Thursday, December 17, 2009

Midnight in an Imperfect World

I think I finally understand the notion of God.

Maybe we each create the benevolent force that he or she deserves. If this is true, then it would explain my lack of faith, and my lack of faith, in turn, would explain my lack of need for faith at this point. Whether there's a personal divinity or one omnipotent force paying careful attention to our trials and traumas, listening intently for our desperate entreatments, I know that it gave up on me years ago. I realize that it's much too late for me.

But I also know that it's not too late for my child.

And that's why a short time ago, as I pulled my little girl close to my chest after running to her bedside and picking her up while she coughed, over and over and over again, her tiny body heaving as she tried to catch her breath, I silently begged someone, something, for help. Not for me, but for her. I stood, rocking her back and forth gently, trying to calm her, to get her breathing clearly and steadily again, to ease the terror that I saw in her eyes. I don't have the luxury of concerning myself with the terror in my own in moments like these, I suppose.

I sat down on the couch, allowed her to lay flat on my chest and stomach, wrapping her arms around me, her head finally resting under my chin. And I just held her for close to an hour. I spend so much time declaring to myself and anyone willing to listen how entirely my heart breaks at the prospect of not spending every single moment of my daughter's young life at her side, witnessing every accomplishment great and small and providing a sense of security that she would never once have to doubt or question. I realized as I clutched her small body in my arms that it was this that I had sworn, to be there not simply during the times when her boundless energy and radiant smile fill me with immeasurable joy, but when her suffering leaves me feeling as scared and helpless as she is.

Inara was born into a world in which she'll never know a father, her father, living with her in the same home. More than anything I've experienced in my life, this knowledge is a source of singularly searing agony. What once seemed like the simplest of circumstances to hope for, the most fundamental and unpretentious thing I would ever want, turned out to be the most elusive. If I dared to pray to that benevolent being on behalf of myself, my one desperate desire, it would do no good, and I know it.

Inara is now back in her bed. I'm still awake.


Anonymous said...

Wow Chez. Moving stuff

Smack, Cracker, and Punk said...

I am touched by your comments man. I too felt this loss prior to moving home to be with my daughter. I ended up marrying her mother and have been mostly at peace since I have moved in. I only hope that you and Jane can reach some resolution that allows you to be closer to your wonderful child!

Iris said...

Chez, were I the God-fearing sort, I'd be praying for you tonight. Maintain, brother.

babita781 said...

We all call out to a benevolent deity when our children are in trouble. Although my god, if he exists, is not benevolent. Just be there, Chez. So many fathers, when they are no longer with the mothers, lose touch with their children. Be there for her, and you've done your job as a father!

Che Grovera said...

Your words ring hollow as part of the lies we divorced dads tell ourselves to assuage guilt. Granted, being present is better than not being present -- but it is in no way equivalent to being there. The trouble (for me, anyhow) is dealing with the fact of never being able to know what the actual difference might be between the two.

I don't fear my God, so my prayer on your behalf, Chez, is at worst a neutral event.

dammitjanet said...

Oh, Chez, my heart breaks for you. This is a beautiful, beautiful piece of writing. This is one you NEED to keep for Inara as she grows.

Just let her know, every day and in every way possible, how much you love he and that you are there for her NO MATTER WHAT. Don't cater to her every whim as she grows up, but loving let her know you care, and want what is RIGHT for her.

You are a wonderful father, Chez. Inara is lucky to have you. Just as you are to have her.

much love over the holidays.

gina said...

I've often wished I could believe in some sort of god, that I could engage that type of letting go and acceptance of some deity that gives meaning/hope/forgiveness/an eternal destination.
I even got saved as a teenager into the Southern Baptist church after growing up Catholic...It lasted for about 2 days before I admitted to myself that it was all a lie, and that I couldn't buy into it.
And it's that knowledge that makes my darkness feel so inky black at times. No angel or demon, no afterlife. I am alone in my pain, and no god will come to save me.

Though a man in the clouds won't, my friends and family will. You are loved, Chez.

Ken said...

There is joy
in all:
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
each morning,
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
each morning,
in the spoon and the chair
that cry “hello there, Anne”
each morning,
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
each morning.

All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
to a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.

So, while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter in the morning,
lest it go unspoken.

The joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,
dies young.

- Welcome Morning by Anne Sexton

Anonymous said...

She's tougher than you are.

Take comfort in that.

Bunche said...

I've felt that whatever powers that be gave up on me as of a certain extremely traumatic incident when I was eight (which I think I told you about, but will not go into here), and following that I have struggled with any form of belief in damned near anything metaphysical. And wouldja believe my mom tried to get me to train for the ministry?

ntx said...

You made your little girl feel better. You made her feel safe. You could do that because you are Inara's dad, and she loves you and you love her. God is love.

I like to boil it down real simple when the questions get big. It often works.

Rory said...

My daughter is same age as yours Chez, and everyday I go to work for 10 hours, giving me an hour or two a day to spend with her. This is the single most painful thing I deal with on a daily basis. The decision was made that I would be the breadwinner and my wife would stay at home only because I made the most money at the time. I feel like I got robbed, hard.

The biggest fear I have in my life is not dying, it is getting separated and being a weekend dad, or worse.

The common view of fatherhood it seems is that men are dispassionate louts that don't care one iota about spending time with their children, when for the majority of fathers the exact opposite is true. I nearly cried reading your post Chez because I can feel the hurt, and it sucks. Hard. Hang in there buddy.

Anonymous said...

He is there and He loves you and Inara too.

Tania said...

My Dad wasn't there for me every moment, either - not because of marriage problems, but because he was working aborad to support us.
But I never doubted his love and support, and though he's three years gone now, I miss him every day.
Be strong, Chez. You're doing the best you can for her.

Sharon said...

As the daughter of a father who did not live in my house the thing I most value from my father is his words. Keep writing to your daughter and for your daughter for it is your words that she will cherish for the rest of her life. And don't allow time or distance or God to come between you and her because little girls (even when they're grown) still and always will need their daddies.

Jacki Schechner said...

Just being present doesn't make you a good dad. You can be present and absent at the same time. It's about being accessible and available and honest and open and true. Your daughter will know this truth as she grows and learns to appreciate what it means to have someone she can count on no matter what. Location is a vacant component if she knows she can turn to you always.

It's a small consolation when you're apart and miss her, but don't think for one second she won't know exactly how much you adore her if you unwaveringly do.

Austin said...

Comfort. It seems a simple enough thing, yet it is the most elusive that exists.

It's the notion that someone, anyone, is able to look into the future, see all that will happen, and promise that it will be safer, better. No one has that vision, that ability. We can ease pain. We can bring joy or pleasure. We can make predictions and calculations to outlandish scales. But we cannot, in truth, offer that promise, because we don't know.

And, yet, so much of childhood - of the innocence, the joy - is dependent upon that lie, that ability for a mother or father to wrap their arms around us, kiss away the pain, and whisper, "Shh... everything will be alright."

It's the one thing adults hope to bring more than any, and the one that is totally elusive. The wiser we grow, the more it slips away, like the calm blue sky fading to the infinite truth of night.

But for now, you are the father, the parent, the comforter - you are as much a god to her as anyone could ever ask, because you can offer her comfort, if only for a while.. Enjoy it.

blackbird said...

This brings me right back to the nights I stood holding my baby boy as he struggled to breathe through the night. Hours, I would stand, because if he lay down or even if I sat with him on my chest he would resume the coughing that wouldn't stop (later diagnosed as asthma) and so...I stood. Those nights were hell - but my badge of honour as his mother. His protector.

As shitty as it is that poor Inara is not're proving your mettle.

I like what gina said - I also stopped believing in any god years ago - but also believe that there are those who will be there - those who love you - who will stand with you through the night.

I'm hoping for a peaceful night for you and your little girl.

celery said...

as an adult, i get along with my father *way* better than i do with my mother, and i'm sure a large part of that has to do with the fact that i did not live with him as a child and teenager.

i don't mean to trivialize (at all) the pain you now feel
or the price of absence, but that is one upside... i wasn't able to build years and years of resentment for the parent who wasn't around to piss me off :)

so even though i didn't know my father very well as a child, my adult relationship with him is much more substantial and issue-less than the one i have with with mother. we got to know each later in my life, and this definitely had its benefits.

Mackenzie said...

My parents divorced when I was young. My parents shared custody of me, but I lived with my mother full time.

I have doubted a lot of things in my life, but I have never doubted my father's love for me. Never....not once. Do you know why that is? Because he never gave me a reason to doubt it.

I have more respect for my father in my pinky finger than I have for any other person on the face of this earth. He has always done what he said he was going to do, he's never broken a promise he's made to me and he's always honest with me.

Be those things for Inara and she won't question your love either.

Jen said...

try Hyland's Honey Cough - safe for the wee ones (you can get it at most health / natural food type stores, possibly some pharmacies). the pediatrician also says 1 tsp of plain honey is ok for the cough, too. warm juice helps as well.