Saturday, July 2, 2011

ACA's: A Unique Fellowship

While visiting my daughter and her family here in Southern California this week, I have had the opportunity to read another good book.  And no, around their house visiting and reading are not mutually exclusive activities.  Boy, am I thankful!

The fact is that every time I come here, to my daughter's home, I find some terrific book laying on a table or bookshelf that I have been meaning to read, and suddenly voila' there it is.  It may be a book I have seen on the N.Y. Times Bestseller list, one I have seen referenced in another blog, or one I just stumbled across willy-nilly. 

There is no way they could plan this, but inevitably, there it is.  It has happened so many times that it might be weird, if I didn't find it so delightful.  Obviously, both my daughter and son-in-law are great readers.

Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir. . . of SortsSo this visit, that "magically appearing book" is by Ian Cron and it is called Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me.  The author is an Episcopal minister, who writes of his father, a charming/talented/abusive/absentee father and of how being an adult-child-of-an-alcoholic (otherwise known as an ACA) colored his life

I can relate.  My own father was much the same.  I know well the reality, and strange unreality, of growing up where life behind the closed doors of home was more nightmare than dream fulfillment, and yet, there was always the expectation that one would put on a good face when going out that front door to meet the community.

My dad was an "oil man" and due to his skills in that field we could have become a wealthy family. However, due to skills in drinking his way through every promotion and raise that ever came his way, we ended up flirting with the poverty line on many occasions.  But we never talked about it.  That is the code in an alcoholic family - you never discuss the elephant in the room.

Cron is insightful, humorous and engaging in the retelling of his journey from spiritually inclined little boy, who loved God and wanted to be close to Him; to becoming an angry, alienated adult who honestly felt that Jesus had betrayed him.  His account of Jesus apologizing to him for his horrendous childhood is unique in my reading experience.  And, yes, I do realize that this may present an affront to the reader's theological position. All I can say is, you have to read it to understand it.

I appreciated the way Cron did not wrap up all his anguish in a nice, neat little package, and tie a bow of resolution around the whole darned mess.  Goodness knows we have all longed for that at one time or another.  But those who have actually matured a bit also know that that is more magical thinking than it is healing and restoration.

The author's vocabulary is by turns both visceral and charming.  He does not inundate the reader with tons of references to philosophical or literary works with which he has been influenced.  He meticulously mentions a few at just the right spots.  And then wisely leaves it alone, for the reader to make her/his own connections.

For obvious reasons, the connection for me was personal and powerful.  I'll close with one quick example of how being an ACA can influence the way we see and experience life. 

Several years ago, a sign near my home announced,

         ACA meeting, Thurs. eve. 7:00p.m.  Everyone welcome.
                    (Time and place were noted)

I read it while driving by, and immediately thought, "How interesting.  This is a brand new community, but it didn't take them long to get here."  My home, like all the others in the area, was only a couple of years old, as the entire community had sprouted up out of what had been unused agricultural land, just a short while before the building boom arrived.

That next Thursday evening found me sitting in a school gymnasium watching other residents file in and greet each other cheerfully.  Soon a couple of local policemen also filed in and the folks down front began to make "the meeting is starting" noises.  The first person took the microphone.  It wasn't quite what I expected.

Over the next half-hour I listened to various community updates, and an interesting presentation on gang graffiti, which had not yet marred our little middle-class utopia, but we were being warned to be on the lookout, nevertheless.  I began to think puzzling thoughts, and I finally leaned over to my next seat neighbor and inquired, "Is this the ACA meeting."

He gave me a curious look and replied, "Yes, it is the Arden Community Association meeting."

You see what I mean?  When I saw the sign, "ACA" I just assumed it referred to adult children of alcoholics, although I was surprised to learn (erroneously as it turned out) that there were so many of us in such a relatively new and small community.

Privately embarrassed, and disappointed, I stayed another fifteen minutes, long enough to assure myself that I knew how to remove and report any graffiti that might suddenly appear on my corner signpost, and then silently drove the few blocks home.

It never ends, I thought.  You never come to the place where you quite fit in, where you "get it."  Because your "it", your sense of what is true and real and important, never quite squares with those whose growing up experience was more normal.  This is one of the mainpoints that Cron also makes in his book.

So then I laughed at myself, and thanked the Lord for my sunny new home, my family, and His love.  I also determined that next time, I would call ahead and confirm what meeting I was attending.

Hope you know where you are and where you are headed today...
if, so, you are blessed.  .... Marsha


  1. Enjoy your vacation and the love of family and some good books!

  2. Sounds like a very interesting book. I'll check it out on Amazon.

    Thank you for being so honest and vulnerable about your childhood. That had to be so difficult, Marsha. I did not have to live with that, and I don't think I can imagine how hard that must have been.

    Praise the Lord that His love was able to reach into your heart and grab onto you! And that an alcoholic father did not keep you from hearing the call of your Father!

    Have fun - it's gonna be a HOT weekend here in So Cal!


  3. Great book review! It sounds like a good one.

    After reading about your "ACA" story I better start paying a little more attention to what kind of meetings I attend :-)

    Have a great 4th of July!