Month: April 2012

Back Again

I miss my wife. I miss everything about her, from the smell of her shampoo that would waft behind her as she walked by me, how the bed of her fingernails were curved and rounded, to how she cooked my scrambled eggs with her “secret ingredient,” which turned out to be dill weed. I miss her more every day and the thought of living the rest of mine without her is sometimes too much to bear.

Grace was died from a brain aneurysm three years ago. She was home alone that because she had the day off work…I forget why, but when I got home from my job a little after 6pm, my wife of seven years was laying face down in the middle of the kitchen floor, the faucet running, and the oven was preheating for whatever meal she was going to prepare for us that night for dinner.

I stood and stared at her on the ground, her limbs contorted oddly around her, and I didn’t know what to do. I was struck dumb by the moment and had no idea what to do. Should I call the police first or 911? If I called the police, would they arrest me because they would think that I had killed her? So many irrational thoughts raced through my mind, but yet, I still stood there and my wife still lay on the kitchen floor.

The autopsy report declared a massive brain bleed. The county coroner said it killed her instantly and she died without knowing what hit her. I think he was trying to comfort me in a weird medical way, and it kind of worked. Knowing Grace didn’t suffer as she left me gave me some peace.

That was three years ago. There are days where I still feel like I did when I first found her: numb, seemingly standing in one spot, not knowing what to do.

I got home from work as usual and had a flash of my wife on the ground again. Those visions have happened more often and it’s driving me slowly insane, I think. I blink my eyes and she’s vanished. I walk over to the cabinet and grab a glass and then to the sink to fill it with cold water, which I drank in four long, greedy gulps.

I step to the fridge and pull out the leftover Chinese food from the other night and plop it in the microwave, hit an arbitrary number on the keypad and the device hums to life, zapping my food. I walk to the kitchen table and turn on the small flat screen television and I immediately lose interest on what’s on. I scan the channels a few times and finally settle on a station that’s playing an old Seinfeld rerun; the one with Jerry and the Pez dispenser.

The microwave dings and I get my food out, burning my fingers on the hot plate.

“Motherfuck!” I howl and jump to the table and slam the plate down on the table and rice flies out. I suck on my fingers to ease the pain of the burn, but it doesn’t help much. I am pissed at myself and go to sit down and pull the chair out too quick and it tumbles over backward. I can feel a stream of obscenities start to rise up from my belly and let them fly as I hastily pick up the chair and slam it down in place before I sit down. The food in front of me is mocking me as the steam rises into my face and I jab my fork into the mound of General Tao’s chicken.

In spite of the scalding hot plate, the chicken is lukewarm, but I eat it anyway, pouting as I stir all the contents of the plate together and shovel forkfuls of food into my mouth.

The show on t.v. has gone to commercial. Lose weight in six weeks with the new miracle drink! Try Charmin Ultra Soft toilet paper! And then the next one caught my attention immediately.

“The pain of losing a loved one is unlike any other. The hopelessness and grief can be unbearable. But there is hope on the horizon, friends. Life After Death is a new service and it will change your life. For eight days, you can be with your deceased parent, spouse, or child. That’s right–Life After Death uses the latest in resurrection technology and can temporarily bring your loved one back to life for eight days. This breakthrough technology has been in development for years in Sweden and is now finally available here in the United States. Call our toll free number to find out more information.”

Stunned doesn’t even begin to come close to how I’m feeling. I could be with Grace again. I could smell her shampoo again, I could caress her fingernails and taste her lips on mine. Without realizing it, I’m dialing the phone number.

“Life After Death, this is Veronica. How can I help you?”

“Uh…” I stammer. “I’d like my wife back, please.”

“Certainly, sir. I’d be honored to help make this possible.”

The rest of the conversation involved me telling Veronica about how Grace died, how long it’s been since she passed, and other details. She then gave me an estimate of returning my wife to me. To be honest, I didn’t have that much money. I mean, Grace and I had made some investments and did well with those, but I had a feeling I wouldn’t have enough to pay for the service.

“One million dollars, Mr. Price.”

The number echoed off my skull. One. Million. Dollars.

“Mr. Price? Are you still there?”

I coughed in reply, “Yes, sorry. Still here. Did you say one million dollars?”

“Yes, sir, I did. As I’m sure you’re aware, this isn’t an inexpensive procedure. In addition to the cost of the medical necessities required, there needs to be several permits filed with the state and lawyer fees, as well. But honestly, Mr. Price, it’s a small price to pay for being able to be with your wife again…”

She was right. I would have paid ten million dollars to have Grace with me again, even for a few days.

“There is, of course, a payment plan that I would be happy to help set up with you, Mr. Price.”

“Okay. Let’s do it.”

Anything for my wife…

***

The next week, I was sitting in the parking lot of Life After Death. It was a discreet, glass-front building on the edge of town in an area of new development. My appointment was at 10am, but I was anxious and the clock on the dashboard read 9:23am.

I had stopped at a gas station earlier for some coffee and even though I hadn’t smoked in over fifteen years, a pack of cigarettes. I had cracked the window and was chain-smoking and listening to the classic rock station. My fingers tapped nervously on the steering wheel.

I couldn’t take it any longer and went inside at about ten till ten. A very pretty young woman greeted me.

“Mr. Price, I presume?”

Her knowing my name took me off guard. “Uh, yeah. That’s me.” I could feel my face flush and the tips of my ears get warm.

“We’ve been waiting for you. Please, have a seat and Mr. Jeffries will be with you shortly.”

“Thank you,” I said and sit down in a plush leather chair. I pick up the latest copy of Time Magazine and thumb through it, just looking at the pictures. A few minutes pass and the same gentleman I saw on the commercial last week comes walking towards me with a warm smile on his face and his arm already outstretched for a handshake. I stand up and offer my hand in return.

“Mr. Price. How wonderful to meet you. I’m Scott Jeffries. I’ve been extensively involved with your wife’s return. She’s almost ready for you.”

His words caused a lump in my throat and I started crying. My wife is waiting for me.

Jeffries placed his strong hand on my shoulder and began patting it.

“I know you must feel overwhelmed and extremely excited to see her again. It’s been three tough years, I imagine.”

He had no idea.

After I regained my composure, he led me through the doors he came out of and we walked down a long corridor. It was shiny and sterile-looking. White floors and walls and tasteful stainless steel furniture lined the way. We approached a giant stainless steel door and Jeffries reached forward and pulled it open. Behind the door was a room that resembled an elaborately decorated hotel suite. Dark mahogany furniture, real flowers decorating expensive vases, and plush couches and chairs everywhere. In the corner, was a room divider, like the kind you would see Bette Davis come out from behind in one of her movies, and I half expected such, but I knew Grace would instead.

“Please, have a seat. I’ll bring your wife to you shortly.”

Again, his words affected me, but this time, I fought the tears back. I didn’t want Grace to see me crying. Not yet, at least. I quickly wiped my eyes with the back of my hand, and not a moment too soon. My wife came into the room.

She looked exactly as she did the day before she died, the last time I had seen her alive. Her chestnut-brown hair was down and flowed over her shoulders and she was wearing a beautiful and simple white dress. She looked ethereal. I stood up too fast and promptly sat back down on the couch. Grace laughed her delicate laugh and my heart melted.

“Hello, stranger. Long time, no see.”

The sound of my wife’s voice pained me, but in a good way, like when something is so incredible it hurts a little.

“Grace…” was all I could manage. She chuckled again and came towards  me on the couch, and sat next to me. She placed her hand on my knee and I was taken aback that she was warm to the touch. I don’t know why, but I expected her to be cold…to be dead feeling.

“Welcome back,” I said softly, reaching up to touch her face, to feel her soft skin under mine.

“It’s good to be back, even if it’s for a short time.”

I smiled at my wife and leaned forward and kissed her full lips. Again, I was surprised at their warmth.

We heard someone clear their throat and Jeffries was standing in the doorway.

“I’m sorry to intrude, but how is everything going?” he winked at us.

“Just fine. No, more than fine. It’s…incredible. Thank you so much, Mr. Jeffries. I have no words to describe how happy you’ve made me.”

“Please, call me Scott, and it’s my pleasure, Mr. Price. Us here at Life After Death are honored to have served you.”

***

I took Grace home after that. I had racked my brain for days prior to picking her up on all the things we should do together in our eight days, but the more I thought about it, the more I just wanted to be at home with her. I didn’t want to share her with anyone else. I know this is probably selfish of me, but I didn’t tell Grace’s family I was doing this. I knew they would vehemently disapprove, so I decided to keep quiet about it. Grace was all mine for eight days and no one was going to come between us.

I could go into elaborate detail of what we did during those eight days, but some things are best left in private. Let me say that the week and one day I had with my wife were the happiest I’ve been since her death. We fell back into our same routine immediately it seemed. Everything was in its right place again. I had my wife back.

The eighth night was rough, though. I had to take her back to Life After Death in the morning and I was dreading every second that ticked closer to that time. I knew the risks of having her back would include the heartbreak of losing her again, but this time would be different. I’d get to say goodbye to her and to let her know I loved her. The sense of closure this was going to give me is insurmountable. Second chances come rarely and I was getting mine.

The alarm went off the next morning and I woke to Grace sitting on the edge of the bed, already dressed.

“It’s time for me to leave you again, darling.”

“I know. But this time, I’m ready for it.”

We rode in silence to Life After Death, but Grace was clutching onto my hand the entire way. I was rubbing her fingernails. I loved how they curved.

We parked and walked into the building where the same woman who greeted me eight days prior did the same.

“Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. Price. Welcome back,” her smile illuminating her entire face. “Mr. Jeffries will be with you soon.”

Grace and I sat side-by-side on the loveseat like two teenagers on their first unsupervised time alone. Jeffries came out five minutes later.

“Good morning, my friends. I trust your time was well-spent together,” he winked at us again.

“Yes, again, thank you for this,” I said. This time, I made no attempt at stopping my tears from flowing. This man had given me the most wonderful gift anyone could ever give to me and for that, I will be forever grateful.

“I hate to say this, but it’s time for Grace to come with me, Mr. Price. I’m sorry it has to resort to this, but…”

“No need to apologize. You’ve done so much for me. Thank you, Mr. Jeffries. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Jeffries smiled and reached for Grace’s hand, which she accepted and he pulled her up from beside me.

I stood and took my wife in my arms one last time and I grabbed her face in my hands and stared into her green eyes.

“I’ve been waiting three years to say this to you, Grace.”

“I love you and goodbye.”

 

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A is for Atheist: A Blog in Two Parts: Part Two–The Night of the Great Shitshow

What started out as a simple status post on Facebook, turned into the biggest crapstorm. Here’s what I posted:

While surprised that twenty-six of my friends are awesome enough to click the “like” button, please note the 123 comments. I think like, eighteen of those are mine, leaving 105 comments made by other folks. I”m happy they all commented, truly, because America!

What I don’t agree with is part of what was said, and I don’t mean in a “waa waa waa, you naughty Christian hurt my atheist feelers! Waa waa waa!” I mean in a “it turned from a fairly rational discussion between consenting adults to making personal attacks and demeaning those who do not share your opinions” type of way.

I made a comment on Twitter yesterday about Christians going on rampages. I was called out for that by one of my followers who said, “don’t you go on rampages, too?”

Touche, sir. Touche.

I do go on rampages; he’s right about that. I don’t deny that I do that, because I totally do. My excuse is thus: I try–key word is “try”–to not make the person to whom I’m debating feel dumb, or unintelligent or otherwise because they are Christians. I was a Christian for twenty years. For me to attack these people in that way is beyond hypocritical of me and I sincerely apologize if at any point I’ve done so, because shame on me.

It’s difficult to stay rational and calm sometimes though, and yes, I’m using that as a scapegoat. As I’ve said before, religion is one of those hot-button topics that gets people fired up, as it should, really. As the saying goes, “if you’re not outraged, you haven’t been paying attention.”

As an atheist, I call to question Christian beliefs: “why do you think that? Okay, I get what you’re saying, but have you ever considered the alternative?” It’s okay to question what you believe in. Questioning things makes you more intellectually mature, in my opinion. God isn’t going to smite you down because you doubt some of the things you read in the bible. If he’s the loving God you claim him to be, he’ll chalk your doubt up to a typical case of “teenage rebellion,” ruffle your hair, pinch your cheeks, and say, “you little scamps. So full of curiosity!” And rightly so–the world is a fascinating place. We’re curious about its inner workings and being human, we want answers.

This is where I, as an atheist, tend to disagree with theists: “because it’s God’s plan” is not an acceptable answer to me. I see it this way…it’s like when you’re little and ask your parents a question and they respond with “because, that’s just the way it is.”

What? That’s not an answer! That’s avoiding the topic because you DON’T know the answer! Just cop to it and say, “hey, you know what? I don’t know.”

I’m approaching a topic here that I’m having trouble reconciling with myself because when I first heard the term “agnostic atheist,” I threw a fit. “Whoa, wait a second here. How can you be an agnostic atheist? That’s like being ambidextrous with your beliefs!” To me, you either believe God (theist), don’t believe in god, but don’t know for sure (agnostic), or there is no god/gods/god-like beings (atheist).

However, I was sent an article by a good friend of mine, who just happens to be an agnostic, and after reading it, I’m begrudgingly have to accept that I too, am an agnostic atheist. Mumble, groan, and complain.

Here’s why: when asked, “do you believe in God?” I reply, “no, I don’t.” When asked how do you know there isn’t a god?” I reply, “I don’t know for sure.”

Confusing, no? I admit I am now, too. Here, try this:

One of the earliest definitions of agnostic atheism is that of Robert Flint, in his Croall Lecture of 1887–1888 (published in 1903 under the title Agnosticism).

The atheist may however be, and not unfrequently is, an agnostic. There is an agnostic atheism or atheistic agnosticism, and the combination of atheism with agnosticism which may be so named is not an uncommon one.

If a man has failed to find any good reason for believing that there is a God, it is perfectly natural and rational that he should not believe that there is a God; and if so, he is an atheist… if he goes farther, and, after an investigation into the nature and reach of human knowledge, ending in the conclusion that the existence of God is incapable of proof, cease to believe in it on the ground that he cannot know it to be true, he is an agnostic and also an atheist – an agnostic-atheist – an atheist because an agnostic… while, then, it is erroneous to identify agnosticism and atheism, it is equally erroneous so to separate them as if the one were exclusive of the other…

 Well, that really isn’t any better than what I said, just not in so many words, but hopefully you get the basic premise. I still don’t much care for the term, but whatever. I’ll get over it.

However, because of my acceptance of considering myself agnostic atheist, does not mean I back down from my previous statement of “everyone is an atheist towards other religions.” I still think that’s true, in my opinion, and I have Richard motherfucking Dawkins to back that up, too. I’m rawkin’ like Dawkins.

I may have to eat my hat and a slice of humble pie for a moment. One of the friends who got in on the debate quoted her pastor and he said something along the lines of “I don’t believe there are ‘true atheists’ in the world, because to ‘know’ there is no god implies a vast knowledge of the world and its intricacies, which science has clearly proven we do not have that knowledge at our fingertips…”

Okay, wait…I may redact what I just said. The more I read this, the more I go, “wh-wh-wh-whaaaaat?”

I do see his point with the “true atheists” thing, because as I just confessed to, I”m now an agnostic atheist, I guess (grumble moan complain), but that’s is just a personal realization. I do not represent the entire atheistic community, although I should be on a poster because I can be kind of cute…I digress.

There are people out there, these “true atheists,” as Pastor McPastorPants shuns, that believe there is no god, I do not question this belief, end of story.

But so…

For Preacher McPreacherson to be so cavalier as to continue by saying that “science has clearly proven we don’t have the knowledge” is–uh oh, Pastor!–a hypocritical statement on your behalf and kind of contradictory to what you’re trying to convey in your message. You are basing your “knowledge” of “God” on what? A book, albeit a poorly written book, on the existence of your god. And this classifies as knowledge how….?

Hey, Pastor-ooski; I read a book about a girl who fell down a rabbit hole and was suddenly in another world were rabbits, smoking caterpillars,  drunk mice, and a creature called the Jabberwocky existed, but you don’t see me going around preaching the Gospel of Alice now, do you? No, you do not.

And here’s where your contradiction comes in, sir: “science has proven we don’t have that knowledge.” You’re right–science hasn’t proven the knowledge of there not being a god. Science hasn’t proven the existence of one either, so…your move, sir.

I don’t believe in God, and I don’t know if that’s true or not. If there is a god, well, looks like I was wrong. I’m capable of admitting  and accepting the fact I could be wrong. Inversely, I could also be right and there really isn’t one.

That’s all for today, friends. Don’t worry your pretty little faces; I’m planning on doing some major posting this week, it being Easter and all.

Thanks for reading and as always,

Peace,

E

A is for Atheist: A Blog In Two Acts: First Act–The Quiverfull Movement

“…as arrows in the hand of a mighty man, so are the children of ones youth, happy is the man who hath his quiver full of them.”

I had never heard of the Quiverfull Movement until this past weekend when I met a woman, Vyckie Garrison, who used to practice this notion. I use the phrase “used to” very heavily. Vyckie’s story is nothing short of exceptional and I’ll take time to share it with you, but first, if you’re like me and had no idea what the hell Quiverfull was, allow me explain…

Quiverfull is something practiced by Evangelical Christians and is just like the above verse states–people following, and “following” really isn’t the proper word since this isn’t a separate denomination or anything, just something these people practice. Anyway, it promotes procreation…and lots of it. People who practice Quiverfull shun birth control of any kind, including the most common, The Pill, as well as natural family planning (we can only have sex on such and such days because I’m not ovulating then, so it should be safe), and sterilization, i.e. vasectomy and tubal ligation.

Breed, and breed often. You are doing God’s Will by creating many offspring because to do so is favorable to the Lord.

…or not so much.

Vyckie, as she was telling me, had several difficult pregnancies, four to be exact, before she and her husband sat down and said, “hey, you know what? This is a good idea and all, but your health is in danger every time you get pregnant and I’d rather you be around then not, so let’s do something about this.” Vyckie’s husband got a vasectomy. End of story, all is well, pass the salt, please.

…or not so much.

Firmly based on their faith and being prominent members of the church community, they began wondering if they had taken their lives into their own hands, which…holy crap, I was starting to shake from wanting to go off on a tangent and yell, “BUT OF COURSE IT’S YOUR OWN FUCKING LIFE!!” but Vyckie is a new friend to me and I didn’t want to scare her off just yet, so I let her continue with the story.

Her husband got his vasectomy reversed and they had three more children, again, each pregnancy being more difficult and arduous than the previous one and the last one nearly took her life, as she ended up suffering from a partial uterine tear, which, ladies and gentlemen, is not good. It’s not good at all, not only from the woman’s standpoint, because the potential of bleeding to death is enormous, but the life of the child is also a jeopardy.

So, seven kids total, which she even remarked isn’t that many compared to other families in the area that boasted ten, eleven, twelve…you get the idea. Vyckie and her husband were the “slackers,” if you will. God must have been sooooo pissed off about that.

…or not so much.

I hope Vyckie forgives me for leaving out pertinent information and other details to the story, but part of that is having my flabber gasted the entire time and I couldn’t let some things she talked about alone, and part of it is horrible memory, but you can read about her and other women who were also Quiverfull’s stories on Vyckie’s website http://nolongerquivering.com.

Vyckie eventually got out of her marriage, which was also extremely tumultuous given the fact that she was completely submissive to her husband. He was the patriarch and that was that, never mind the fact that he was blind and really couldn’t take care of himself to the full extent one with such a title is capable of doing, so not only was Vyckie tending after seven children, but also her handicapped husband, but by golly, this was all in God’s name, so she sucked it up and toughed it out for as long as she could.

Then, she recalls meeting her biological father’s brother, an uncle she had no contact with prior. Her family won a vacation to Branson, Missouri and her father and his family lived nearby, so an impromptu reunion transpired. Vyckie says her father warned her of his brother, saying, “he has ideas…careful not to fall victim to his ideas.”

Hmm…interesting. These “ideas” are ultimately what prompted Vykcie to realize her life was not suited for her and she escaped her tyrannical husband, and good on her. I had no doubt in my mind that if she had continued living the life that God had planned for her, she wouldn’t be living.

Aaannnddd cue rant in three…two…one…

WHAT THE EVER-LIVING FUCK?!

The feminist in me is just screaming. To submit to wholly and fully to a man and to do nothing but be a baby machine is just asinine to me. For a woman to think that her entire self worth is based on how many kids she can pump out is mind-boggling and I don’t even know how to react to that. Grant it, humans, by nature, are made for procreation. Simple as that. We are not monogamous creatures, we are meant to bear children and have many partners to spread our genetics about, but really? To devote yourself to one man, one dickhead of a man, if I may add (author’s note: she called him that, too), and to have children that reach into the double digits? We have our limitations, and in Vyckie’s case, where each pregnancy posed a threat to not only her health, but the child’s health is just…what the fuck? Yeah, God’s reaalllllllly got his shit figured out here, friends.

Listening to Vyckie speak about her struggles, and hearing how she turned away from this lifestyle was humbling and also terrifying to me as an atheist, and I’ll tell you why: to devote yourself so wholly to a god I don’t believe in, to let your blind faith dictate your life to the extent of family planning? Holy shit.

I’m really struggling with how to proceed next. I don’t agree with the Quiverfull Movement. I think having children because the Big Man in the Sky told me to is bonkers. It’s dangerous in so many ways: to the mother’s body–just because I said earlier we are meant to procreate, which is true, we are also supposed to practice some constraint here. Just because I’m of childbearing age doesn’t mean I’m going out an havin’ with the babies. If I may get all medical-y on you for a moment, and pardon the vulgarity of it, but a woman’s uterus can only take so much. As I mentioned earlier, Vyckie’s partially ruptured. The women who conceive again and again and again and again are doing damage to their bodies they have no idea about. Ever heard of “colpoptosis”? No? Well, that’s when your uterus falls out of your body. Allow me to repeat that if you didn’t understand it the first time: Your uterus…falls OUT…of…your…body. Want to be even more horrified? Do a Google image search on “uterine prolapse.” So there’s that to look forward to.

Having umpteen kids is also dangerous to the children themselves. There is no way a mother and father can fully devote the time, attention, patience, etc to 14 kids. The older kids end up raising the younger ones, which isn’t a horrible thing, but that puts far too much pressure on a pre-teen kid to have to help raise their own 2-year-old sibling. That’s the parents job.

I could continue, but I think you all understand the gist of what I’m saying.

To have infallible belief in something no one is certain exists and to trust to that being matters of your health because it’s what the Bible said to do? I can’t get behind that at all.  Let’s put this in a different perspective for those of you who may be shaking your fists at me: hypothetically, say I have cancer. I have terminal cancer of the brain. I don’t want to have operations, take medications, radiation treatments, or chemotherapy. I don’t believe in artificial means for helping me. Not only is it outrageously expensive, but most of the “treatments” will make me more ill in the process. It’s a vicious circle I don’t want to be caught in. I read an article on the internet one time were a woman with my same plight ate nothing but blueberries, chocolate donuts, and drank tequila and by golly, her cancer disappeared. If eating blueberries, chocolate donuts and drinking tequila can cure her cancer, surely it will cure mine because I read that on the internet and everything you read on the internet is 100% factual. I begin my diet of blueberries, chocolate donuts and tequila and a few months later, I die because the cancer I didn’t want to treat metastasized and slowly devoured all my internal organs, killing me within months. My blueberries, chocolate donuts and tequila failed me.

I put my blind faith in something I read to be my salvation and look where it got me.

****

Please stay tuned for part two of  “A is for Atheist Blog-o-rama”: The Night of the Great Shitshow.