Saturday, November 7, 2009

My Ghost stories Excerpts from autobiography

Pam was offered a transplant. A new kidney. She had been on Dialysis for almost all of her life. There was the possibility that she might reject the transplant, but there were new drugs available that might help. She accepted the offer.
For about a month or so, this sickly little girl got stronger, and became, if that were possible, more endearing to the doctors and nurses who surrounded her. Then, sometimes between Christmas ‘77 and her birthday in January, ‘78, her body began to fight the new organ and reject it.
Nanna, Father’s Octogenarian mother had flown from Australia to care for us at home, while Mother and Father would stay in New York by Pam’s side. At Christmas, Nanna had taken me to see Pam in her bed. She was proud of being able to carry the iv tube carriage which was always connected to her, when she walked. She had Christmas presents that were unopened, something for her to look forward to. For a time, I was jealous.
The trip home from Nnew York was horrible, and when Nanna and I reached Princeton, there were no taxis available, as it was Christmas eve. The police refused to help, saying they might get called on duty while giving us a lift. Then a lovely man, on his way home in Trenton, offered us a lift. Nanna, not accustomed to accepting lifts from strangers, considered the snow piled around and got in. He had a friendly booming voice and a self-deprecating sense of humour, cheerfully acknowledged police shortcomings and said, “But you know, if you are in trouble, who ya gunna call?”
We got in and Nanna made the phone call to the hospital and told Mother that we were back safely.
We went to the Hospital many times in the ensuing weeks. I preferred the trips with Nanna. She wouldn’t take me to the New York Metropolitan Opera. Mother became aware she was going to lose her daughter and all her pretensions to cleverness wouldn’t hide the fact. She didn’t know how to behave or what to do. All those times she had taken Pam and I to a church and wrote letters outside. Pam and I were treated like outsiders inside, defending our Mother’s lack of faith, which we shared, against any of the congregation that would assail us. Now my Mother still didn’t believe in god, and she was beginning to hate him.
Father was easy to sidestep during this period.
Doctors realised they were losing the transplant. They would have to attempt another if Pam was to survive. She would have to go back on dialysis. Mother said that she thought about this for a while, and then asked her if it was ok for her to die. She had tried to live, but she was too sick. She didn’t want to go through dialysis again, or face another operation.
It was agreed that further treatment of Pam would be symptomatic. One evening, after school, where I had been making Valentine Day cards at my teacher’s behest, Cathy’s boyfriend offered to drive us all to the hospital in New York. Mother and Father were there. Pam was in intensive care. Her breathing was regulated by a machine, that had a tube that ran over her taped, mouth. Iv drips ran into her arm and her eyes were closed, but had rapid eye movement. I alone did not hold her hand. I looked at her face, at the glue that held the tape. I looked at her pasty white face. At her closed eyes. But her eyes weren’t completely closed, I could see her eyes, a little, beneath the lid. She couldn’t ackowledge us, if she knew we were there.
We went home. I didn’t like to go to the laundry when it was dark, so naturally it was decided by Cathy and John that I should go too the laundry and get something. The light was at the bottom of the steps to the laundry, well above and to the left of the door handle. I remember getting a splinter in my left index finger, as I went to flick the switch, at 11:47 pm on February 14th Nineteen Seventy Eight.
The next morning, I remember the intense disappointment of seeing Father. I thought that would mean that Mother was at the hospital with Pam. Mother was home too. I asked her why she was home at the same time as Father. She told me that Pam had died at a quarter to twelve last evening. The detail, like Father turning of the machines after she was declared brain dead was something Mother would hold on to, until she could find a way to use that against me.
I knew Mother wouldn’t be coherent, so I went to ask Father, what had happened. He wasn’t likely to become a bear at this time. I stood in front of him while he made a few phone calls and burst into tears. I went to my room, and lay face down on my bed. I couldn’t cry. I wondered if I was a bad person for not crying, and felt that I should, but couldn’t. I pretended to cry into my pillow. Then I went to the television room to be out of the way. I was wondering who would get all those unopened presents.
==== Later that year ===
I was eleven and did not know God. On this evening John was away. My Mother was watching Prisoner on TV and I think the neighbours could hear it as well. Adjacent to the TV Room was the bedroom and light was abundant and soft. From the bed I could look up the skirt of the window onto a bright street-light. My arms were straight by my side and lying over the overly warm blankets we had stolen from some European hotel.
Pam had died earlier in the year and I was rewarded with a change of continent and removal from all things familiar. I hated Prisoner, but liked the theme song. I couldn't sleep. I lay there, sweating and not sleeping. Wishing the TV program would end so I could hear the theme. Then I floated off the bed and hovered over my prone body for a while.
In many previous dreams where I float I could choose where I went. On this evening, however, I was asked to leave through the window and I didn't wish to refuse. Some shadowy character motioned its index finger at me while I wasn't watching and I left the building. Using the pole of the street-light to swing and provide purchase to lift up I could glide over the parked cars towards the shops, which had their backs to us in the day. Between the tree-tops and shop roofs and the unit I discovered that I could be caught in the open. I became aware that some malevolent presence was looking for me, but I was ok as it could only look at ground level.
I slowly drifted to the ground and I went in search of cover. I found I was safer gliding close to buildings. Touching a brick here and a roof slat there so I could correct my drift and keep purchase. Whenever I touched ground I found I could float again by accelerating my heart rate. I had not explored far when I came across an alcove. It seems strange to me now, but I cannot remember where that alcove was. But I remember that it was not over the clouds or under the ground. It was nowhere where mortals walk. I followed the shadowy character motioning with its index, into the alcove, which became a tunnel that ended in a bright light.
I came to the end of the tunnel and entered the impossibly bright room. I stood cowed by the light, my right arm shielding my eyes as if in salute. I stood before Him. He asked me if I knew who He was and I confessed I did not know. Not knowing, yet it was clear to me I had a choice. I could stay there forever, or leave and possibly not come back. "My Lord, I will serve you." I wanted to meet Pam and my grandparents but I did not wish to stay. I was bowing, bent, no! I was prostrate, my knees were grounded and my forehead touched the ground. I realised that I did not know God, but I would make it my purpose to. And so I was sent home.
I was in bed. It was hot. My heart was racing. I could feel that malevolent spirits were around me and I wanted to move, to defend myself. I wanted to confront them with my knowledge that they could not harm me. I could breathe and I felt myself trying to say this but soon realised that I could not breathe. If only I could call for help. If only I could get some more light. I called out "Help me." but of course I couldn't breathe and so I couldn't make a sound. I tried to move and found my movements uncertain and lethargic as I called out for help. Soon I found I could exhale and I used that strategically to break the paralysis. My breathing was loud and laboured and I was hoarsely calling for help, but my calls were beginning to take on tone.
My mother was drunk when she came to see what was wrong. She apologised for the loudness of the TV and switched off the TV room lights that had so abundantly shone. I didn’t like her. I didn’t trust her. I had never liked her, but I was used to being able to manipulate her. She had changed now. She did her own thing. She would get drunk regularly. She kept Pam’s toys and the box of her ashes in her bed. This woman who knew no religion, knew no religion. She found no solace. I couldn’t work out what was worse for her. Was it that Pam had died, or was it that Pam had been very sick? Mother no longer had a plaything she could torture with her adolescent fantasy. I would find out she still believed she had the third rate plaything: me.

From an old student

wow sir sounds like alots happen well theres not much i can say but good luck finding fiding a better position and dw sir you were a good teacher im sure theres someone out there just waiting to employ you. Also good luck overthrowing the NSW state government. :p

To My Mother, or 'why I choose to be a Christian'

I am asked, from time to time, by those who care for me, why I don’t take the time to call you. Not all those who ask that question care for me. If my siblings knew, they have forgotten. You keep sending letters to me, reminding me. I now feel compelled to share my position, which is not based on fear or loathing or anger as some have said. It is not based on compassion, either as if I were more compassionate I might behave differently. It is because you will not listen to me and so I cannot help you.
Sometimes when I am asked, I reply that you are ill and there is nothing I can do for you. I recognize that sounds strange to the uninitiated, but it has the strength of being true, and so I don’t have to try to remember it if I had told a simple lie. I feel powerless and more than a little frustrated, because I know how you can be helped, but I cannot do that. I don’t have any of those things you recognize as salve for your wounds.
I am forty two years old, and I became a Christian when I was eighteen. It was a profound change for me, and the change has continued throughout my life. Although I am a ridiculous figure, fat and cursed, there is little in me that folk desire, yet people comment on my great strength and determination, and in days gone by, on my sunny disposition. I don’t always feel blessed, but I know I am.
I was raised by you and father to be an atheist. To spot the ridiculous posturings of religion and despise them. I had thought it was your lone claim to reason, I watched and copied as you identified those things people embrace for love and support so that you might reject them.
I remember a friend of yours who tried to get me to smoke a cigarette once, when I was about five years old and we were in a lift, Pam, her and I. I don’t know why she was a friend of yours, you were very anti cigarettes. Maybe she was one of your Democrat friends who struggled to oppose Nixon as he moved to end the war in Vietnam, initiate equal rights legislation and fought poverty through wealth creation. Your friend offered Pam the cigarette, but Pam was too sensible to take it pointing out her medical issues, so I was offered. I thought it a disgusting thing, and hadn’t even considered what was required. Your friend told me that all I had to do was to put the cigarette between my lips and breathe. I realized I didn’t want to breathe in the smoke, so I exhaled and the cigarette burn went quickly to the filter. Your friend retrieved what was left of it, and suggested we try again some time, when I felt ready. But she never did. You said she had died, about six months later, from lung cancer. Maybe she did die, and maybe you chose to break contact with her because she had offered Pam the cigarette.
Pam was two years older than me and very sick. When she was very young you knew she had problems. You had thought they were learning difficulties, at first, but about the time I was born you knew of her kidney disease. John was four years older than me and Cathy, the eldest, was six years older. You had chosen to live separately to father so that he could work for us. But he got a break and we all lived in Princeton after you burned down our house in Leonia.
It was clear that you weren’t satisfied with child raising. Although you felt church was full of bigots, you used to take Pam and me to church for Sunday school. You would sit outside and write letters and Pam would argue with people who would try to interest her in craft activity coloring in Jesus. You stopped me from Karate class, saying I was becoming too violent, but you used to drop me off at YMCA to take a swimming class. You didn’t know that I had been too confused by different instructions from people who didn’t know me so I hid in the change rooms every week for most of a year. You sent me to a camp for soccer, and for singing .. but never found out, never asked, about what happened when I was abused there. One boy with Nazi sympathising parents came over to swim one time and asked me several times to suck his dick and you suggested he visit again. You postured about sexuality.
It was your ambition to be a successful woman. To have credential, like a science degree, and be known for your opinions. You could argue passionately about foolishness. Yet you drank excessively.
Pam asked for direction, she didn’t know what was in store for her, and you counselled her to embrace death. In your depression, you had found a new way to be the person who others noticed. Pam chose death, but made sure she forgave her father for beating her, and her siblings, and she told you she loved you.
You waited until we were in Australia before announcing you had chosen divorce. You blamed father for the divorce and for Pam’s death. You slept with Pam’s ashes and toys. You got a job and you got your independence.
I was confused with the arrangement you made when the family friend raped me. But you were purposeful immediately following and in the years to come. Sometimes your drinking was so bad you would sweat alcohol for weeks. But you were never rolling drunk, just tipsy.
It was bizarre the way you tried to involve yourself in my social life. You were only interested in sexual things, not friends for me. I didn’t question what you were doing until I left home, at age twenty, and lived in many odd addresses. You used to give my rapist my phone number to call me on my birthday. You used to say you didn’t know better, that he had been father’s friend.
It wasn’t until I finally stopped talking to you altogether that you tried to explain yourself.
You told me I looked like my father. You told me that your father had raped you. You told me you were trying to get me to make a scene in front of my father. You told me that you had bought dogs to replace me. You told me the dogs had died under strange circumstances, strangled by their own leashes inside the house. You told me you bought two new dogs, and a decade later you told me that they had to be killed because they were both dying from cancer. You told me you were drunk. You said you were never drunk. You said you had given up drink. You never once said you had made a mistake. Once, I made the observation you had never apologized for what you had done. You wrote saying you were sorry that I had mistreated you by not talking to you.
You manipulated others easily, unrepentantly. Even last Christmas, when Cathy had come to Australia, you wrote to me to assure me that she would not have the time to see me because I would not speak to you.
=== ===
When I was growing up, you missed me. You didn’t see how I’d learned from your atheist message, or how it transformed.
I was eighteen, still living at home. Working at a restaurant in the city and going to university. Everything was disconnected for me. It took me two hours to get from home to University. It took me two hours to get from work to home. It took me two hours to get from home to my friend’s place. We didn’t live in an exclusive neighbourhood, but public transport is that bad in Sydney. I met this girl on campus on my first day of lectures and she seemed perfect to me, everything in one place. She was smart, she had friends and she seemed to like strays. She told me she was a Christian and it confused me, because I didn’t see how a person could be an idiot (as I assumed Christians were) and yet be so blessed. I knew why I wasn’t a Christian, I didn’t know why she was.
Ignoring the claims of Christianity, for a moment, I considered the philosophical issue of a creator for the universe and I knew it to be absurd. The impossible question “Can god build a ditch so wide he couldn’t build a bridge to cross it?” One of those two problems had to be the case and so god could not exist. The girl told me of the four steps to knowing God personally, sidestepping the logical fallacy issues and addressing a different issue. She invited me to a talk on Christianity by the author John John (or as he preferred to be known, J John). I found myself face to face with a smart person who knew of the logical fallacies, but addressed the issue of a ‘relational god.” He pointed out that the logical fallacy did not prove nor disprove god. He also pointed out that the Christian God never made those claims that were part of those logical fallacies.
Twenty four years later, I still recall the four steps, but I don’t think of them in separate terms.
• God is god, the creator from whom mankind is in his image.
• God is the father of Jesus (cf Trinity)
• Jesus died for us
• Jesus rose from the dead.
• People are not god like, but sinful.
• People can be forgiven their sin by prayer.
I don’t actually remember them as four steps. I found myself resistant to the ideas at each step, but also seeing ways I could evaluate their value and truthfulness without resorting to the logical fallacies that didn’t apply.
Other questions came up, like the one about pain. “If God exists, why is there pain?”
What I had discovered is that the very questions which underpin those who question the value of Christianity, support those who are Christian.
Instead of thinking of heaven and hell as places people go to, instead, a Christian tends to relate them in terms of proximity to God.
I began to see how foolish and irrelevant the questions were that denied God. How argumentative. I didn’t need to embrace creationism or some fad faux science to be a Christian, I could accept the universe as it was and as it unfolded.
When I began to read the bible in terms of it being an inspired document to do with man’s relationship with God, and not as a recipe for making rockets and stars, then I found I could make my universe a happy one. I am no longer subject to all of the stresses and strains of which I’m not responsible. Instead, I find I can act responsibly and feel satisfied I have done my best.
But now I remember you cannot. You are trapped. A victim to circumstance you do not control. You can, as Cyrano De Bergerac, rail against unreason and embrace romance and gloriously lose. It seems strange to me that people who deny god are always captured by demons. Your depression has focused you, so that you have rushed to where you are old, and have no where to go except death.
Maybe you wish it to be so. Your children did not have children, so some day, no one will be around to remember you felt so strongly in support of Vietnam’s communists you marched for them in London and took your oldest daughter in among the tear gas.
I long ago forgave you, but I cannot do anything for you, except to let you know the following. You can accept your forgiveness. You can have the fruit of some of your blessings. You can spend eternity with that daughter who loved you.
You have not been someone I could turn to for help. I am sorry. There is much we might have shared. Regardless of your choices, I forgive you.