Praying for Dad

by Larry Tadlock

My mother and I used to watch ‘Love Boat’, ‘Three’s Company’, ‘Dynasty’ and ‘Fantasy Island’. Friday night TV with Mom was my favorite. I had seen her drinking amaretto after her divorce in her white bathing suit in the apartment complex pool, putting on Tropicana bronze tanning lotion. So, when ‘Three’s Company’ played, that was a little risqué, I knew my mom had a wild side and was ok with it.

I also used to watch Leo Buscaglia for hours. He was the USC professor of love on PBS. Leo would say

“Family is where the love is. My grandmother was from Italy and forced us to wear garlic around our necks.  You will never get a cold.  We stunk like Italian Pasta. Tough Love!” They would ask for donations and sell his 6 pack cd series on loving relationships. It was during one of these marathons on PBS that dad called from Las Vegas.

I told mom that Leo’s message on PBS was the same as Corinthians. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast… believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

“Believes all things” often gets missed. The bible says believes all things?  What! Believes all things? I love people who believe in all things.

They are super fun to be with because everything is like childhood. I need to remind myself to believe in all things. Leo was always crying on his PBS talks. Mother loves to cry. Anything remotely heartfelt will make my mother cry. Losing her keys, a salesman that’s friendly, or some beautiful music like Carol King or Carly Simon are regular cry festivals. She loved my dad and when they were divorced about six years prior she never got over it. She’s seventy-five now and still loves him madly, “he was the love of my life”. They were high school sweethearts back in Justin, Texas.

The crying doesn’t last long because she is usually quickly onto some physical accident. She’s a total over the top hypochondriac and about once every 45 minutes makes a loud sound as if aliens have landed on the front lawn. It is very disturbing. “Aghh!” She cries as she burns her hand on a pan, trips on socks or runs into something.

Dad was in his final advanced stages of alcoholism, out on a limb. He had driven out to Las Vegas, drank all night and called me from the payphone of a liquor store when we had that talk about the devil. “Larry this your daddy. I am in a bit of a pickle.” He burps. Long pause and I wonder if he has hung up or passed out. “I don’t think I will make it to pick up you and your brother this weekend. I will be at the Stardust Casino in room 704 if you need anything.”

Now, as a born-again Christian, I did let dad Know that I would pray for him in the big field across the street. “I will cast Satan out of you dad. I am doing it now!”

My dad makes the long breath that he makes when he is about to give me some real dad to son talk but instead replies, “Do you really believe that is an actual devil living in a place called hell?” I knew this was a test of my faith and I felt the tenderness in his voice. A rare moment and I look over at Leo on the TV and I see the banner over the top, “Like white bean Soup, love is all you got.”  I take a big gulp to clear my throat and I say, “Dad I absolutely believe in the devil and I really don’t want you to go to hell.” “You’re a good son” he replies.  I feel I have done the lord’s work and have a nice sense of relief as I slide back into our orange and red flower-patterned sofa. The same sofa that was in the red brick house on Foxcroft street that burned to the ground, but the sofa was saved when the fireman put a plastic tarp over it and it later went to restoration.

That night in the purest way fashionable I went across the street into the old field that was behind the 7-13 and prayed for my dad.  Oh, the 7-13 store, you may wonder, was a knock off of 7-11. In Denton, we didn’t have the real 7-11 stores. We did have a Dairy Queen next to the 7-13 that had the most amazing DR. Pepper floats.  Two cups of smooth white vanilla ice cream whipped into a frenzy and covered with foamy Dr pepper and a cherry on top.

I considered myself a modern-day prayer warrior with various responsibilities that would be decided by the holy spirit on a moment by moment basis.  I had been baptized by the holy spirit one night at Bethel Church by BJ Thomas when he was a visiting singer and prayed with me after the concert.  Yes, the country singer who was a real playboy and who was with every country gal that sang on heehaw. He became born again and then a few years later decided to go back to sinning. “Rain drops keep falling on my head” was his big hit. But now that he was saved, his love for life was not simply about rain drops but for the Love of Jesus; his new lord and savior “Jesus keeps knowing on my head”. A few years after he left the church, disillusioned by it all, he came out with his big hit. Hey, please sing another “somebody done somebody wrong” song.

Thanks to BJ Thomas I could pray in tongues. Well it started with just a AAA sound, but I was excited, and the church elders praised god over this AAA. I believed sincerely from the bottom of my heart that it would help my dad. I also had no question that god heard me. Dad made to it AA eventually and it probably had nothing to do with my prayers and everything to do with his life. Maybe he hit rock bottom or maybe he was just smart enough to realize he needed to make a change. For sure, me praying for him helped me at the time and gave me a sense of empowerment that I was helping. I couldn’t imagine what I would do if I didn’t have some kind of spiritual practice to deal with such a fear.  Well I would have invented something I am sure.

I imagined that night in Vegas he won a lot of money and then lost it.  Drank cheap Coors beer, the kind they had before Coors Light and Coors Boutique and Coors Artisan popped onto the scene. He must have hated every sip because it tasted like cow piss. He must have been surrounded by women he didn’t love in a Vegas that was only in black and white.  He must have not enjoyed the process of drinking, nothing about it and just drank fast till he was totally drunk.

Dad is over forty years as a recovering alcoholic, loves to golf, and doesn’t even smoke, eat sugar or caffeine.  He is remarried and has a rather normal love affair and totally non-addictive life.  He often reminds me to “get a hobby”. I still wander into fields occasionally to think, to reflect. Mom still loves dad and makes sounds that she has hurt herself.

Meanwhile, I believe the whole world has forgotten about Leo Buscaglia.

Philip Brautigam
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