Yes, I know that headline sounds insane on its surface, and to some degree it is. Before I continue, of course I have to first point out that as bad as my 2020 was, there are many who had it way worse than me. I’ll warn you in advance this will be mostly personal stories, but I’m going somewhere with this. As part of a four part series, while this part is more personal than news related, it’s important to understand my mindset when you read the next three installments. I also have to give a warning – while I rarely use profanity in my posts, there is a nasty string of foul language down below. I’ll warn you when we reach that point, and if you’re wondering why… this will all make sense in a few minutes.To quickly recap, when 2020 started:
- I had a job with a great customer, and scheduling that allowed me to take a lot of the burden of getting Little Bob ready for school in the morning off of Sister Babe, after she had shouldered most of it in Little Bob’s first few years.
- Mother Bob’s dementia was slowly but surely getting worse, but she was still able to carry normal conversations, and between Father Bob’s help and getting them moved into a nearby assisted living facility a few years prior, she was getting the care that she needed.
- Little Bob had an excellent teacher at school and was thriving.
- Our country was looking to be in great shape. Trump’s presidency was so successful that the Dems primary was obviously becoming a matter of which candidate gets sacrificed in an electoral slaughter.
- I had at least some faith in our justice & election systems.
Fast forward to the end of the year:
- I ended the year on my fourth job.
- Father Bob died suddenly in April, and Mother Bob spent the next year dying slowly as her dementia accelerated finally taking her a few days shy of Mothers’ Day, 2021.
- The teachers of Arlington County had been holding the kids in virtual “learning” hostage, only finally allowing hybrid (two days a week in person) learning in March.
- I’m now being told that I’m two holes in my bed sheet short of being a Klansman for questioning how a senile, corrupt, decaying heap of organing matter somehow got more “votes” than Barack Obama.
- Little Bob had not one, not two, but three close friends move away. All for different, non-Wuhan flu reasons, but what kid should have to go through this?
- I (and half of America) was one week away from watching what little faith I had in our Justice system get blowtorched.
You get the idea. But I also came to realize that I was lucky that 2020 was good to me in a few ways. As rough as the year had been, I was fortunate in that Brother Brother Bob (B3) and I lived close enough to frequently visit our mother. Sister Babe was insanely supportive of me through all of the flak I I mentioned above. That fourth job I landed on actually had a few features that put us in a position to allow Sister Babe to consider a needed career shift. And in a bizarrely cool moment, I got to spend an evening having beers & BBQ with a founding member of one of my favorite bands, those great Jersey Boys, Overkill. That last one is a great story in itself that needs to get mentioned here, and while too long for the main post you can read about it at the end. And please do – It’s a freakin’ awesome story. While the details aren’t significant, the story itself is pretty important for this post.1 This will make sense soon enough.
But the biggest and most unexpected twist of 2020 was renewing my faith in God after a three decade absence from the church. As as said so well by the band White Zombie in the intro to their album “Astro Creep 2000”, Perhaps you’d better start from the beginning…
I was born, baptised, and raised Roman Catholic. I went through a Gen-Xers religious experience as a kid, first Confession, Communion, Confirmation, along with weekly mass and CCD. Although I always said I believed in God, in some ways deep down I felt I never truly believed. I wasn’t outright hostile, but deep down wondered that if there was no afterlife if every hour in church was just a waste of time. I went to the local public elementary school, but my high school years were spent at a nearby Catholic school, not for religious reasons, but mostly because that to some degree my local high school had gone to s*** (specifically that my parents pointed out, declining SAT scores and recent drug busts). While I wouldn’t appreciate it until later, Catholic High school did me well, even though it marked the beginning of the end of my faith. I still remember writing a classroom assignment about praying for some natural disaster victims and questioning how prayer would help people who’d already been hit. I also still remember my Religion teacher writing on my paper a pretty good response along the lines of “The Lord helps those who helps themselves, but…”
The beginning of the end came of, in all places, my Senior English class. One of the books we read toward the end of the year was Camus’ “The Stranger”. Being insanely passive back then (or you can read as cowardly), I loved the book and its philosophy. As my faith decayed over the next few years, this book became, for lack of a better term, my Bible. Fast forward to my early 20s, and a series of events & some soul searching made me decide that deep down I didn’t really believe in God, and declared myself a Born Again Existentialist. Mind you, this did not come from a place of anger or resentment, but more from a feeling of being honest with myself. And I also did not reject the morality I had been taught, just the spirituality behind it. Some people I’d share this with found my rejection of faith depressing, but I found it a the time to be the opposite. Believing that there was no afterlife and not fearing what it might take to to get to Heaven actually felt… liberating. Believing that there was no afterlife suddenly made what I accomplished here on Earth, and what I’d leave behind after my death, suddenly gave my life so much more meaning. And being in my 20s and not having had reality completely beat sense into me, my politics drifted Leftward, although still pretty close to center by today’s standards.
Unlike most people who reject God (I never thought of it so bluntly until writing this, but let’s be honest here), I never felt that hostility and disdain you some from “enlightened” self proclaimed atheists. OK, maybe I did a little bit. In my late 20s I lived in Tampa, which while any good Southerner will point out that Florida is not officially part of The South, I still encountered my share of Southerners. Or more specifically, I came across a few of what my then coworker/roommate dubbed “Bible Thumpers”. You know the kind – not the generally normal quietly spiritual folk you might meet, but the kind who insist on wearing it on their sleeves. No matter how irrelevant, they find a way to weave the words “My Church” into every conversation, and if you talk to them long enough, you get the inevitable invitation to come on down some time and see what they’re about. It also wasn’t uncommon to see the regular dude in downtown Tampa during the workday or in Ybor City on a weekend night up on a soapbox and preaching to the passersby. No anger or hatred, but antipathy might be the best word to describe my feeling at the time.
Jump to when I was @ 30 & moved back North to the DC area. While working for some incredibly unethical organizations at that time, I wound up over a few years in different roles reporting to two devout Christians, and they were two of the better bosses & most decent people for whom I’ve ever worked. While both were great to work for, one stands out in particular – I’ll refer to him as The Anti-Bible Thumper (TABT). Professionally, TABT was not one of those life changing bosses, but rather a solid person you reported to that simply did you right in the brief time I reported to him. What I’ll always remember about TABT was his spirituality, or more specifically, how he presented it to his coworkers. This was around Y2K & the tech wild west. TABT had his own office, and I’d sometimes swing by with a question around lunchtime. If he was on lunch, he had his computer’s monitor turned off, and would just be reading his Bible. Always patient, he’d answer any question before returning to his reading. Being the era it was, there was a lot of turnover in tech companies, which led to many a farewell happy hour at the watering hole across the street. Although my first extended invitation to TABT ended in rejection, I always invited to him out of courtesy. I remember his answer being the same, if not every time, “Thanks, but I’ve got Bible Study tonight.” It wasn’t so much what he said, but his tone. TABT’s tone could have just as easily been informing me that it was laundry night. He never came off as he was preaching, but likewise never made any effort to hide his faith. And if TABT truly wanted to be a Bible Thumper, he could have done his lunchtime Bible reading in the break room, but chose to keep it to his self. I haven’t seen him in years, but the last time I saw him we did lunch some years ago & he thankfully helped me get out of the horrible job I was in at that time. These days, our lives are at a point where we swap emails every few years or so & exchange Christmas cards. A few years ago as Sister Babe and I did our annual Christmas card list purge that married couples do, she asked when was the last time I’d actually talked to TABT. This was still when I was still very much the Existentialist, and simply told Sister Babe that that we still occasionally keep in touch, and TABT was the kind of guy, who if he called me tomorrow inviting me to march on the gates of Hell with him the first words out of my mouth would be, “What time, and what do I need to bring?” She understood and hasn’t asked since.
Jump a few more years where I’d meet Sister Babe. One of the minor criteria I’d always wanted in a wife was hoping for someone more religious than me. Even though I wasn’t religious at the time, I understood the value of my Catholic upbringing, and wanted any kids I might have to have the same basic instruction before they were old enough to choose their path. And I got that in Sister Babe – different faith from mine, but a good, spiritual person. We also respected each other’s boundries – when I’d attend Tea Party meetings and get asked when they’d get to meet the wife, I explained that we had nonagression pact – I wouldn’t try to bring her to any TP meetings as long as she didn’t try dragging me to church. To this day, the program is working.
To cut to the chase, we jump to 2020, and everything that I mentioned at the top of this post. Thanks to the failures of the Arlington Public School system, I try to enroll Little Bob in the local Catholic school, and end up deep on a waiting list. Ever the optimist and ever the cheapskate, I cling to hope of Little Bob’s acceptance while noticing the tuition difference between parishoners vs. non-parishoners. So for the first time in roughly three decades, I become a regular church goer again. And stranger still? I find that it’s doing me well. Granted, part of it might be reaching back to my past. In the two years prior to 2020, I had the last three aunts/uncles from my mother’s side of the family pass, which led to three road trips for Father Bob and B3 back up to NJ for the funeral services (Mother Bob was immobile & cared for by this time). Maybe it was going back to the great state of New Jersey, maybe getting back to my Eastern European heritage, or maybe seeing family members I hadn’t seen in years, some decades. But the church experience was something I took away – I didn’t feel the indifference anymore. In fact, part of it made me miss my churchgoing days. Which gets us caught up to where we are today.
After a few months of church going, I realized that I had it wrong back in my 20s. I thought that I didn’t believe, but I was afraid to admit that I believed as I tried to make sense of some nastiness I was exprienceing at the time. I felt that admitting that I never truly believed in God to be liberating, but I had it wrong. I was the friend that Ozzy was ripping on in that Black Sabbath classic, After Forever, for his fear of admitting that he believed in God. I came to realize that deep down I never stopped believing, but was afraid to admit that i was worthy of possibly going to Heaven at the end of my days. But what if I hadn’t followed Joliet Jake’s fine example of seeing the light? I’m envisioning my possible meeting with St. Peter going something like this:
(Note: Thsi is the profanity riddled tirade I warned of earlier – stop scrolling if there are any children, coworkers, or members of the local clergy hovering over your shoulder. I truly mean no disrespect to any Christians reading this, but please understand that what you’re about to read is this Gen-X Jersey Boy’s interpretation over the severity of tone that Saint Peter might have taken with me upon my arrival at the pearly gates. If not the exact words, this is the tone I envisioned having to face)
One other programming note – in the next passage, the text string of (*) represents St. Peter clutching the front of my shirt with his left fist while hitting me over the head with his book in his right. Again, this will make sense in a minute.
St Peter: “NEXT!!!
Oh, it’s you (shakes head, flips pages in his book). I’ve been waiting for this day. Let’s see here, Mr. what was that phrase you used for all of those years? Ah, yes, (in the not gonna fall for the banana in the tailpipe again voice) Mr. “I want to believe in God, but I just can’t believe without proof. And if you can’t believe without proof it’s not really faith now, is it?”
You said that for how many years, and how much proof did you need before you finally believed? Seriously, how many times over the years did you get proof and chose to not believe? Forget the many times over your life you were not seriously maimed or killed by your own jackassery only by intervention. But let’s just look at the last decade.
Remember when you were carrying Infant Bob down your front porch and slipped on some ice? How many times before had you nearly taken a similar spill while walking and developed the muscle memory so that instead of an awkward fall that could have left you & Infant Bob in very different conditions & changed your lives, you recovered and were fine?
Or how about a few months later at a family gathering when Father Bob celebrated with a few too many beers, and while carrying Baby Bob stumbled on some stairs, nearly tripping & hurting both. Instead of living out his final days in guilt and misery over hurting the boy he loved so dearly he instead got to enjoy a lot of quality time with his family?
And 2020 – where do I start? For all of the shit that you went though, unlike many Americans you wound up with your family weathering a mild strain at the outset you kept your health, your financial hit was minimal, Little Bob found ways to thrive, you had a wife who stood solidly behind you, and you still didn’t belive?
Oh yeah (leaves podium, circles to get into my face), let’s not forget about the cherry on top of that seven layer cake of proof that God served you… You got to hang out for beers, BBQ, and some great stories with one of the members of Overkill. Not one of those overpriced meet & greets that I’m amazed your dumb ass never wasted money on, not some after show fan ambush where you snap a quick pic with the band members (like that time you caught Slayer after they played Disney World, and there was no fucking film in your camera, no no no…
(Drops book, lets go of shirt, lets out eshasperated sigh) Seriously dude. What the fuck else was the big guy supposed to do to make you believe?”
I’ll close this out with a perfect story to sum up how my 2020 ended. Sister Babe was having a text conversation with some old friends (mostly Leftists), and one of them used the word “hick”. Being from the South, Sister Babe pointed out how that word could be a derogatory term, and it got the appropriate reaction. Of course, that inspired me to find an epic use of that word, a six minute compilation of The Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase, ripping on The Big Boss Man. Unfortunately, SIster Babe did not share the vid with her friends, but some old friends of mine loved it. On the flip side, At the end of last year I had picked up a book from my church to start personally give Little Bob Sunday school lessons to get him up to speed before starting CCD. To recap, the year ended with something I never would have imagined when we first met – Sister Babe is talking like a Tea Partier, and I’ve essentially become a Sunday Scool teacher. To say it was an interesting year would be an understatement.
And this is a good point to leave this part of the installment. Apologies for the length and personal nature of the post,but the next installment is going to be the most depressing, negative thing I’ve written in my roughly 12 years of blogging. It’s important to stress that what you’ll be reading won’t be coming from a place of despair or blind rage, but of resolve, and I thank you for reading this to understand my current mindset Up next: America has fallen. How did it happen?
When you get picked up early from school pic.twitter.com/zXwRhls6Du
— Darth Vader (@DepressedDarth) October 27, 2021
1 So in the summer of 2020 I’m at an Ace of Spades Moron Meetup, enjoying some BBQ courtesy of Famous Daves & a few beers, and hanging out with our fellow Morons. As me & my buddy spent the evening making the rounds with our cohorts, I wound up talking to a nice couple from the Jersey Shore. I told them about how one of my sadder moments to spring from Covid was that I was set to see Overkill on a Friday night back in March when everything shut down on Thursday night. The dude gave me a funny look, paused for a moment and the just said, “I was one of the original guitarists for Overkill.” And from there I got to spend an evening talking to one of the founding members of a band I love over drinks. I got to hear some great stories about their early years. No, not some Van Halen-esque tales of police raids on hotel rooms filled with half naked groupies, piles of drugs & empty bottles of Jack, just cool stories about their early days as a band. And at the end of the evening as I was leaving I said goodbye with a salute that only an Overkill fan can truly appreciate. I mean, how cool is it that you get to spend an evening having beers with a rock star? And more importantly, it actually was fun and not some awkward or painful disillusioning moment? While it’s not the kind of memory that goes down as greatest moments of your life, it definitely ranks among the coolest.
Brother Bob is no longer on Facebook (although you can see his archives there), and is winding down his presence on Twitter, but is ramping up on Minds and Gab, as well as Parler, and has his biggest presence on MeWe.
Cross posted from Brother Bob’s Blog