One of the debts we owe our parents when we grow up, if we grow up, is to embrace and love them unconditionally, just as they did us. Some parents, of course, do not deserve this as they were abusive, neglectful or just down-right mean. But most moms and dads tried to do their best, and that’s really all we can ask for.
By extension, this love and acceptance is given to siblings, too, although I should say 99.9% probably do not deserve it for the trespasses committed in their youth. I had to forgive my brother for locking himself into my bedroom and reading my diary out loud, page by page, while I kicked and screamed on the other side of the door. But I did learn after that to hide my sh*t really well, including my toothbrush, which he also took liberties with (I won’t go into the gross details).
So when my mother and brother and his somewhat new wife wanted to come down for my kid’s graduation, I was, of course, touched. I knew, however, that their visit had the potential to be a bumpy ride.
If you’re the only outlier in your family, the only one who doesn’t believe in spirits and magic, warring super-powers and the glorious final destination called heaven, then you know it’s hard to relate and even harder to get close to your family. There is always a chasm, a gap, where you know and they know that the language they use is not recognized by you. You see the glances, and you know what they mean. They mean, “Tread lightly. We have a nonbeliever in our midst.” And you tread lightly, too. Where you want to say, “That’s the most idiotic thing I’ve ever heard.” You just say nothing instead because one of the things you learned when you grew up was that arguing about religion is like trying to get a kid to stop sucking his thumb. Or worse. People are attached to their religious beliefs as they are attached to any other addiction. And like any other addiction, the ones who suffer are often those who do not share the addiction.
But I digress. This post was meant to talk about something more specific: mediums. On the drive home from the airport after picking up the crew, my newish sister-in-law had tried to form an unlikely alliance. She asked: What did I think about my brother and my mother visiting a medium? But her reasons and my reasons for the distaste of theses purveyors of the occult were opposite. She thinks mediums are agents of the devil, and I think mediums make fools out of people while taking their money. Yes, my mother, in her grief over my father’s death, had gone to see a psychic (or two), accompanied by my brother who has always believed in the abilities of mortals to communicate with the dead.
Now. My mother knew that my father was skeptical about God and religion and the afterlife. And I’ve told her, if Dad had this thing called a spirit that could communicate, why the hell would he speak through some freak lady in the swamps of Florida? Why not just talk directly to the woman he loved? But she had already been hooked by these scammers, by the generic crumbs they throw to grieving wives, mothers and fathers. “Your loved one is happy. He wants you to take that trip. When you see pennies, he has dropped them from heaven.”
And while it irritates me to no end to know that these people are capitalizing off my mother’s grief, I also know that these are her wishes. This is the way she is coping with the death of the only man she had ever loved, the man who swore to protect her to the end, the man who had abandoned her before her end. She has the money to spend–or waste–as she chooses.
It was not until she asked me what I thought that I offered up my views, respectfully, ending with: “But if it brings you comfort….” She was going to see a medium anyway, regardless of what I thought of the whole not-so-funny business.
So just as our parents accept our imaginary friends and our security blankets as necessary implements in childhood, we also have to accept the things they need for grieving or for growing old. Shaming our parents or close family for their beliefs would only make the chasm between us deeper, further. Ultimately, when we return to the state of nothingness from which we came, none of this will have mattered. These issues are entirely moot.
For those of you with family who believe differently than you about God and/or religion, I would love to hear your experiences. If you’re on the other side as a believer, how do you deal with people like us?