet dancer while stationed in Paris post-Korean War and with her, founded a family.

Yes, God--let my father remember the courage he had tonight. Let him regain it, just once.

Dear God--why don't You answer me? We both know that I have good reason to doubt Your existence. What You've inflicted on my father is almost the nail in the coffin. Atheism is easier; agnosticism is faster. Either would have left me with no one to be angry with right now. I'd only be able to rage against the vagaries of fate. But my dad had faith. A lot of faith.

Did You take that from him too? Or did You leave him on his own, confused by Your silence?

Well, I don't have faith in You. Once I did. Once I believed in You and prayed to You and You never had anything to say to me. So now I'm talking to you again. It's hard not to feel like my father's condition is somehow my fault, that because of decisions I have made some omniscient power determined that the best punishment on me for MY behavior was to transfer its divine ire on my father. That's the kind of thinking that makes me look over my shoulder...makes me think that maybe I should place my faith in You again so I can find the answers to my questions.

But only for a moment. After that split-second of consideration, I flip right back to rage again. I'm angry at everyone. I'm angry at the doctors who didn't catch this sooner. I'm angry at the people who guessed his condition, and exploited it in business deals. I'm angry at the family, who left my stepmother to cope with him all by herself. I'm angry at my brother, who lives five minutes away but can't be bothered to help my father out.

I'm angry at my dad.

I'm furious with myself.

I'm enraged at You.

Yes, You. If You exist, then this is unforgivable. To take my father's mind, his memories, and replace them with confusion and fear is a torture method that make the Spanish Inquisition look commonplace. To reduce the brilliance of my father's intellect and to replace it with a vacuum that cannot be that how You reward people with faith? Is this disease the culmination of all those years when he tried to live by the precepts of Your church?

And You wonder why I turned my back on you for the last time. I turned away from You the first time when my best friend, who had the purest and most intense faith I've ever seen, died in that freak car wreck. That made me an agnostic at eighteen. Then I turned away again and instead watched helplessly as scores of young men were eradicated thanks to AIDS. That hardened my resolve against you. I walked precariously along the tightrope stretched between agnosticism and atheism. I prayed until I couldn't say another word, my throat ravaged with crying as my daughter was so consistently abused and I never got any sort of response from You. The abuse she endured continued, and I fell off that tightrope and rejected all belief that You or any other deity would intervene.

Now I'm mad at you again because what's happened to Dad is something I consider unforgivable.

For the first time, I'm sending a double-bird to heaven. I'll never forgive You for this. Never. To hell with platitudes or psalms or the power of prayer. Prayer is the spiritual equivalent to yelling in a cave for help. There's no response save for my own voice rebounding to me.

No. Wait. That's not right. I did hear one thing. I heard the fear in my father's voice when he asked, "Are you just throwing me away?" when he was admitted to the hospital and visiting time was over. I heard the despair, the longing, the confusion, the terror...

What am I supposed to tell him. You tell me: what am I supposed to tell my father, who honored You every day of his eighty-four years when he asks me, "Are you just throwing me away? What's wrong with me?"

My father deserved a better end than the one that's been given him.

Heh.I just read through this again. Funny in a way. I'm writing a blog post berating God, which is a concept that my analytical mind just could not accept. This is a child's reaction, a child's deferral of guilt from herself to someone or something wholly unrelated.

Yes, it sounds like the ranting of a child--which it is. This post is the ranting of an adult child. My father's child. Ostensibly Your child too, if the Bible is to be believed. So if You're out there, and I have no reason to think You are, answer me these questions.

Will You be throwing me away too? Like You've done my father?


I'll wait. I look forward to once again not hearing You.