Sunday, March 22, 2009

Temporarily Myself

It's funny when I've been reading the comments lately. I love getting them! Keep them coming!
It's just that...I wonder if I really am as upbeat and optimistic as you say. Am I really centered in my faith? You tell me that I am. Are you the mirror or the magic?
I fail too. I am not 100% anything. No one and no thing is good all the time. Remember that the next time you generalize. I really hate it when my older kids generalize. It is based in black-and-white thinking and we need to be grey. Islam is based on the truth that people are imperfect.
I have often said that the Catholic church is founded in that either all good or all bad dichotomy. The Pope continues to reaffirm my negative belief by saying things like he did this week (that condoms should never be used). In many ways, I hate the Catholic thinking.
Funny then, that I made a huge discovery in my genealogy. On St. Patrick's Day, I was thinking about my one-fourth Irish heritage. My mom's mom was dirt-poor Irish. She was a farm girl who made her way to secretarial school and was smart enough to marry a man with ambition. They would build a business and become rich enough to build a beautiful home on the hill. I never liked her.
When I met her, she was old. She was ornery. She always corrected my mom and made her feel stupid and inferior. I saw that. That Grandma was the one who cared more about the designer name on the clothes than the person inside them. She made up her face at a huge vanity mirror surrounded by bright round bulbs and pursed her lips as she powered her nose. She was regal the way nouveau riche are. It was all facade and it was uncomfortable to be around her.
I thought about her this past week. She is my Irish ancestry. I thought about this key point to her personhood this week: her religion. If she was Irish....was...she...Catholic? I knew that my mother never set foot in a Catholic church as a child. As a teen, she was told by her Norwegian father that, as a Protestant, she had to stop dating a Catholic boy. But, was my Irish Grandmother Catholic?
I asked my mom. For the first time ever, we talked about the religion of the woman who raised her. My mother, oddly enough, had just had a conversation with a cashier at the co-op about being named Mary Eileen or Alice or whatever. The cashier told my mom that all the first-born Irish daughters took Mary as the prefix to their name. It was then that my mom remembered: her mother, when recounting tales of being a young girl on the farm, would be called, "Mary _______".
Yes, my Grandmother was Catholic. How did I live to 40 before I realized that? Why had my own mother and I NEVER talked about it? Remember, my mom was going for her theology degree while I was growing up. We talked, and still talk, about religion all the time. Why was this never spoken? No other person had a greater impact on my life than my mother and her biggest influence was a Catholic woman.
I went on to marry a Catholic man and do my best to live within the confines of a Catholic family. I failed miserably. If I had thought about my dislike for my Irish Grandmother's fake festoonery, I would have steered clear of my equally irksome mother-in-law. I continue to attract Catholic men like, "the latest and greatest," who is now being supported by a blond lawyer, and more recently, "my former seatmate". And if there is another one lined up, please tell him to go away.
Our grandparents shaped so much of our today. I wanted a Grandmother who was accessible and loving; much like I wanted a mother to do the same. Yes, I wanted that ease of love. I wanted that comfortableness of being held close and not of suffocating. I keep looking for that and often in very stupid ways.
Mr. Boo has been talking of his grandfather like never before. This is stemming from our visit to my friend in February. He got to see how loving grandparents act with a grandchild.
"I have a Grandma and a Grandpa," he would tell others and maybe himself more than anyone. He needed to reaffirm his place of honor in another family.
Because of Mr. Boo, I tried to call my dad. I felt very guilty. Since getting my new phone I had not programmed his number into my new one. This means that for three months I had not called him. We traded emails back and forth but we had not talked. Seems like I had to send him one more email asking for his number. I never would have imagined our relationship becoming like this for me.
I called but got his girlfriend. Though she never has been too keen to talk to me, she was this week. She wanted to let me know that my father was diagnosed three months ago with Alzheimer's.
That's as hard to write now as it was to hear then.
He's always been the absent minded professor---really. He can't switch gears out of his deep thoughts. He's really such a brilliant man. I told her my assessment but I also know that the V.A. Hospital doctor could be accurate. My dad could be slowly losing his mind.
"My friends have started to notice," she added.
I worry for him that a woman who is only a, "girlfriend," might not want to put up with a forgetful man, no matter how handsome. He left all his ideals of left-wing, touchy-feely environmentalism for a Republican army widow. I wonder how that will pan out.
I do know that all the years I spent wishing for a different relationship with my father never meant that I got one. At this point, I am content with what the two of us have had. I do love him. I do respect him. Islam has helped me work that out. I pray for him every fajr.
My grandmother.
Mr. Boo's grandfather.
Here I am. I am realizing more and more that I am here. I don't know if I really am who you say I am. I do know that I am, in large part, shaped by those family members, who exactly like me, are temporary beings.


egyptchick7 said...

I am so sorry to hear about your father. It is unfortunate that your relationship with him is so distant. I don't want to sound lecturing by saying, maybe now is the time you be with your father, but my Aunt who was so distant from her father for 40 years ( she lives in Australia), took care of her father, my grandfather, during his last year on Earth throughout his struggle with emphysema and Parkinson's. It was good closure I think.

Take care, and I really am sorry. Inshallah, Allah will make his struggle easy.

Faith Confusion said...

We still love your blog -no matter who you are!! You write well and it's always interesting.

Just a thought on the pope though; he is the head of the Catholic church, yeah, but just because he says condoms should never be used doesn't mean no one's ever going to use them again. He's like your grandmother talking, well, he's like my grandmother talking, lol. She's a crazily devoted Catholic. The rest of us are moderates who listen and take it with a grain of salt. We respect him but he's not the last word on everything in our lives, by FAR :)
My family are mostly Catholic and they are all nice well-behaved people but none of them are preachers, as in, they don't sit around telling us all what to do. We're just nice people, doing whatever in a good way. We hope!

Anonymous said...

You are very brave, masha Allah, for writing this post as there are many personal nuances in it that we readers will not be able to wrap their heads (hearts!) around, but there are important problems here that we should be working through. Converts could do way better to support each other through this stuff, but we are too busy being freaked out and sweating the small stuff--maybe as a means to avoid the bigger stuffs.
Here's a very "aha" video from Namia Roberts and that is old, but ya know I'm slow. :) Well I can't add anything to the description:
Care For Converts Drive-interview conducted by sister Fatimah with sister Naima B. Robert. The interview covered many of the challenges that converts/reverts Muslims have to face where most born-Muslims are not even aware of.
Love and Peace,

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom EgyptChick,

I know that both you and I have our, "Daddy issues". Is there any woman who doesn't?

Thanks for your sympathy. I need some on this one.

I asked him previously if me and Mr. Boo could stay with him (if the money ran out) and he said, "no." I can't really take care of him if I can't take care of myself.

Asalamu Alaykom Faith Confu,

Thanks for reading and commenting. I don't mean to demonize any group. Partly why I mentioned all my previously conceived negatives about Catholics was to then acknowledge that I am 1/4 genetically and probably more of a percentage psychologicaly the same.

I hear you when you say that you miss a literary mind. I've been there...done that. Mi amiga and I agree that you can't get all things from one person. We both have cultivated other relationships to meet those needs.

For me, I would have loved a man with strong hands and a kind soul last night. For real, I had such a headache. A backrub would have been a God-send. If your hub, rubs your back, then be thankful for that.

Thanks to you for continuing to post comments.

Asalamu Alaykom Brooke,

I have read EVERYTHING you wrote (including the DO NOT POST) stuff. Ya, we do understand the revert conundrum. We are a real mix of things. The journey is different for us than for others. Thanks for being along for the ride! I appreciate your presence.

Asalamu Alaykom to EVERYONE,

I appreciate you too. I see you on the statcounter and I know you are there. Take care of yourself and come back soon.