Friday, June 23, 2006

Father's Day

Usually I don’t dwell on holidays invented to sell greeting cards and other gifts. It’s hard for me to ignore Father’s Day, though. It touches me in more than one way.

Being a father changed me, taught me much more about love than I had understood before, showed me that I really could be controlled by something voluntarily, instead of obedience always being tyranny. Some men can turn their backs on that. Maybe it’s a genetic thing that I can’t. Maybe it’s something else.

As far as my being a father, I can dispense with Father’s Day easily. I’ve told my daughters I expect to be remembered on Father’s Day and my birthday, as long as I’m conscious. Beyond that they’re free. I have spoken. Of course, there is this unspoken reality of the consequences if that was all they ever did, but such consequences are dictated by nature, by my nature and everyone else’s. I like my rule better somehow. That’s what I want, not the tyranny of nature, even though nature may be better at being either father, mother or both than I am. Still I’m satisfied with that.

By the way, my birthday is December 7, a convenient distance from Father’s Day in June, one reason for my rule. Contrary to what this automated site says, that does not make me a Sagittarius. Anyone who has worked with the real stars knows the Earth has shifted in the 2000 years since the sun signs in the newspaper were even close to being accurate. It’s called precession of the Earth’s axis, as any spinning top does. It takes about 26,000 years for a complete cycle, meaning the sun’s place in the zodiac has shifted about 1 sign in the 12 (about 2000/ 26,000) all around the sky. So the sun was actually in Scorpio on the day I was born, not Sagittarius. There are astronomical tables where you can look it up as I once did. One more lie I was told growing up. Maybe it’s just an honest mistake. It depends how charitable I feel at a given moment.

My older daughter was born on December 15. On that day, the sun wasn’t in any of the 12 signs of the Zodiac. It was in Ophiuchus, a constellation that just crosses the ecliptic, but is ignored by astrologers. Someone liked 12 more than 13. I don’t know why. It’s not that there’s no place for 13. Lunar calendars require both 12-month years and 13-month years to keep in phase with the solar year. A 19 year cycle of 7 13-month years and 12 12-month years comes very close to the reality of the ratio of the moon’s orbit to the Earth’s orbit, but even that doesn’t match a reality that wasn’t designed for every answer to be in round numbers. The Muslim calendar ignores this, having always 12 months. As a result it loses ground to reality every year, and Ramadan cycles through every season of the year. Astrology lost whatever grip it had on reality even earlier.

Ophiuchus was a physician whose place in the stars is to be stepping on Scorpio, crushing it. Meanwhile the Archer has his arrow aimed directly at Antares, the red giant star that ancients saw as the heart of the Scorpion. The Archer never has let his arrow fly, maybe someday. Antares is dead meat either way. Any red giant of that size has only one destiny, to become a supernova, in this case just 330 light-years from Earth. The only other large red giant that close to us is Betelgeuse, on the other side of the sky, in Orion, the Hunter, placed as far away in the sky as possible from the scorpion that in mythology killed him. Betelgeuse is 310 light-years from Earth. Which star blows up first, Antares or Betelgeuse? Both might have already done so, in our 18th century. It just hasn’t gotten to us yet whether they did or not. Odds are they are supernova still to come, not yet happened, but things with long odds do happen. They might not be yet to happen, but already happened and not communicated to us yet.

In between Antares and Betelgeuse, there was once a red giant that went supernova and seeded our area of space with materials we use for life. Whether one sees such a contribution as mother or father, I’m sure no card is required. Is any remembrance at all?

My daughters listen to such things from me. I don’t know how much they have to pretend to be interested. I don’t care. I love them just for listening. I’d love them even if they didn’t listen, but not as much. It’s true. Love has favorites.

More problematic for me is who my Daddy is, someone closer than that primordial supernova ejaculating into space. There were clues when I was growing up that it wasn’t clear who my Daddy is. Things came up when my parents fought late at night, probably not realizing I could hear from my room, not sleeping through so much racket. It took until I was an adult to put this together with other things from my childhood, such as Dad never playing with me. A child has no point of reference to see one’s childhood as strange. That changes eventually.

Finally after Dad died in 1987, Mom gave up. She told me everything, more than Dad ever knew. It was like a dam burst. She regretted saying the worst revelations she dumped on me. She later said, “I take it back,” when she was upset that some details had passed through other family members and back to her. Sometimes my mother lies very well. Sometimes the lies are transparent. She still lies either way, desperate for something that hurts to go away. I remember being a child like that. I wish everybody did.

I know many more details about the adultery that gave me life than I do about that primordial supernova that gave us all life. Both are interesting stores about the natural course of things. In my twenties I was satisfied by so many stories like these that nature was what one could trust. There was even some love in nature someplace. Yet human nature is full of lies. Politics is. Religion is. Lots of things are.

I’m not sure I ever thought about whether there is anyone with no need and no desire to lie to me. In retrospect I’m sure that was at least an unspoken criteria in whatever drew me away from my fatherless childhood into some direction, into something like what a father would give me beyond that single sperm I got from my biological father. I was at peace with my mother’s husband before he died. He provided for me materially. He gave me an opportunity to be sympathetic to how hard life had been on him, through my mother and in other ways. He was the one person in the family who treated me as an adult, my being the youngest child, the accident. But he was no father emotionally or spiritually.

School adopted me first. I was a smart and obedient kid. They liked that. School doesn’t lie that much. Eventually one can see that academics becomes overblown in some ways, unable to see outside its boundaries on some subjects. But apart from occasional academic fraud and some political infighting, there are no flagrant lies. I think academics continued as my real father all the way through my twenties, into a career as a neurologist that was partly academic.

I didn’t set out to make God my father. I just started praying again because things weren’t going well. I could use whatever help I could get that way. It was a big deal when God first spoke to me, so big it was confusing. More understandable was the presence that built over time as I prayed each day. Less and less did I pray into nothingness. Instead there was someone there, someone helping to pull words out of me, someone to listen, more and more actively.

A good father is someone who will love me no matter what. He is someone with no need to lie to me and no desire to lie to me. God has seemed like a good father to me. He says He is. I believe Him. I’m not sure why I need this beyond that single sperm of instructions from my biological father. We need a place to stand, a foundation. That’s clear enough. Why does that foundation have to love me? Because without that, there’s a hole in me. Without that, I am devalued. It’s strange, but it’s familiar.

So thank you, Father, I’m glad you made me Yours.

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