Monday, March 06, 2006

Nothing ever happens on Mars

We're back from Dirty Jers.

Not to get all existential on you, and this is not as big a tangent as it will initially seem, but do you believe in God? I don't, really, not as a militant atheist sort of "God is Dead" non-belief, but more of a I-don't-really-think-about-it-that-much-and-it's-not-a-big-part-of-my-life kind of thing. I bring it up now because several monumentally crappy things have happened to me in the last few days, and those are the times when people who have religion* turn to God and say, "Why me?"

Something I read recently on Mimi Smartypants's site has gotten me thinking about this issue. She takes to task people who use phrases like "You are special to the universe" as meditation mantras (the underlying assumption being that they don't believe in God but need some sort of spiritual woo-woo to think about whilst meditating) with the old "if everyone is special than no one is special" argument. Then she says something key: "Remembering how totally un-special I am to the universe is particularly helpful when shit is going poorly, because then I feel less picked on."

Right now, shit is going poorly, and I'm feeling pretty picked on. We drove down to New Jersey on Friday, leaving Boston at 2pm because KB was able to get out of work early. A drive that should have taken about 5 hours (plus a little more with bathroom/gas/nursing stops) took us 8 hours, mostly because we spent about an hour and a half pulled over to the side of the 287 in New York after being sideswiped by a box truck which then left the scene of the accident and drove away. We had to call the State Troopers and wait an hour for someone to come and take an accident report with Nolan fussing (with good reason, he was hungry) the entire time.

The car is drivable, however, and no one was injured, thank goodness, so we pressed on. We got to my mom's at about 10:30 at night. Then, in the morning, while talking to my younger brother about his possibly coming up to NJ to see our grandfather, I find out that my father is being deployed to active duty in Kosovo at the end of the month. My father is a colonel in the Army Reserves, and spent six months in Afghanistan at the end of 2002. Kosovo is somewhat less nerve-wracking a location than Afghanistan or Iraq, but it still means my father will be gone for six or more months with very little access to phones or computers. There's also the problem that the Army brass are perfectly within their rights to tell my father one thing (say, where he's being deployed or for how long) and then turn around and go, "Oh, guess what? When we said Kosovo? We were wrong. You'll actually be stationed in Abu Ghraib for twelve months! Sorry about that! Ha ha!"

My father has known about his deployment since December, but for reasons known only to himself decided not to tell anyone until now, a mere three weeks before he leaves. He and my stepmother are going to San Francisco next week to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary, and then he has to report to his "staging location" before being deployed. Yay.

Then there's my grandfather (this is my mother's father). We saw him in the hospital on both Saturday and Sunday. He wasn't actually as bad as I had feared he would be, but he still looked awful. He's been having dialysis to compensate for his non-functioning kidneys, which is helping, but at this point his care is palliative (meaning they're just trying to keep him comfortable and lucid) rather than curative.

I'm glad we got to see him while he was still pretty much himself. He dozed off a lot and was quite weak, but other than that, he seemed normal. At one point, Nolan was playing with some mylar "Get Well Soon" balloons that had a reflective surface he was just fascinated with. My aunt Patty kept bopping him gently in the face with one and he would squeal with laughter every time. Then she bopped me in the face (not quite as gently) and I squealed and pretended to be just as delighted as Nolan. Pop looked at KB and said, "You married her, not me." Which got a laugh.

So for the most part, we just hung out in his hospital room and did what we normally do when we get together as a family, which is tell embarrassing stories about each other and make snide jokes at each other's expense. You know, just like other normal, loving families. I think having people around was good for Pop, and I like to think that seeing Nolan made him happy. One of my aunts feels that we shouldn't all be visiting him, because everyone descending on his hospital room makes it seem like he's going to die. I understand her feelings, but it's not like he's not aware of how dire his situation is. He knows. I think the visits make him happy and maybe even take his mind off things for a little while.

The thing I wanted to ask Pop that I didn't was "Are you scared?" It would only have been to satisfy my own curiosity and wouldn't have made him feel any better. I wanted to know if he really believes he'll be going to Heaven or wherever in the afterlife. Does he believe he'll see Grammy there? The priest at his church came to see him and left some...I don't even know what to call them. Devotional items? Talismans? It was a little picture of Mary washing Jesus's wounds and a book on trusting God to take care of you. Do those things make him feel better? I don't know, and I didn't want to ask in case he wasn't really up to the questions.

In the end, I'm glad we went. It was a lot of driving for a short weekend, but worth it. He may die soon, or he may keep fighting and live for another few months. In either case, I'm glad we saw him while he had his wits about him and could appreciate our company, and we his.

I have more crapola to post about religion, God, and Waiting for Guffman as metaphor for the search for meaning in life (no, really!) but this post is too long as it is. So I shall end it here.

Thanks for reading.

*I don't really like the phrase "have religion" because it sounds like a disease ("Wash your hands after you touch John - he's got religion.") but I think it's appropriate in this case. It's not something I have, clearly, and I think it's one of those either-or things.


Electric Mayhem said...

You're in my thoughts, Joy.

Let me know if you want to chat about the religion thing.

Erica Mulherin said...

Dude, you totally have the WORST car luck. I am so sorry to hear about your dad, that blows. My alternative/substitue for religion is the exact (ha-ha) science of astrology. It's not God picking on you, it's Mercury. He's in retrograde. Whatever the hell that means.