Saturday, September 25, 2010

Happy Birthday, Brigitte

When I tell new acquaintances that I have a daughter I adore, but who hasn’t spoken to me in eight and a half years, they are invariably surprised to learn that she is now apparently a committed Christian. How, they wonder, can she have embraced a faith that venerates forgiveness while herself remaining so staunchly unforgiving? What I dislike enormously about this is the presumption that I require forgiveness. I am a badly damaged and profoundly flawed person, and was a profoundly flawed parent — one who can think of 1001 things I wish I’d done better. And if someone told me today, on my daughter’s 26th birthday, that we could be in each other’s lives again if only I would ask her forgiveness, I would decline.

I can think of 1001 things I wish I’d done much better, but there wasn’t a millisecond during my daughter’s first seventeen years that I didn’t love her as much as it’s possible for a father to love his child. She might not have been much impressed at the time — don’t all of us, as kids, take the good stuff (and the horrific, for that matter) for granted? — but she’s now officially been around more than long enough to understand how extraordinarily devoted to her I was.

I remember being in Trader Joe’s in San Rafael with her maybe 12 years ago, and noticing a young dad wheeling his little girl around in a shopping cart. As they progressed through the store, the guy seemed to have only the most rudimentary sense of where he was and what he was doing; all his attention was focused on his daughter. He pointed things out to her, and encouraged her to do the same with him — to point out what she found interesting. He made little jokes with her. He touched her lovingly, and gave her an occasional kiss. He was unmistakably crazy about her, rapturous about getting to be her daddy. “See them?” I said to Brigitte, by then into her ferociously surly midteen mode. “That’s us a few years ago.”

I know, from her writings on line (she’s blocked me on Facebook) that my daughter resents my having ridiculed Christianity — at least the theatrical evangelical sort — when she was a kid. That isn’t one of the 1001 things I wish I could do over; I continue to believe that the people of whom I was making fun are indeed charlatans, as I continue to believe that the Catholic church is deeply corrupt. What I marvel at is how my daughter has forgotten that, even while ridiculing the faith-healers, I fervently encouraged her to be humble, tolerant, and kind.

As I understand Jesus to have been.

1 comment:

  1. "...that we could be in each other’s lives again if only I would ask her forgiveness, I would decline." WRONG! Love is supposed to be beyond that. It's just supposed to be love (says someone from the world's most malevolently judgmental family.) It's no coincidence the experts keep harping about how love is supposed to be unconditional.

    Try speaking to her, albeit secondhand, referential to her own newly acquired language, that of the St. James Bible. There's a great passage somewhere in it about unconditional, secular love, something to the effect of "Love is kind, love is etc. etc."

    You gain nothing if you don't try, particularly without imposing conditions.