My stepfather is in the intensive care ward now, moved to a different wing. Not a life-support situation. Intensive rehab, or something. For two months. Trying to build up some muscle mass. Of course, it was the month he spent away in "respite care" that degenerated him so much. So there you go then. It's too dramatic to call it a death sentence. But people die all the time. So, fuck.
He's one of the few people I've allowed myself to love. Sorry about that. I should be more loving. It's just that it hurts a lot to love. So much betrayal. I met him something over 30 years ago, as a teen. He was dating my recently-divorced mother, lately castaway by my father. Who wanted a much younger woman. A teenager, in fact. A girl. One year older than I was. I could hear them fucking. She was a screamer. I should say, I could hear them fucking from down the street, when I went out for a late-night run. So, fuck, and thank you for that iridescent dollop of memory.
But I digress. My brothers didn't like M, my not-yet stepfather. They had no respect for him. He was a simple man, has never read a book in his life, or the paper, no hobbies, no interests -- maybe a Lakers game on TV. He just worked, and ate, and watched TV. But he was loyal. He deserved more respect than he got. But he got it from me, as much as I was able, in those days. So that's good. And after some years, my brothers, at least one of them, came around. "M is a pretty good guy," said one of them. "You just noticed that?"
But we can't save anyone. I preached for years about a better diet, but it never took. Now he's living the outworking of his lifestyle. He never drank or smoked, but as I've said, decades of fast crap food makes you old before your time. And no gesture, and no feeling, can ever redeem anyone from the consequences of entropy. Nowadays, there are only spiritual miracles. Any physical healing will have to do with the immune system.
Maybe I'm wrong. But Thomas is my favorite apostle, and Berea my favorite polis, and a first spiritual truth is to test all things, and hold fast only to that which is true.
Which brings me once more to hugs. I've just implied that gestures are adulterated with futility. Which is as much as to say that communication is futile. Well, yes. But still we must communicate. It is not good for man to be alone. And of all forms of communication, touch is most direct. Does that make it most powerful? Think about sex, and that may be an answer. Fortunately not all touch is sex. Yuck. Even so, it's powerful. I'm aware of this more than most, I suppose. With me, there's hardly any casual touching. When I see people all high-fiving each other, I get busy looking preoccupied with some very important and engrossing task. Obvious, I know, but allow me my frailties.
From the very first month of this blog, I've had a few on-and-off consistent readers. One was a teenager whose blog I found, and it was simple and joyful and delightful. Now he's in his mid-20s, and I've watched, monitored, his growth from afar, pleased with the increasing maturity and wisdom I've noticed. I'm not a "chatter", but one does get a feel for these things. Here's a bit of what he just sent me, in response to the previous post: "I don't think it exists in this life, the action I would want to express the feeling that I have. What I want to do is an action that affirms who you are, and the good decisions you make, and the compassion in your heart."
I don't know that hugs can undo the violence that fathers might work upon the souls of their sons. I don't know how healing takes place. I don't dare hope for miracles, some healing touch that straightens crooked limbs or cleans what is unclean. I don't know that any lasting peace can be found. But I know that it matters, that we be heard, and understood, and that some attempt be made to soothe the unrest and despair that may pervade our distressed hearts. It matters, that we touch, and try to touch one another. Without compassion, how unbearable life is.
It has such a high price, compassion. Like pearls.