My father kept a picture of Jesus on the console of his car. It was the Anglo Jesus we Americans raised as Christians know so well, with the soft flaxen locks and the blue eyes. This was after the divorce, and I remember seeing the picture there and asking him about it on one of his weekend visits. It was to remind him that "God is his co-pilot."
He wasn't always a Christian. I have vague memories of him explicitly telling me he was an atheist. I recall being very upset on one visit seeing his stack of Playboys. I knew those were "wrong" according to God, and I threw an awful tantrum. Being a father now, I can imagine his frustration with a child wailing about something no amount of logic would assuage. It wasn't just the dirty girly mags, but more the thought that my father was Godless, as had probably been hinted at by my mother.
He left us for another woman, when my youngest brother was still a baby. I know he regrets that to this day. I can barely remember it. I was in kindergarten or first grade at the time. I have memories of my mother crying a lot, but that seemed to always be the case. The father role was dumped on me, at least inasmuch as taking care of my brothers and comforting my mother.
My most recalled father anecdote is when he'd remodeled a room in our house, before the divorce. It was to be our playroom, and he asked if I liked it, and I replied, "I love it!" He said, "You can't love inanimate objects."
I remember him from those days as all logic, much as I am now. He didn't find Christ until he was hospitalized. It was for depression or anxiety of some sufficiently acute nature. I should ask him about it before his time on Earth is done. Maybe he'd have some advice for me, although since he's still a Christian, that advice would likely not apply.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm going to wander back to God. I left Him in college, when my loneliness was so severe that I begged God in midnight sleepless prayers to just kill me, let me die, stop this terrible life. Then I turned to Satan, begging for him to buy my soul.
I know God and religion are crutches, allowing those to walk who would otherwise be crippled by the cold realities of life. I'm pretty sure I'm too far gone now to be propped up by them. Godlessness has become part of who I am, and killing it would be killing one of the few parts of me of which I retain some amount of pride.
That picture in the car seemed to give my father some comfort, and the presence of Christ in his life continues to do so. I don't know if he'd still be around without it. Part of me doesn't want to discuss religion with him (or my other relatives, for that matter), because I don't want to take it away from them. They need it.
And they can have it.