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The Ghost of Prayer

It’s funny. I chose science over God years ago, yet on nights like these—nights when my ten-year-old son, the one with an autism spectrum disorder, tells me 4thgrade is hard and the kids are all grown-up and they talk a lot but never to him and they play too rough for him not to punch back—well . . . it’s enough to make me crawl to the living room, sit on the couch, slump my head back and stare at the ceiling. Wondering if it’s not too late to fake some faith and ask for help.

I don’t take pity on my situation. But they don’t tell you that the day you stop believing isn’t necessarily the day you stop praying. I find myself praying all the time. To what, I haven’t the faintest. Most times it’s just air. Sometimes a piece of drywall. A pool of dishwater. I once prayed into a book.

I wish I could say it makes me feel better—gives me the same release it had so many years ago when that phone-line connection between my lips and the so-called divine held density. It had shape and form, and I remember it well.  But just like when a parent dies, and the child left behind fantasizes about seeing their ghost—wanting it so badly and concentrating so hard for that form to be resurrected for temporary comfort—the reality of the situation often turns lonely and the child is left no choice but to fend for their own grief.

This is how prayer is for me.

So I do things—put my faith in entities I can see and touch. I watch a movie or drink a beer or talk to a close friend. I hug my husband. Kiss my children. These substitutions are nice, and often effective. They hold the same temporary relief as prayer once did, and those emotions get lifted and delivered up. But it will never stop amazing me that no matter how many years go by—no matter how many secular holidays I celebrate or how many Bibles I donate to Goodwill or how many times I drive past a church as if it were no different than a McDonalds—I will probably always fantasize about that divine connection one day returning. Manifesting on nights like this when I so badly want to feel its electricity, want that ghost of prayer to appear. I’m torn whether or not I actually want it to.

But that doesn’t change anything. I’m still a mom, sitting on my couch, wondering how the fuck I’m gonna get to sleep tonight knowing my son will still be hurting at school tomorrow.