Pause


I did not begin this blog only to flake on it nine posts in. I realize that it has been two weeks and is likely to be five more. I am in the middle of an insane Summer Study push. Comprehensive exams are June 25th and I have a lot to get into my head and then get organized if I expect to pass at the level to which I hold myself. That said, this is my “Sorry, gang, I’ll rant later” note. Fear not, I’m still a relatively angry, recovering Christian with a serious Jonah complex…I’m not going anywhere until the Whale comes… *

*(Cosmos, Big Guy, whichever you’re going by today, that was a joke, not a challenge. I don’t need the whale…nope. nope. nope.)

“I Weep for the Species”: kindness, compassion, and the separation of church and state

I hope, for originality’s sake if nothing else, that this will be last time I address homosexuality for a while. Not because it is an unworthy topic, but because its level of controversy is but a symptom of a much larger problem. One that I will only briefly begin to touch on below.

It is interesting to me how marriage camps define themselves as hetero- or homo- sexual, but you don’t see any campaigns teaching our young people how to be in a loving, honest, committed relationship of any kind, or how to find themselves or the right person before entering into a commitment. We need to teach family and relationship values, timeless elements that have absolutely nothing to do with gender or sexuality. We need to teach parenting, not what a father or a mother does. Those ideas have changed since humans moved from caves to farms to cities. But kids…? Kids still need the essentials. We should teach those.

My parents were not hung up on gender roles. Don’t get me wrong. Da was and remains a very Southern man. He is the breadwinner, the backyard farmer, and has a shop where he can make everything from welding projects to carpentry projects to his own bullets. Mostly, though, he uses it as his space, for tossing a few back, grilling out, and generally hanging out with Sundance and listening to classic rock. Still, when it came to raising a daughter, he totally stepped out of tradition. We talked about boys, relationships, my period, and bras.

Mum has always been a whole nother story. She’s a tomboy, raised with/by three brothers, she was tough as nails when I was growing up, always outside, always rough housing, and always fixing something. When our washer broke, she and I took it apart and fixed it. Same with the go-cart, the lawnmower, the vcr…I could go on. Da was not threatened by this any more than he was her propensity to not wear a bra, or make up, or fix her hair up pretty. Mum did not think him less of a man because he and his daughter talked clothes and boots and he couldn’t gut a home appliance and put it back together and have it working.

It is because of my parents that I first began separating Church and State. I didn’t realize it at the time, of course, I was twelve, and much more concerned with the fact that Da’s horse Confederate was sick. Having some bad blood between her and the local vet, Mum called one from the next county over, a lady with whom she’d gone to school. It was late. The lady asked if she could bring her significant other and their kids. Mum said, of course, and when she hung the phone she proceeded to prep us for meeting our first gay family. It went something like this:

“Dr. Vet is gay and I don’t want anyone acting like jack asses to her or her family.”

Confusion from me and my brother. Brooding from Da.

“Uh…I don’t care that she’s gay. She is coming to help Confederate, right?” Me

As always I looked to Da for confirmation. He nodded.

My brother only wanted to know how many kids she had and if they could play in the pasture.

Sundance and I ended up with babysitting duty.

I don’t remember thinking much about them or their “sin.” The two ladies were perfectly nice and had raised polite, kind, and intelligent children (a rarer and rarer thing these days). Mum and Mrs. Dr. Vet talked about animals and kids while Dr. Vet and Da took care of Confederate. Dr. Vet was good people, and her family was more than welcome on our property. We did not treat them politely and with respect in spite of their lifestyle. We treated them as they treated us and with gratitude for caring for one of ours. I guess my folks figured if they weren’t judging us for our skeletons, we wouldn’t be judging them. It wasn’t as if they were trying to convert anyone. And neither were we.

If you don’t want your kids growing up around homosexuality, pay more attention to them, control their environment. And their environment does not include the entire country. Most faiths renounce a large part of the world and popular culture. Christians are expressly told that they are “not of this world.” (a favorite passage of mine, to be sure)

This is no different. If I were a Christian parent, I wouldn’t let my kids go to see certain movies, listen to certain music, read certain books, or hang out with people who I thought might harm them (We aren’t discussing the fact that I wouldn’t actually do most of this, but if I can ban my imaginary daughter from reading Stephanie Meyer, then I can understand Christian parents choosing their own list of things to restrict). In America, parents have that right.

What parents (of any group) do NOT have the right to do is legally dictate the rights and privileges of other groups. Especially when those groups are simply demanding the same rights that the parents themselves expect. Should we protect our children? Absolutely, but that starts at home, with your family, your community, and the values that you instill in your children. They are not to be raised by the government, the schools, or the county rec league. We should be teaching them to be respectful and compassionate. Notice that there’s not direct object in that sentence? That’s right. Not “to <insert group here>”, children should be taught a basic level of common decency if we are ever to stop squabbling amongst ourselves over petty differences.

As religious cultures become increasingly divisive, the human race loses precious evolutionary ground. Even worse, spirituality takes the flack. Faith becomes the “problem”. Sacredness is the disease.

And the world is going to suck if nothing is sacred. Ever. I would rather everything be sacred. Now, we can get into a discussion about that if you’d like, and likely I will in another post, but I imagine that’s a doozy. The very nature of the sacred and the Sacred…subjectivity versus objectivity…I can feel small brains collapsing like ancient stars even now, so I’ll wrap this up and make it simple:

The misuse of religion (such as in the opposition of basic civil rights) equates religion with the lowest forms of humanity. It drags us into our past, where religion has been the tool of racists, bigots, extremists, and hatemongers. It keeps humans in the darkness of all their past crimes. It also takes a very small (if misguided) leap for those fed up with the whole thing to toss Faith out right along with religion…the unfortunate baby with the bathwater. Our world, however, has become increasingly faithless, secular if you want to sort of correctly use a word that I only kind of like. And. This. Is. Bad. If humanity has any hope of being anything more than what it is, then it is imperative that human beings spend some of their lives (often, if you ask me) contemplating something (ANYTHING!) greater than themselves. Because if we are the pinnacle of existence, then “I weep for the species.”

A Couple of Links: Christianity, Politics, and Homosexuality in America

Interestingly, before I began this blog, my facebook feed was filled with the kind of politicized cultural Christian trash that I hate. To be fair, I live in North Carolina and grew up in South Carolina, so this week in particular has been buzzing with people telling me how to vote on North Carolina’s Amendment 1. Of course I was disappointed with the end results of the voting, but I live here; I was not surprised.

Since I have stepped out in faith to begin sharing my thoughts, I have seen a  few posts pop up from other friends that I positively love. I have been encouraged by these and would like to share them. I have not yet had the opportunity to peruse the entirety of either blog, so I am not going to jump on a wagon and tell you to ride it too. Just that I’m interested in reading more from these sources. I have read the specific articles to which I will link, and I really enjoyed them. I encourage you to check both of these out and know that I will be reading much, much more at God is Not a Republican and Ms. Evan’s blog. And I will be getting my hands on the GINAR book.

For Every Christian that Opposes Gay Rights-God is Not a Republican a brief, but thoughtful note on our topic yesterday

How to Win a Culture War and Lose a Generation-Rachel Held Evans, a note that also speaks on the topic of NC’s amendment 1.

“It Just Won’t Do, Pigs”: reward based systems of salvation and unequal distribution of sin

I’m going to pick on Christianity a bit, but there are other religions that use the same reward-based type system for salvation. As a species, humans are consumed by the need to get things “right”. And honestly, I am too, so I’m not going to say that looking for the “right way” is a bad thing. I’ve been searching for my proper path my entire life; I will likely always look for that path. Three important things first.

  1. It’s the searching for that path that is the most important.
  2. There is no single “right way.”
  3. It should really be stressed that there are a lot more wrong ways than right ways.

Now,  onto our topic. One of the by-products of Christianity that drives me absolutely bonkers is that it all distills to a single truth from which believers extrapolate that the entire world’s moralities can be likewise condensed. To be a Christian, one MUST believe that Christ is the way to Heaven. This is not the part that makes me bonkers. I get it. I might not agree with all of it, but I am not going to actually get mad at someone who self-identifies as a Christian and believes in the divinity, life, death, and resurrection of Christ and that salvation is possible through that. I mean, that makes sense, not always my  sense, but logical sense. What drives me nuts, is that this single identifier somehow leads to entitlement, exclusivity, arrogance, self-righteousness, and an all-around judgmental culture that….wait for it…

is completely at odds with the actual Bible.

I do not want Christians to give up their Bible. I don’t want them performing marriage ceremonies for homosexual couples or celebrating pagan festivals (though some of them do), what I want, is for them to actually live by the Book.

 If you can’t earn your way into heaven, if we’re all equal in the eyes of God and sinners just the same*, then someone please explain to me why the adulterers and child molesters can sit in church with heads held high, while the homosexuals are persecuted?

For the record, I am pro-Love. This means that I am not for homosexuality any more or less than heterosexuality. Honestly, I think that a large majority of RELATIONSHIPS out there are broken, faulty, or flawed. I think we’re a hyper-sexualized culture and I don’t want to see porn of any sort plastered all over god, creation, and pinterest. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not actually a prude, but through material culture, media, and religious propaganda, we’ve done serious damage to both genders. We don’t know what being strong, useful, or healthy is, but humans perpetuate unrealistic, unhealthy, unnatural body and relationship images at every turn. Kids don’t even know what love is, much less True Love, but they know what to wear to catch a man who’ll knock them up, or what slick phrase to use to get the girl with low self esteem to spread her legs.

I am pro-Love, and from where I’m sitting, it looks like only about a quarter (and that’s being optimistic) of the world knows what love is. That said, I don’t actually care what tradition, religion, or politics say about the superficial characteristics of that love. I’ve met straight people, gay people, celibate people, etc who are both good and bad.

Morally, I do not judge a person by who they want to have sex with as long as:

  1. They are consenting, sentient adults.
  2. I don’t have to see it or hear about it.
  3. Non-consenting, non-sentient, non-adults do not have to see it or hear about it.

But that’s where the problem comes in isn’t it? The seeing and hearing about it. We over-share. Social media ensures that in order to be someone’s friend I know WAY more about their lives than I want to. Since Vietnam (both related to the war, the social upheaval around and also unrelated to the war) Americans have taught themselves not to self-censor, and with your nearest and dearest or when requested (going to someone’s blog btw is basically requesting), such an open stream of consciousness style of communication is fine, even encouraged.

But this is not the only nature of human interaction. Human beings still have to relate at the professional level, the casual level, the acquaintance level. There are actually very few people with whom I interact whose sexuality is remotely important to me. And technically, the Darkling is the only one of those that REALLY matters.

So my questions revolve around this: why do we need external approval for something that is by its very nature intimate? I understand that legal rights are a separate issue entirely and I am for those rights and recognitions, but I’m talking about nonlegal terms. The only reason I’m offended with how the majority of American Christians treat homosexuals is because they don’t treat the bigots, adulterers, liars, thieves, and child abusers with the same disapproval. Personally, I have my own little hierarchy of what ‘sins’ are less acceptable than others, but I do not claim to be a Christian at all, so I can hate on the adulterers and liars and be kind to homosexuals and prostitutes. I can even decide what I think is evil and what isn’t, but I am actually not talking about me.

I want to know why those who call themselves Christians, who hold the Bible up as Truth, choose to persecute one group of sinners and allow the others to be deacons in their churches, leaders in their youth rooms, and directors of their choirs. I want to know why churches are full of sinners, but some of them are not as bad as others. I want to know why these men and women are allowed to sin, find redemption, continue to sin, but they’re “good Christians struggling with the devil,” while homosexuals are treated as if they are the devil.

I thought at first it was the openness of the sin. Many of the church leaders hide their sins in darker closets than the homosexual community, especially as times keep a-changin’. But that can’t be it. There really aren’t that many secrets, especially in church communities.

Then I thought maybe it was intention and this has some theological basis at least. A sinner of the other sort at least (in theory) intends to do better when they ask for forgiveness, while a homosexual who is not renouncing themselves (don’t get me started on that bs, for all of our sakes) would be looked at as fully intending to willfully continue with their sin, therefore negating repentance. This seems most likely, but also the most hypocritical. I know plenty of “Sunday Christians” who sin all week like it’s Mardi Gras and then stumble into church for their weekly refresh of redemption, knowing that they’ll go right back to doing the same thing tomorrow. You can argue that these people aren’t Christians (and gods know that I have) but these are the people filling the pews and Sunday School rooms, and putting “vote this way!” signs in their yards.

So my question becomes: Just what in the hell are they doing?

Are they trying to earn their way into heaven? Are they so desperate for peer or divine approval that they would rather spend all their time calling attention to another’s misdeeds than resolving their own? Are they really that scared?

I know that I don’t work right. I know that my brain is flawed, but I decided a long, long time ago that I’d rather do what I thought was right than what someone else said was. Put simply, I’d rather go to hell for what *I* believe than go to heaven for something that I don’t.  Nevermind that I don’t, for one instance, believe that it’s that easy. Being a good person out of the fear of retribution DOES NOT make you a good person.

It makes you a dancing pig.

And those pigs that aren’t dancing….well, so what that they might end up bacon before you do? At least they were their own pigs…right until the end. (Also, bacon is tasty and bbq is a staple of all life, whereas, once the novelty wears off, a dancing pig really isn’t worth that much).

But they know that…those dancing pigs, so they make all kinds of fuss and point to the rebellious pigs, the ones that refuse fall in line, and they make sure those pigs get the bolt gun first, because they hate them and they fear them, and they really really really need someone to pat them on their heads and say “That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.”

I wonder why, of all human characteristics, we have continued to encourage the one that begs for external validation. Don’t get me wrong, Darwinistically I understand. The ones who don’t have a need for that approval end up bacon while the dancing pigs get to breed and produce baby pigs that they in turn teach to dance and sacrifice the “bad” pigs. And the bad pigs, by their very natures, aren’t the most evangelical, so they don’t encourage the other pigs to stop dancing.

Well, I’m going to try. ’Cause the way it is now just won’t do, pigs. It just won’t do.

*A quick note on verses. I will post be posting an entry soon on my approach to and use of the Bible in this blog. I will also be posting a handy entry for why I am a bad Christian. I am not saying that you have to accept the Bible as truth, I am merely showing what it says about something. I am also not simply picking and isolating a verse when it suits me. I will also try not to overwhelm with those verses, but I would be an utter hypocrite if I argued against Christianity without the Bible in hand.

Origins, Dadai Issues, and Pedestals That Just Won’t Crack

Strangely, I have always loved these cars…

Memory is a curious thing. Not quite truth, sometimes closer to lies, but still the primary method through which humanity relates to the world. Memory can be shared, inherited, lost, found, purged, and sought. It can be twisted, by time and by human machination. Tell a story often enough, precisely enough, and to enough people and it becomes a part of their memory without ever having happened at all.
But the reverse is also possible. It happens all the time, most benignly, with children who’ve seen something Mom and Dad don’t want them to see. Tell someone often enough that what they remember isn’t recall and the impressionable will write it off as a dream or forget about it completely.

How do we know what’s true? Who do you trust?

Everyone has memory. Everyone has a dozen nature and nurture factors to effect that memory. The same experience is never remembered identically. Life doesn’t mean the same thing to any of us.

I was conceived in the back of an old Chevy Nova. Only one of my parents was in love, and she was an eighteen year old statistic. Low income, single parent family, Daddy issues (hers had died when she seven), brother issues (three of ‘em, two great, one physically and sexually abusive), Mommy issues (doted on the boys, about as nurturing as a fish, put all the work on the grieving, abused female child). It remains a sad, familiar song all across the globe, and for Mum it led to self-esteem issues, poor relationship choices, and too much partying. I don’t know that you’d have called her a dealer, but she could get you the mild stuff if you needed it. Dadai thought he did, and he also thought him somewhat of a ladies man.

They dated, if you can call it that. From what I’ve gathered, Dadai was just after sex where he could get it, whenever he could get it, and sex and drugs went together in the seventies right along with the rock and roll. Dadai was a bit older than Mum. Came from a likewise poor family in a similar little shit town, with an abusive father and a sainted submissive mother who stayed together because she loved him more than her self-respect or their thirteen children. Of course, times were different then, or some such nonsense. And, of course, an ego like mine can’t understand staying with someone who betrays you and your family.

At any rate, Dadai found in my Mum a perfect victim. She loved him, that I do know, so much so that she believed he was going to break up with his fiancée for her. Oh, yeah, at that time, Dadai was a real gem. Infidelity, in this case, seemed to be as much nurture as nature, since his father actually told one of my cousins it was fine “as long as you keep what you have at home happy.”

Gross.

Mum got knocked up, but had apparently begun to see Dadai for the cad that he was. Either that, or she thought fleeing to Texas with his unborn child would force him to choose between us and his fiancée . From here things get tricky (okay, so it’s all tricky, since none of it is my memory). Mum claims she left to get a fresh start in Dallas. Dadai and Memaw (Mum’s mother. Also what Southern girl doesn’t have a Memaw?) claim she went to give me up for adoption. Mum claims she hated Dallas (easy to believe for a small town SC girl); Dadai and Memaw claim that Memaw tracked her down and told her to get her butt back home.

I was born in October. Reportedly, Dadai was too hopped up on something to get Mum to the hospital, but since I wasn’t born on the side of hwy 15, they must’ve managed it. Dadai’s nurse sister didn’t want his future ruined by his illegitimate, druggie baby and demanded a blood test.

This is the only thing everyone tells me the same:

Dadai took one look at my ugly mug (and, oh, trust, me, I was an ugly baby…red, red skin, wrinkled face, perpetual frown for all that I’d been born laughing-weird, I know) and he knew I was his. In heart if not in biology. In that moment, the future, the fiancée, the volatile relationship with a woman he really didn’t want…none if it mattered. One week later they were married, bastard daughter present and probably still scowling.

This has colored my memories of my Dadai my entire life. That he could see me and love me, so totally. That my Mum, even when she was bashing him for being an adulterer, an alcoholic, and all around bad father (which he was), even she kept that part of the story.
So you see, I grew up feeling loved. Before I became a precocious and fun toddler, I was loved. My Mum loved me, I knew that. Not long after conception one of her precious brothers died. At 21. Orphaning a daughter and devastating Memaw and Mum. I filled a hole in the grieving heart of a nineteen year old who soon found herself trapped in a loveless marriage. I learned early what it meant to have someone need you. I also learned to hate it. But I loved Mum, and she loved me, and Dadai had to have loved me from the start.

Everywhere I turned, people loved me. Dadai’s large family (minus that nurse sister…I don’t think she ever liked me). His dad (yes, the rotten father and husband) doted on me; his mom called me her rose bud in an attempt to pretty up easily one of the ugliest babies she’d ever seen. Memaw’s first granddaughter (the aforementioned orphan) was lost to her after my uncle died. Her mother took her away and Memaw filled that spot with me. I was a patch job for everyone it seemed, but instead of feeling like a replacement, I felt like a hero. Shiny, adored, placed up on a pedestal (which quite frankly, I loved).

It wasn’t until I was much, much older that I realized how lonely it can be being a hero. And how no one can love you forever when you’re up on that pillar. Eventually, they hate you for their having placed you there to begin with. Especially if you don’t have the good grace to crack the foundation and topple down to crawl among them.

Happenstance: further adventure into memoir

The South did not experience me as it did so many of its children. I was a rebel among dissidents. I did not often notice lines of class, race, or gender, and when I did my appreciation for those lines was usually made quickly and loudly apparent. I was a kind and respectful child, but not one given to false courtesy. I didn’t give two figs for polite society. Still don’t. I was never encouraged to sit idly by and allow injustice to be committed. Perhaps that’s a legacy of the Old South and the New, or maybe it’s simply that I’m a flag waving South Carolinian and we have trouble keeping our mouths shut when we feel passionately for something. Nevertheless, the ideals took root in me strong and at a young age, even if my ideas about who was worthy of defense differed greatly from what our history had taught us about persons of value, people of importance.

I was, by all accounts, a sweet, but scrappy child. I didn’t have a problem throwing a punch over a dog, or my little brother. I could puff up to at least twice my size like an adder, or a cat. I couldn’t stand to see a classmate teased when that child wasn’t able to give as good as he got. I got into my first real fist fight in second grade when I heard some boys teasing a child who’d just lost his mother the year before.  I leapt in like a dervish. I’m pretty sure Eddie never knew that they’d been talking about him. I’m also pretty sure that they never talked about him again. When Mum, godsloveher, heard that I’d been scrapping, she always asked “what did they do?” because she knew that if I’d throw the first punch, it was for a good reason. She also knew that I rarely threw the first punch, and I almost always tried to solve things diplomatically before resorting to righteous violence. For the record, Eddie ended up one of the most important people in my life for a time, though then, I’d not met him.

The pattern continues. I punched a boy in the face for attempting to molest a girl at the local teen hang out. He hit me back. He also learned his lesson and we were friends until he died. I have carried a knife since I was twelve and learned how to fight with kitchen knives not long after that. I have, fortunately, had only a few occasions to use those skills and I have done so with reluctance, but also with conviction. I know that I could kill a person, but I also know that I could die for the things important to me. I’m also Southern enough to die for a lost cause. Though we certainly haven’t cornered the market on that one.

A great deal of my nature is owed to the happenstance of my birth, or if you are such a person–and I am–then it was hardly happenstance at all.  Either way, the web of circumstances that intersected, diverged, and careened about to form the foundation of my character was a remarkably Southern one, and yet the antithesis of so much Southern tradition. I’m a farm girl with a love of good dirt, growing your own food, or at least being able to walk down the road and “swipe” Mr. Sammy’s sweet corn. I don’t mind bird seed on my porch or snakes in my yard though I suffer from varying degrees of both ornitho- and ophidiophobia. I am a Disney Princess. Birds have been known to fly right up and touch my cheek. Deer have walked up to me in the woods. I’ve had “pet” squirrels, deer, and an alligator. I was raised with chickens, horses, dogs, geese, turkeys, and goats. Some of them we even ate. This was, in fairness, an agrarian life, one not limited to southern experience. I think in large part, that came from economics, and tradition. Those were the legacies of my families.

Most of my family was of modest means, which I’ve learned is the way those-of-not- modest-means pretty up the struggle for survival that others face in this cushy modern world of ours. I affectionately refer to us as dirt-poor farmers, but I know that this is a shade exaggerative. While my father’s family had lean years and often only one shirt to each child (all hand-me-downs), they had land that grew food and cash crops and the sense to stay away from the destruction that tobacco can wreak on that land. They also had maternal grandparents who were well-enough off and would not have let their grandchildren starve (even if they were not my grandfather’s biggest fan). Mum had homemade clothes as a child (for that matter, so did I, but I loved them) and hocked her high school ring to buy my baby formula, but I never lived in a car and I always had a puppy. It’s hard to imagine that I was poor. I guess I’m just one of those uppity peasants, though I tend to think of everyone else, regardless of economic situations, as peasants.

My biological father, henceforth referred to as Dadai,  was one of thirteen children, raised by a god-fearing, god-loving mother whose only supposed flaw was the fact that she remained married to her alcoholic, abusive, and womanizing husband. A man who would one day become my most beloved grandfather. But times were, as they say, different then, and  that I grew up with very particular views of what marriage and parenting should be was partly because of the fifty some odd years that they spent together. I wish I’d had the opportunity to ask her why she had stayed with him all those years, but I have a feeling that her answer would have only made me feel that much more the alien in the family, and not actually enlightened me. By all accounts, my grandmother was a saint. Finding her prayer journals after she died only reinforced this notion, but I suspect that it was from her that I got my temper. She slapped my mom once for being harsh to me, and she was positively aggressive if you messed with her cubs. She defended them to a fault, and contrary to my own doubts, her children worship her, even now. She and I crossed words over my father more than once.

I think I was probably the only grandchild who dared argue with her. I did so as politely as I could.

Mum was about as opposite in her upbringing as could be. Well, her father was also unfaithful to her mother, but that seems to have been about it. Where my father had seven brothers and five sisters, mom had three brothers. Her father died (at thirty-one) when she was seven, and because she didn’t at the time know of his infidelity, she idolized him until she was much, much older. Her mother was about as nurturing as…okay, so I can’t think of a mammal less concerned with her offspring…but she worked to support her four children, while leaving the household tasks to her seven year old daughter.  The new “man of the house” was mom’s oldest brother, a basic unsavory abusive sort that is now my mom’s only surviving brother. The “good” two died at the ripe old ages of twenty-one and twenty-six. Both left children without fathers. Children that Mum doesn’t get to see. The short version of that explanation is that my mom’s family has a hereditary heart disease, the MO of which is to take you out without any warning.

My mom has survived the longest with the disease. She sacrificed more than any mother should to not leave my brother and me motherless. I hope my angel sibling forgives us. If it means anything, I will always be grateful not to have lost my childhood with Mum and Da, Canard and Sundance, and the myriad creatures we met and loved along the way. These things would not have been possible if we’d had to live with Dadai. He was a bachelor through his second marriage, and only got himself mostly together for his third. I would have been fourteen or fifteen by the time he scraped himself together to be “saved by faith.”

We’ll get to that last bit later.