When I was ten years old, my mother told me that my father was not really my father.
When his father found out that he had gotten an American girl pregnant, he whisked Aladdin back home. I found this interesting. It did explain some things. Like why I was olive skinned with jet-brown eyes and dark hair when my little sister was blond and blue eyed. Finding out that I had a father somewhere in the Middle East was intriguing when I thought about it—which was rare.
You see, I already had a father. His name was John Joseph Mackey. He was a retired Catholic from Boston, the son of Irish immigrants, and he was the most real thing in my life.
He was my father. He was my rock. He taught me. He spent time with me.
He told me jokes. He took me for rides on his big BMW motorcycle. On Saturday mornings we went out for pancakes. He complimented me. He protected me.
He smiled at me. He told me that I was smarter than he was and that I could do anything I wanted to. All the mental health I gratefully draw on in my adult years comes from the security of knowing that my father really loved me.
During the time my mother and father were dating at Berkeley, my dad took off for a two-month course at UCLA. But he was everything in her thumping heart. Devastated, she drowned her sorrows byu Shreveport dating the elixir of physical attraction. Aladdin asked her out. Except that she was pregnant. She told Jack she was pregnant with his.
He did the honorable thing and offered to marry her. They tied the knot during a break between classes. She told me later of the last time she ever prayed. She knew in the delivery room. I was a little Arab from the start. Dark hair, nearly black eyes, and olive skin.
But she admitted nothing.
Trust being crucial in marriage, this made for a bad beginning. Does that make you happy? I only knew two basic things about growing up in my family. My father loved me. It was all so doomed.
She was not abusive in the way that lands kids in the ER. She ignored me. I was her sin walking around on knock-kneed legs. Aladdin must have been knock-kneed like me, because no one else had them. Most of the time, being ignored is not life threatening. Just enraging. I felt a great deal of anger at my mother.
He had decided to be my father. I see now that he adopted me—a de facto adoption.
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He made me his from the beginning. Because I was his daughter. Like a duckling imprinting on Momma duck, I imprinted on my father.
I absorbed his likes and dislikes, his taste in music, his politics, his love of reading and education, and even his bent for writing. To me he seemed to know everything worth knowing. So all my little neurons did their darnedest to line up and fire just like his: I byu Shreveport dating good grades, wrote a lot, read everything from the cereal box in the morning to the under-the-cover-with-the-flashlight library book at night. He was a Democrat and voted for Adlai Stevenson.
I proudly wore my Vote for Adlai button to school in Shreveport, Louisiana. I tried to be him. It was modern and therefore sophisticated, and it scoffed—politely in those days—at anything that made religion real and concrete, whether that was the Virgin Mary appearing at Lourdes or the angel Moroni handing a boy golden plates to translate.
When I was eleven, we moved near my maternal grandparents, who loved me too. They were active in the LDS Church. I took the streetcar to their house. I had lots of questions about life, death, and God. I think I was born a theologian. I loved my dad with all my heart, but it was not my fate to absorb modern agnosticism from two parents who had rejected the religions of their youth. I had a not-to-be-denied hunger to know if there was a God and, if there was, what he was like. From my grandparents I heard the plan of salvation for the first time. Actually, my grandmother drew it for me on the blackboard in her kitchen: a circle for premortality, a wavy line for the veil of forgetfulness, another circle for earth, and so on.
I was not about to believe what my grandparents believed just because it sounded so right and I hoped it was true. Perhaps the most important thing my grandparents taught me was that if you asked God a question he could and would answer you.
That seemed like a reasonable thing, a good test.
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I began to pray. I would sit in my backyard and talk to God, if there was a God, and ask him, if he could hear me, to answer me, if he would, by letting me know he was there, if he wanted to. Finally I stopped equivocating and proposed a bold plan that he could show me he existed by letting the giant concrete cross on Mt. Davidson appear through the fog the next morning.
I ended up asking for this more than once because one clear day could be just a coincidence.
I kept praying and began to be less dogmatic. One day, while I was riding the streetcar in San Francisco, God talked back. I simply had a download of the Spirit into my eleven-year-old heart that was undeniable. Like the moment when the Blue Fairy touched a wooden puppet and Pinocchio turned into a real boy, nothing after that was ever the same.
I think I was prepared to accept the gospel precisely because of my relationship with my father.
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Fathers were wonderful things. A Heavenly Father was more of the same on a grander scale, with infinitely greater power to provide, protect, and defend. At eleven I asked to be baptized. My parents humored me and said okay, assuming I would grow out of this religious phase. My mother railed against her parents for brainwashing me, and my father just seemed confused. So, of course, I went to BYU.