Sunday, June 19, 2011

Theology with Dad

One of my very earliest memories is playing in the ocean with my dad. I was probably four years old, must have been southern California. We were out in the water up to his waist. He was holding me under the shoulders, my feet dangling in the water, and as each wave approached, he'd ask, "Is this one too big?"

And I'd always insist, "No, Dad! It's not too big!" Then he'd hold me up so the wave would hit me at chest level and I'd shriek in delight. Again and again, "Is this one too big?" But nothing was too big as long as my dad was right there.

A few years later--I think I was eight or nine--we were hiking together. I don't know where we were. I remember a lot of trees and the visible rock was gray, not red, so it couldn't have been near where we lived on the Arizona Strip. My father is a fairly quiet man, doesn't typically talk unless he has something pretty important to say. So hikes with Dad were usually extended silences, punctuated with profundities.

On this particular hike, I remember him saying to me, "Right now is what's happening right now. It's not the future; it's not the past; it's now. And that's where we are."

That's present moment awareness, which Mormonism doesn't especially emphasize, but my dad was thinking about it, and talking to his eight-year-old daughter about it. Lots of good memories of hikes with Dad, especially the ones where good theological discussions developed.

Dad was more sympathetic and understanding than my mother about the depression I struggled with as a teenager, because he struggled with it too. I remember one day in particular during my junior year of high school, when the thought of going to school was just overwhelming. My mother wasn't home that morning. "Can I take a day off?" I asked Dad.

"You know better than I do whether you can or not. Do you have any tests or anything?"

I didn't, so I had permission to skip school that day. Dad invited me to come along with him on his route as a rural mail carrier. I did, packed up some homework to do along the way. "You still the smartest in your class?" he asked as I finished up a trigonometry assignment. Smart. Of all my insecurities, I never doubted that I was smart, because my dad had always said that I was, for as long as I could remember.

There were several times when I rode along with Dad while he delivered the mail, but this day stands out in particular for the discussion that developed. Ironically, I can't remember the specifics of what we talked about. I know the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac was in there, along with the Chronicles of Narnia. Mostly I remember the feeling, the connection with my dad that this was something important that we had in common.

My dad and I don't see eye to eye on much these days, religion and politics in particular. The theological discussions stopped long ago, but they are still some of my best memories. Hearing Dad speak at my grandmother's funeral last fall helped me realize--or perhaps just reminded me, actually--that my dad is a very spiritual person in his own way. It's drastically different from my way. I believe it's based on several inaccuracies. And yet it does still seem to work for many people as a means of evoking the sacred.

And I can respect that.


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  1. What a nice tribute for Father's Day. It's nice that you can cherish the memories and look for common ground today.

  2. Thanks, Donna. I do try--with varying degrees of success--to appreciate to positive and look past the negative.

  3. Oh "L" that is a very touching post. I no longer talk to my parents and the good childhood memories are very few and very far between. Recently, since the horrible horrible and super dark winter, I have had depression/anxiety/excessive worry. Is it you or me or both...this was very touching. Thanks homie.


  4. Okay, Kriss, I gotta say something. I love having you as a reader. You've had nothing but positive, supportive comments and you seem like an awfully nice guy. But my name is Leah, not "L". I don't know you. You don't have permission to give me a nickname, much less a nick-letter. I'm sure you mean it affectionately, but I really don't like it.

    Other than that, I'm sorry to hear about your depression and anxiety. It's tough to go through, I know. I'm glad you liked the post, and I hope some summer sunshine can help lift your spirits.


Religion, skepticism, and carving out a spiritual life post-Mormonism