Sunday, October 12, 2008
Happy Birthday Dad
My Dad was raised Catholic. His parents arrived in this country from Ireland and settled in New Jersey. For a year or two when I was very young we lived up North, but the rest of the time we lived in the South. We would take trips up to see my Dad's parents now and than, but I don't remember a lot about them. My Dad didn't get along with his parents that great. His Dad was an alcoholic and was not above using force to get his point across. Now I don't remember any of this from my Grand Dad, he was just this big old guy that was as friendly as could be. But I didn't grow up with him. So when my Dad was able to he joined the Navy and shipped out. It was while he was stationed in Memphis that he met my Mom. Shortly after getting married he got out of the Navy for a short time, but than ended but in the service.
My Mother was born and raised in a town with fewer than five hundred people about a hundred miles outside of Memphis. I remember when visiting her parents as a kid that they still had an outhouse. Her parents I remember a lot better, we lived in Memphis for about five years and would visit them regularly. My Mom's Dad was one of the kindest and nicest men that ever lived. Coming from the South my Mom was raised Southern Baptist.
You would have thought such a combination might prove volatile, but I never saw my parents fight over religion. Mainly because I never really saw my Dad care about it one or the other. When I was probably around six or seven I remember he used to keep something hanging from the rear view mirror on the car and he would sometimes cross himself. (Sorry I am lost with the Catholic Religion so I have no idea what it was.) But even that soon faded from his actions. My Mom took over the task of bringing religion into our lives.
It was never shoved onto us, my brother and me and later my sister. My Mom always made sure we found a church whenever we'd move and we'd go every Sunday to Sunday School first and than church services. My Mom would always start off going with us, but once we were established she would only visit on certain occasions. I think my parents thought it important to provide us with religion and a church. At home it was never really talked about, we didn't pray before meals or really even talk about God that much, if at all.
All three of us have turned out differently in our religious beliefs. My sister is still a regular church goer, church is a large part of her life. My brother believes but doesn't attend church. And me, I guess I ended up the heathen, the one that doesn't believe. The last time I was in a church was for a friend's wedding.
So it was kind of surprising that during the last decade of my Dad's life he started to find his religion again. When they lived in Mississippi he found a Catholic church (no small feat in the middle of the Baptist belt) and started attending regularly. He never talked about it, but most Sundays he would go. In fact he and my Mom were re-married in the Church. My Mom never went to church with him, she went to her church, but she was willing to have her marriage sanctified by the Catholic Church.
When they moved to Tennessee he found a new church and began attending. When he started getting sick and spent so much time in the hospital the Priest would pay regular visits with him, giving him confession. The Priest would call on my Mom and visit her to make sure she was doing ok. I know my Mom came to find a great comfort in his words and visits.
As my Dad got sicker and knew he was dying he would talk to the nurses about God. They told us he would ask them if they believed in God and what they thought. He wouldn't try to push his beliefs off on them, he just wanted to spend a few minutes in the comfort of words and thoughts he believed in.
When he died my Mom's Pastor gave the eulogy at the church, but than my Dad's Priest gave one at the gravesite.
As I've said I'm not a very religious man. I find my religion in music and the written word. Today would have been my Dad's 74th birthday. You think it would get easier, but the hurt will never entirely vanish and it shouldn't. I miss him in the most mundane things, when I realize that I can't call him up and complain about how moronic Sarah Palin is. That was another change in my Dad, he was a lifelong Republican but towards the end of his life he became a champion of Bill Clinton and he hated W. with a passion.
The song is hymn for my Dad, Bob Dylan singing one of his most beautiful and religious songs "Every Grain of Sand."
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