I stood in the bathtub in my mother’s outdated bathroom under a trickle of water that was supposed to be a shower and wondered if I would ever get clean. I looked up at the mint green walls with the mauve seashell wallpaper border along the ceiling line and thought, Mom doesn’t even like the beach. A jar of shells sits on the vanity, collected by my grandmother during her summers in Florida over the years. The tub is a little grungy, either because of my mom’s failing eyes or her depleted energy levels.
The house holds no meaning for me whatsoever. It is not my childhood home, but the house my mother bought after her divorce from my father. (She loved it then – it was brand new and all hers. Now she only sees it as a money-guzzling hole and wishes she could get a free home makeover from Oprah or some other television show that assists the less fortunate.) So I drove 12 hours to stand in a strange, tacky, seaside bathroom in Indiana with water pressure barely fit for a third-world country or an RV.
I stood there, trying to warm up, questioning why in the hell I even made this trip at all.
Outside the bathroom was my mother, who had told me in a very condescending voice the night before that she was going to pray for me, since I happened to mention that I thought the Bible was just a book of stories. Shame on me for speaking my mind in such a close-minded state that sports billboards announcing that Jesus is REAL. (Just in case you didn’t know.)
Religion makes my skin crawl. Formerly my lifeline, I now believe practicing religion is like trying to learn how to drive a car in a classroom. You can sit behind the wheel of a simulator and follow all the rules in the manual beside you, but you’ll never feel the wind in your hair on the open road. And you’ll never really understand how it feels to completely lose control and slide across a patch of black ice. Spirituality is the real deal. Religion is for practice until you get there, but it’s certainly not designed to be the end game.
Unless you’re from Indiana and you don’t believe in Jesus. Then it’s certainly the end for you, because you’re headed straight for hell. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Face eternal damnation while your Christian friends look down from above and piously remind you that they’re praying for you.
I finally escaped my mother’s house, with a stomach ache and gritting teeth, to head to the lake with my kids. A whole new set of stresses consumed me as I prepared to greet my father.
I knew he would be excited to see us and I really just needed a few minutes (or hours) to unwind and unpack the car before I had to face him. I pulled up to the administrative building to check in, and I didn’t even have the car door open yet before he pulled in behind me. The man has no sense of personal space or boundaries. Last time, we had gotten in very late the night before, and he showed up knocking at the door at something like 7 a.m. then sat on the couch and proceeded to have a “visit” while I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and wondered if I were dreaming.
Sometimes I can handle him – even appreciate him – but not when I’m stressed and exhausted. All I really wanted was some dinner with the kids and then some time in the jacuzzi on the deck. I had to suffer through some terribly boring conversation and then the dreaded dulcimer exhibition. Finally, he was gone, and I slipped into a warm, pulsating tub that reeked of chlorine but provided a temporary outlet for my anxiety.
The next time he comes over, I will enjoy him, but today was not the day.
I’m completely wiped out. Returning to the scene of so much childhood pain is tiresome and difficult.