A cancer patient confronts his ghosts and the God of his understanding, bluntly.
|“So former American husband how goes it getting dead?” Dasha announced casually as she walked in and sat across from the hospital bed.
“Easier than it looks,” he smirked. “What happens if I don’t die?”
“I don’t collect from the state life insurance,” she shrugged. “Oh well, nobody gets paid around here anyway, and I’m not really that special. Your daughter and son will be here momentarily. I send them on a fool’s errand so we can talk.”
“Go ahead talk my short round and wonderful dissident wife…” he smiled.
“Well I use to be thin, shapely and somewhat tall…” she mused.
“All women become short and round…That’s why I like Slavic women…You girls know how to age,” he chuckled. “…And can cook a head of cabbage two hundred different ways.”
“So, are you going to tell the kids?”
“Tell them what?”
“You’re an American…” she went on. “And we have to talk about your spirituality.”
“Feofan Voskresensky!” she shouted as her husband seemed to fade off into another reality. “Get back here! Where did you just go?”
“I can’t remember what my sister looks like,” he weakly smiled. “I think she was named Susan…I don’t remember what she looks like. Though I suspect my dogs have died in the decades since, I vaguely remember what they looked like.”
“Remember your American name?”
“Captain Rheinlander, Josey Wayne, Seventh Corps. United States Army…I looked in the mirror this morning and I didn’t remember him either…” Feofan replied distantly.
“I can see why they don’t let you keep Josey Wayne,” Dasha continued. “But they should’ve let you keep your last name…Plenty of German descendants outside of Moscow…Every time you pick up a rock you find a German looking back at you.”
“When I die and get to heaven I’ll smack my grandfather for that. We had this conversation before. It was the KGB’s idea. When they couldn’t trade me back they decided to send me here since nobody escapes from Siberia. Then they lose me in the system and here I am. Surviving testicular cancer with one short round Russian wife in Chelyabinsk. Whereas I stopped being Stierlitz and began being lackey in a factory…”
“So, how’s your relationship with God?” Dasha asked as she propped him up. It took effort, the hospital bed worked, but not that well. “I have to ask as my parents were sent here as religious dissenters and I have the dissident gene in me as a result. That and I got arrested for possessing contraband in St. Petersburg…”
“Can God die?” Feofan asked bluntly.
“Nonsense…God is eternal, immortal and forever…”
“Then who died on the cross?” he asked passively observing her move about the room.
“Jesus the Christ…Son of God…”
“Is Jesus God?”
“Yes of course…Separate but equal.”
“So, who died then? If Jesus is God and God can’t die…Who died?”
“Why do you think of these things?” Dasha replied as she sat down. “This is a matter of faith…”
“I think of these things because I’m not dead and secondly even here in Siberia testicular cancer is treatable and curable…So I not going anywhere for the time being and not being able to remember what my sister looks like I talk to God and I’m wondering who I’m talking to…God the Father, God the Son or God the Holy Ghost…Which god? Are there three or one? If there’s one I have to ask who died on the cross? And if God did die…How’d he come back? If he did He really didn’t die what was the point of it all? If He died and the universe didn’t stop working…Who needs Him? All of a sudden the Trinity seems like a mental disorder…”
“You talk like a Stalinist…” Dasha barked. “Chemotherapy has gone to your brain.”
“That’s why I love you…You’re blunt. Always speaking your mind…”
“It’s good character to speak your mind…” she went on. “Besides I thought you loved me because I could cook cabbage.”
“That too…Then in the best of character I have problems with the Trinity…” he shrugged as a nurse brought in lunch. After the nurse left he continued, “Not saying I have a problem with God…Mathematical principles proof the question ‘Does God exist?’ in the affirmative. After all any number multiplied by zero is still zero so you can’t start out with nothing and wind up with the cosmos and still not have a God. So, stop asking the question weather nor not God is real and say yes…But here’s the rub which is why when somebody points that out to an atheist they start talking about physics even though physics isn’t math and that has nothing to do with the proof. The next question is who is God and or what is God. That’s when atheists resort to making stupid statements that conflate science with theology. Science which bears no resemblance to theology becomes their religion though most aren’t scientifically trained and don’t realize they made their own god or at least won’t admit to it…Jokes on them.”
“You prevaricator you,” Dasha laughed. “What happened to you when you were small?”
“I was lied to allot,” Feofan replied and finished off his food. “In the church you finally dragged me off to once things were better in this respect I can say I was lied to when small. Take Easter for example…In American tradition you drag the kids off to church say ‘Praise the Lord, He is risen,’ and talk about going to heaven because either somebody died after being nailed to a tree or came back from the dead and give the kids symbols of a pagan fertility rite. Jesus dies and comes back from the dead which makes me wonder how can God die and if that’s how I get to heaven why did He come back and that proves what? And I get a chocolate rabbit and colored eggs in basket. Exactly what Slavic pagans do, did, in Poland before they were Polish. In American religion it is okay to lie to children. Makes me wonder what else I got lied to over.”
“Okay genius,” Dasha answered his pause. “Cut to the chase. What does all this boil down to.”
“I think God doesn’t give a flying furry whatnot about me and what I think. I lay here eating liver and onions wondering about my sister, whom for the death of me I can’t remember what she looks like. Now, I start out as an American soldier and because I look like the East Germans I get to be a spy. I’m taken prisoner in East Germany then become a guest of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic like Francis Gary Powers. With him…They keep the airplane and put him back. With me…They give back the car they catch me in and keep me. Now, I can’t complain much since it got me away from the CIA and nobody can get far enough away from those animals. Here I meet you, spend decades driving a delivery truck for a woman’s shoe factory have two children Feodor and Dolinka and enjoyed it. However, that being said I still have to ask God what happened to my sister. What happened to my American life? Was it really a good thing that I became a guest instead of being dragged out back and shot?”
A knock came to the door. Both Feofan and Dasha turned to look as Dolinka stuck her head in.
“What?” Feofan gruffly and playful asked her. “Your mother and I were just discussing pressing theological questions of the century and you interrupt.”
“Jokes on you,” Dasha giggled. “Know it all…”
“Well dad,” Dolinka announced as she walked in. She stopped by the foot of the bed smiled and continued, “When mom sent Feodor and I out to get a gift for you we took the long way…Well as we walked through a patch of forest of the Miass river, lightening then struck a tree and the woods caught on fire…Well we heard screaming in bad Russian ‘Save me! Save me!’ And Feodor yells ‘I’ll save you!’ and runs into this blazing inferno of doom and finds this…”
She then turned toward the door and Feodor walks in guiding Feofan’s sister, Susan.
Feofan for his part stared at her briefly and then looked upward past the ceiling into a space beyond time, and said, simply, “Thank you.”