It has been so good being with my boys. We have spent a lot of time together, covered a lot of miles. 1400 so far.
Every once in a while one of the boys will say:
“I’m having a lot of fun!”
That surprises me. Most of the time they seem pretty bored, barely noticing the passing scenery as we roll through so much country.
I think that what they are enjoying about this trip is me. They are asking questions. nothing of great import really, just spending a lot of time being together.
Isaac asked about electricity and soon I had gotten him to some kind of understanding the relationship between ions, electron shells, Ionic bonds, and light.
Nothing of great import really.
What was important was that we were three guys, a father and two sons, learning to love each other. Learning who we are together.
I’m in my sister’s kitchen in Fallbrook this morning. Yesterday we were at El Mirage dry lake bed in the Mojave Desert. The day before we were in Orange County, the boys playing pool or video games; I lent a hand in getting the place ready for dad and getting a haircut. I had the stylist run her shears over my beard as well.
In the afternoon we went to the airport, John Wayne International.
Wende went to park the car while I walked luggage carousels as John Wayne strode across a larger than life Orange County.
Dad seemed old.
We hugged, drove back to Huntington Beach. He went to Wende’s to parcel out gifts from Southeast Asia. I put his luggage in his room next door.
My sons and I got silk pajamas.
Wende got a brass bell.
We sat in the yard drinking beers and he told stories of Thailand.
I watched the face, so similar to my own (well, a couple of decades older), and wondered who he is.
It really wasn’t complicated.
He is still the guy I’ve always known... and he’s someone I don’t really know at all.
He seems gentler. More relaxed.
He wears a beaded necklace, he burns incense on a little altar in his bedroom, and he is freer with hugs, even an occasional kiss.
Within my head, within my heart, I whispered quiet prayers set aside my prejudices.
I suspended judgment about prostitution, and hedonism, and wasted resources. I simply enjoyed him as he was, listened to what he thought was important to talk about.
He spoke a lot about his girlfriend, Puy. She sounds sweet... a widow who makes terrible coffee and ruins the food by dropping a raw egg on it just before it is served (he doesn’t want to hurt her feelings by being critical).
He talked about the house he shares with her in Chaiya Phum on the mainland, and the bungalow he has on Ko Samui, and island in the south.
He spoke of how his previous girlfriend, Apple, is elbowing him out of control of the bar he bought (it’s in her name, farangs, non-Thais, aren’t permitted to own property or businesses).
He talked about the twenty or so girls who work in the bar.
“When a man comes into the bar, it doesn’t matter if he’s 18 or 80, if he’s good looking or has acne, it don’t matter if he has one arm or anything, every girl there treats them all the same. They’re Buddhists and all they see is another soul.”
Something about the way he said that told me he was deeply moved by their lack of judging.
He talked quite a bit about a funeral on Ko Sumai last week, a Buddhist ritual of cremation and all day chanting. He talked about helping the villagers keep the fired stoked all day, of the music and drums and prayers.
He spoke a lot about prostitution. The differences between Singapore girls and how things work in Bangkok, and Japan, and Thailand. He said that in his bar if a man likes a girl, he pays the bar 100 baht (about $5) and she will go with him for as long as he likes. He can then pay her (or not) whatever he wishes.
Part of me pulled away from this talk.
Another part of me gentled toward him.
I suspended my judgment, and simply listened.
I found that I really love him.
I didn’t need to share my faith with him. He understands all of that. He is fully aware of the tenets of my faith.
He resents the proselytizing others have inflicted on him. He resents the judging Christians inflict on him, on those he knows, on other cultures.
He talked about his travels in asia and about his run for a record the next day.
I didn’t say much.
I didn’t tell him about my views on politics or life or faith. I didn’t really tell him much of anything. I just listened.
I didn’t need to say much to him. He knows I go to church every sunday, and therefore my faith is important to me. He knows I care about others, by the actions of my life, in adopting these boys, in lending a hand when needed.
I didn’t need to say much.
I just listened.
And I found something wonderful.
I found I love my dad.
His life, his sins, his triumphs and successes and failures are his own.
He is a soul made in the image of the Lord I love, and I find I love him deeply.
It isn’t for me to convince him of the errors of his ways or to educate him in my faith or shoe horn him into a paradigm that is closer to my own.
I saw how he felt humbled by the sincerity of those in Thailand, those with simple lives, simple needs. I saw how he sees himself, self important, and with no importance at all.
I saw him as a fellow traveler in this world who doesn’t need anything from me, but softens when I give him a hug, kiss his cheek.
He says he would love to fly me to Thailand and show me around. He said he knows I wouldn’t be interested in a lot of the things he is interested in, but I would love a lot of other things there. I know he meant that I wouldn’t be interested in the bar or the prostitutes, but that I would love the culture, the beaches and jungles, the food and people.
And in saying that I knew he understood who I am, what I believe in, and that he accepted me for who I am.
I was noncommittal about a trip to Asia, but I let him know I was very grateful for the offer...
“Maybe next year, Dad.”
My dad loves to cuss, and sleep around, and have manly adventures... but he is a soul which has its own kindness, its own approach...
I felt I understood how Jesus approached people who sinned a lot, were shunned by society... He simply loved them.
It feels good to do that.
(next post, a trip to the desert...)