December 14, 2020: Family Garden

A lot has happened in the past two weeks. Perhaps the most important thing is that I started working, and I also drove down to Redmond, Oregon to take the entrance exam for the IBEW. I\’ll hear back in 4-6 weeks, hopefully sooner. 

It\’s 9am. I have work in the early noon. I have a pot of coffee brewing. 

I have a story from my high school days. It\’s about one of those moments in time where a lot of information is suddenly revealed in a flash of light.

\”Thunderbolt Steers All Things,\” said the weeping philosopher. 

As a teenager, I attended a Bible study every friday evening with my family. The Bible study was lead by Shawn Sather. He was an interesting guy who deserves to be written about in a separate entry. Half the time my parents would host the Bible study, and the Sather\’s would host the other half. 

Sometime during my sophomore or junior year, when I went to the Sather\’s house for Bible study, I saw a picture of the Doak\’s hanging on their fridge. The Doak\’s were a family close to the Sathers who lived in Alaska. They were a beautiful Christian family. The father of the family was a retired army sergeant major (or first sergeant, who knows). And, what I believe was their oldest daughter, who was nearly my age, was also exceptionally beautiful. —Tall, pale white, dark hair, blue eyes (probably), and looked nothing like any of the (all but exclusively) Mexican girls I went to school with. For better or worse, I can\’t remember her face or the clothes that she was wearing, other than the fact that it was a sweater. —I fell in love with her picture. And I do mean love

I never met her. I met her father, John Doak. I met her brother, Tom. But I never met her. Almost every time I went to the Sather\’s house, I would look at that picture on their fridge. I would stare too long. I thought I was being sneaky, but now I\’m sure I wasn\’t.

Falling in love with a picture is a metaphor that adequately describes how capable I was of loving someone. The Andy that went to that Bible study was only capable of loving the mere image of a person. I had more feelings for that picture than the girl I lost my virginity to. —Is that tragic or merely pathetic? (Now, after reflection, it is tragic; back then it was pathetic.)

But when I woke up this morning, I wasn\’t thinking about the picture I fell in love with. (—Jessica, perhaps? I would rather forget her name.) I woke up thinking of John.

The night of one particular Bible study, I knew the Doak\’s were visiting, so I was trying to be on my best behavior. I walked into the Sather\’s living room. John was there, sitting, speaking with somewhen. He noticed me when I stepped in.

He looked me up and down and said, \”Oh, you\’re a punk.\” 

His tone made it obvious that I did not have his respect or approval. Apparently, that comment lodged itself really deep since I\’m writing about it now, twelve years later.

I was wearing bootcut Bullhead Jeans from PacSun that were torn at my heels from being stepped on by my converse, which were dirty and written on with pen. I was probably wearing a too-tight Volcom shirt or a tattoo-inspired graphic-T from Anchor Blue. I didn\’t feel cool or trendy, (and I wasn\’t). I only remember feeling an urge to dress in that particular style. I was beholden to values I didn\’t understand.

I didn\’t consider myself a punk. I had a specific idea of what it meant to be punk. Punks were anarchists, and while I appreciated the aesthetics and rebellious energy of anarchy, I had every intention of joining the military after I graduated high school. I thought I was a good teenager, a Christian. I spent my Fridays at Bible Studies—not with friends or girls (not yet anyway).  I figured John didn\’t understand me—not the real me, at least. So, his comment rolled of my shoulder, but it left an ugly taste in my mouth.

But he was right. His judgement was—as far as he was considered—very correct. He had no business respecting me. He could see that I was not like him.  John had his niche; he was a well-established American, a Christian, the father of a large family, and a retired soldier. He was well-adapted. And it was in his interest to protect his family from people like me. The World at Large was calling me. I was not a good christian. I was already beginning to lead a double life that would, only a few years later, cleave in two, leaving me on the side of atheism.

John did not understand me, nor did he care to try; but I do suppose that I could have eventually earned his respect. (On the contrary, Shawn thought he understood me, and he idealized me.)  John saw that I wasn\’t a good Christian; I certainly did not look like one. He could tell that I was trouble. He knew that I was not like him. He could see that I would not do well in his community.  I was an outsider. All of which was true. Despite my ability to keep a cool face and have reasonable conversations, I was immature—emotionally stunted. If he would have let me into his life I would have been trouble.  And he made his feelings instantly clear with his first words to me. 

Well, good riddance, John. Thank you for sparing me your virtues and vices. For now I know how tall the walls are around your family\’s garden and how vast is the world outside of it. And I know that you can hardly even bear to look beyond those walls, for there isn\’t a gate. 

The past weeks I have looked back at my days in college. I\’ve thought about a few of my relationships. Back then I wouldn\’t allow myself to say, \”I love you.\” I always wanted to say \”love\” and really mean it. I didn\’t want to cheapen the word. Instead I withheld the word when I should have said it. I left love unacknowledged. And because of that I lived in a poorer world. Sorry. I won\’t name you here. But I have in my heart. 

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