That's the thing with magic. You've got to know it's still here, all around us, or it just stays invisible for you.
-- Charles de Lint
'Two amazingly synchronistic things happened to me this morning, things that prove to me the power of my own intentions," Dad said, his voice effervescing with the sparkling tone of wonderment."I'm all ears," I said into the phone.
"Well, you know how things have been a little up in the air for funding at work," he began.
"Yes, of course," I said. Rare is the topic not covered in my daily conversations with Dad.
"So, I'm pulling out of the garage this morning, and I was thinking that I shouldn't worry, everything always works out for the best, and I say to myself, 'Hey, take it easy.' And the first car I got behind at the stoplight had a bumper sticker that read, 'Hey!' and then underneath 'Hey!' was, 'Take it easy!'" Here he paused, his silence dismissing any considerations of coincidence.
"That is something," I agreed; I tend to be superstitious, often analyzing chance encounters for deeper meanings. Once, I began to dial my sister's number into the phone, but when I placed it to my ear, Heather was already on the line, having called me less than a second before I'd tried to call her. To us, this was nothing short of a miracle.
"What's the other thing?" I prodded, eager for more.
"Well, I was on my morning walk," Dad began, referring to his daily five-mile peregrination from his home in Mission Hills through Hillcrest to Balboa Park and back, "and when I got to the park, I really had to take a leak." Dad's walks are early, pre-sunrise, before the public restrooms are open. "There was no way I'd make it -- I was thinking I'd have to go in a bush. And then, suddenly, where one had not been the day before, there it was -- a port-o-potty. I manifested a port-o-potty, right in front of the Old Globe! Right when I needed it most, in the most unlikely of places, there it was! And it was unlocked!"
The bumper sticker thing I got. Toilet manifestation, however, was a bit of a stretch for me. And yet, I could understand how extreme relief in a seemingly dire situation might lead one to suspect divine intervention, even if our deus ex machina appears in the form of a port-o-potty. I also knew that, as seen through my father's eyes, that blue plastic bathroom wasn't just there . It was there for him .
Dad was raised Catholic, one of the Big Three religions that invokes God's divine wrath as a motivational tool. My dad doesn't buy all the fire-and-brimstone, you'll-burn-in-hell-unless-you-eat-your-vegetables stuff. But, as a deeply spiritual person, Dad was not ready to give up on a higher power entirely. From Ra to Zeus to Jesus, man has made God in his image, and imbued Him with mortal weaknesses like anger, love, jealousy, and fear. Thus, my father created the divinity that best suited his personal needs: a hodge-podge of only the positive, loving, all-embracing aspects of every religion he could find, with none of the bad shit.
"So, you hear about Dad's manifestation?" I asked my sister Jenny later that afternoon; she sometimes brings her laptop over between work and school, a few hours during which we are the best of office mates -- professionally respecting each other's need for productivity while allowing intermittent interruptions for a bit of companionable gossip.
Jenny nodded at me and rolled her eyes for good measure. Of course she'd already heard about Dad's miraculous morning -- she lives with him.
My cell phone screamed the loud aria I have programmed to sound when someone I know is calling. "Hey, Daddy! I've got Jenny over here; she's borrowing my dictator for some work project."
Before he could comment, Jenny called out, "Yo, Barb!" loud enough for my father to hear, "We've got 20 minutes to manifest some batteries for that thing before I have to leave."
Not missing a beat, my dad said into my ear, "Oh, she's so clever with that manifesting, eh?" The smile was evident in his voice. "Tell her she can manifest a fucking key to get in the house, 'cause I'm changing the locks!"
The next morning, I met up with Dad at Midtown Church; within the expansive embrace of Religious Science, he has found a place to worship his personal deity.
"Guess what? That port-o-potty? It was gone this morning," he said as he joined me by the entrance. "It was there yesterday, when I needed it, and now it's gone . Spooky, huh?" He made a shuddering noise, as if he'd just been poked on the back of the neck by the icy cold finger of a long-dead acquaintance. Like Kramer on Seinfeld, Dad often makes this noise whenever words fail him.
"Fuckin' crazy," I said, marveling at the mystery of it all.
As is usual when I join my father at his church, I found myself unable to repeat the words of a chant that precede a minute of meditative silence. As the rest of the people in the room, eyes closed, did whatever they do when people meditate, I pondered my resistance to the words, "I am as God created me, in the light in the love in the glory." I stared at the candles flickering behind translucent orange and red glass before flowers on the altar.
It's that word , I thought. I don't like the word "God." Maybe all those years of Catholic school have done to me what they did to Dad -- too much negativity, too much guilt, too much bad shit. I looked around at all the peaceful faces. It's just semantics , I continued in my head. So if I take out that dreadful, overly wrought, meaning-laden word, I'm left with an underlying Popeye-esque sort of principle: I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam. Kind of self-help-y, but I'll take it over Bible-thump-y any day.