Power of Prayerhttps://i0.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/SIC_Jacelyn-04.jpg?fit=1024%2C768&ssl=11024768Garrett MostowskiGarrett Mostowskihttps://i0.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/22GarrettMostowski.png?fit=96%2C86&ssl=1
(Content warning: Abuse)
Whenever Dad hit me, Mom would tell me a story.
He quit his job for me, she would always begin. The job at Schiller Pipelines that he loved more than anything. The job that let him travel as foreman, and showed him the world, and had him crawling through underground tubes, and spending time with old high school buddies. The job he always talked about, she liked to remind me. The one that gave him all his best stories.
Like that time in the 70s when he was on a job in Manhattan and went out dancing at some club and while boogying with some hottie, felt a prick in his back, something slide through him warm & cold at the same time. And, it turned out the woman he was boogying with had a boyfriend she didn’t mention who tried stabbing Dad to death right there on the dance floor.
Or, there was the time his buddy Alan got caught in a drain pipe during a storm and barely escaped as the pipe filled and filled to capacity. Or when he and his crew had to sleep in their trucks in the Mojave desert because the company was too cheap to buy them motel rooms. That job. Same one that paid him a lot more than his new job which Mom always included in her story en route to saying, every time, “but it didn’t matter, because they didn’t offer health insurance.”
We needed insurance because I was always so sick with asthma. In and out of the hospital constantly. Mom always included this, I think, to justify Dad’s motivations, but it always made me feel like it was my fault Dad had to quit his job. Never mind the cardboard factory a block from our home that pushed so many parts per billion of dangerous chemicals into the air each evening. And, never mind the corporate greed at Schiller Pipelines that wouldn’t offer family insurance for their laborers. And, never mind US legislators propping up businesses like these to the detriment of their own citizens. Never mind all that. We needed insurance because I was sick. Because of what I did and who I was. Which was supposed to, I think, make me feel like it was ok he hit me whenever he felt like it because he had sacrificed his life for me to show me how much he really loved me.
Mom always told that story. She told it almost every day after he broke his back working that new job he took that offered health insurance for the whole family. And after he had recovered, and after he found out that the new company laid him off and fought his claim for workman’s comp and disability and sent lawyers after the family when we sued for negligence, after that, she told the story twice a day for a while.
He really does love you. He really does. You don’t know how much he enjoyed that job. And you don’t know what it meant for him to give it up. And he wouldn’t have done that if it wasn’t for you. His love for you. You mean the world to him.
And maybe I did, but what she didn’t know was that the world to Dad meant pain and suffering.
One night after another one, brought about by the fact that I was eight years old and still pissed the bed, Mom came up to my room where I was face down in a pillow sobbing out my recovery. She pet between my shoulder blades and started whispering that god damn story again.
“Five fingers to my fucking face,” I said, “for something I pray every night to control.”
Then I raised up and put my crater into the plaster wall.
She didn’t say anything. She just looked away. And left.
It was true. I prayed every night for years for God to take away the bedwetting. Every single night. Give me dry sheets. Wake me up before. I’ll do anything. Please. Please.
I prayed for other things, too. Mostly because Pastor always preached on the power of prayer. And he said that if we seek God only when we are desperate, then he will keep us in desperate circumstances because he deeply desires to fellowship with us regularly. But God will rescue us and get us out of trouble when we come to him, too. And Pastor said too that every single prayer he had ever prayed had been answered, and it’s not because he had so much faith, but he had at least as much as a mustard seed, apparently and if we did, too, those of us listening to him week after week, if we had faith like this, it would be counted to us as righteousness and then we would be blessed by having all our prayers answered, too. But we had to be in fellowship. And we couldn’t just wait till we were desperate.
I wasn’t too sure what Pastor meant when he said faith, but if I had to guess, and I did, as an 11-year-old, I thought he meant a feeling that matched a thought you had. Like when Mom won a small jackpot on a local lottery saying she had had a feeling about it, like someone was telling her to buy the ticket, and so she did. And then she won. Faith was the space between what she was feeling inside and her action to manifest it. And I had heard so many stories like that growing up as a kid but couldn’t remember a time I had ever tried it.
Until the day I called upon the power of prayer to heal Dad’s back.
It was right after church, and we had just gotten home when Dad tripped over a rip in the carpet and stumbled forward onto the kitchen table, where he laid and moaned and god damned the world while holding the small of his back.
Seeing him sprawled, I had a feeling.
If I just reached out and touched him like Jesus did to so many. And if while I reached out and touched his back, if I closed my eyes and called upon the name of the Lord and asked for healing, then…It was like someone was telling me to do it. A push from beyond. And it made perfect sense to me because it wasn’t a miracle like throwing a mountain into the sea. It wasn’t a miracle like all the times I prayed our family would win a bigger lottery. It wasn’t anything selfish, I didn’t think. I just didn’t want Dad to be in pain. And I had been in fellowship with God daily praying the way I was, and maybe most of those times I was desperate, but some I was not.
And so while he grumbled and tried to breathe, I tiptoed behind him and placed the tips of my trembling fingers on his spine. He jerked and winced. I ignored it. Started praying under my breath—heart pumping, lots of sweat. I believe, I believe, I believe. Make it end.
I woke up to hums and beeps. The din of unfamiliar voices echoing in a hall. My mom bent over—elbows on knees, chin to chest—clutching a Kleenex in her fists. She was in a stiff-looking leather chair stationed at a perfect angle beside me.
“Mom,” I said.
She couldn’t look at me. And instead started saying he had quit his job for me. The one he loved more than anything.