Charm

Tomorrow marks five years since my Grandpa’s soul left his body. During our time in the cult, I did not see Grandpa much. When we did, I felt so much pressure to assure him that we were “okay” and that his soul needed saving. At times I still wanna smack myself for doing that. I was brainwashed and Grandpa understood that. I know he was worried about our family when we got out. He never said as much, but he was a steady rock when I was crashing. I crashed hard during his last year, and I know he was worried. I didn’t want him to leave, I wanted to know so much more about him. I went to his house a few times every week to visit, and he always made me feel better. I asked him to start emailing me stories about his life, and he did. His stories are terrific. Grandpa was always so proud of me. When he smiled the whole world lit up. No matter what I did, he would smile at me. He wasn’t big for words, but he was good for comfort and always for a laugh. He was always telling jokes, and really good ones. When I find myself missing him I will remember what it felt like to lay my head on his shoulder when I hugged him. I remember the feeling of his sweater against my face, and the sound of his breath.

Sometimes I forget why I started writing. I get lost in the thoughts of worry about what others think, and how this blog could be portrayed. I don’t like to make people sad. I want to write because I believe my story is dark and light, beautiful and transparent. I call my life “charmed” because that is how I feel. My life is full; full of love, anger, friends, music, work, laughter, screams (sometimes of delight from little children), wiggling dogs to greet me at the door, beauty, and loss; but also so much life. If it took all of those awful experiences to lead me to where I am today, I can honestly say that I am okay. I think that charm is a family trait. A light passed down through generations. I am happy and healthy. I will take all of the emotions and experiences; I will embrace them. Because I want to. Because I suffered, I find value in what may seem minimal. When things get tough, I remember what I went through. I remember that Grandpa is proud of me. I am strong, and I am loved.

~E

My cousin shared this video the other day. I think she is an awesome and I am sure that Grandpa would have just loved this:

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August 15th, 1997

I am 14 years old. These last few months have been rough. Our family home has been broken into, I have had babies ripped from my arms by their estranged father, my best friend left the church, and we have had Mom and Dad pull us out of school because they heard CPS was going to visit. Mom and Dad were afraid we would be taken away from them. The pastors have told everyone that we are not to watch the news. They tell us don’t answer the phone, and don’t talk to anyone. I don’t know to whom we would talk since we aren’t allowed to talk to family or friends outside of the church. I feel very uneasy with all the new restrictions.

Mom, along with all the other ladies at the church, has started selling cosmetics. One of the pastor’s wives is their director. The ladies meet once a week at the church. I was not happy when I found out that we would be spending a fourth evening a week at the church (two for Insitute and one for evening service). We already spent all day at the church for school also. At least there was never any yelling at the cosmetics meetings.  I am to watch Brother and Sister during, but we are to stay inside. No playing on the lawn in case someone (CPS or ? not sure) would come and snatch us. Since the break-in at the church, I am noticing how sensitive I am to banging noises. It reminds me of the doors of the church being smashed just before the boys were taken from my arms. I am exhausted, and I don’t know how to deal with my irrational fear. I do not talk to anyone about it, I figure that I will eventually stop being scared. I don’t want to show my fear, for Brother and Sister will be scared. Them being scared is one of the worst things I can imagine.

August 15th, 1997; it is as if the walls are falling down around us; we are finally allowed to watch the news. The whole church is gathered in the sanctuary. Kids are sitting on the floor while the adults stand. We are watching on the big screen. In the past we have gathered around this screen to watch baseball, football, boxing, or movies. The pastors would open up the snack room for us to buy snacks during those events. There were no snacks today, and everyone was silent. We had all heard that our pastors and their wives were arrested this morning, but we did not know why. We were relying on the news to tell us the details. We did know that Pastor M’s stepdaughter had recently left the church. I had not thought anything of it since people left all the time. She had recently been struck upside the head with a two by four during a service. I will never forget how she had spun around so fast that her shirt became undone. The kids were not in attendance during this service. I had been in the nursery putting babies to sleep; there was a window into the sanctuary where I saw it all but heard nothing. Just the muffled sound of inaudible yelling. People usually leave after an incident like that. It was silent in today’s sanctuary, and somehow, peaceful. Local newswoman appears in front of the courthouse “Two pastors and their wives were arrested today on charges of child molestation and assault. Their bail is set at…” I didn’t quite hear the numbers. I am in shock at the charges. Up until now, I had not realized that anything happening was out of the ordinary or illegal. The adults all started talking about how they were going to come up with the money for bail. I heard a lot of “refinance” and “second mortgage” talk. I became afraid of losing our home. Most of all, things were becoming more blurry, confusing. I had already felt somewhat detached with reality since the break in, but was feeling even more so now with the arrests. This was our first confrontation with “the world”. The associate pastor was using this to promote their cause that the outside world was evil. “The world”, according to church leadership, only wanted to take children away from parents, and pastors away from churches. As a child, I believed them, and I was scared.

The church members gathered the money in two days and got everyone out of jail. The coming months would bring many lawyers, CPS interviews with pastor kids, and sentencing for Pastor M. They decided that the majority of the charges were against him, so he took a plea deal; six months in jail. As soon as he got out I got in trouble for not writing to him. Pastor M made a friend in jail, and this man was allowed to stay on our property for a few weeks while looking for a place to stay. I had never been so scared in my life as during that time. I thought that my parents had finally lost their last marble letting this man, fresh out of jail, on our property to live with us kids. Thankfully, it didn’t take him long to find a place to move.

I had to sit through a mediation with the former associate pastor who had broken into the church and taken his children from my arms. His wife had left the church shortly after to reunite their family. I sat across the table from him in a dark room, or maybe it wasn’t dark but I just remember it that way. He sat straight across from me. All I can remember is him staring at me while I was asked questions by the mediator. I was very nervous, for I did not want to rip his family apart. I answered that I believed he truly loved his children, and would not harm them, and that he hadn’t shown harm me. I should have told the truth. He loved his children, and would harm anyone who stood in his way. He used to yell at me at school, and I would get in trouble with him over little things. He and his wife took our home and made us live in a trailer on our own property. He told me to hit his children if they touched any door. He was Dad’s business consultant and we watched as he drove it into the ground, shirked responsibility, and now we are more poor than ever. Yet, he hugged me after wards. We stood and watched as he and his wife drove away, and I never saw them or their boys again.

Reality, world, upside down, it’s all the same.

~E

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/1997/aug/30/ministry-leaders-wives-face-assault-molestation/

Separation

Throughout this process of writing and observing, I have learned things about myself. The moments when confusion turns to clarity, I am thankful for my writing. I’m thankful for meditation, in that I am allowed to observe without attachment. My writing has served as an aid to the meditation.

One of the first things after leaving the cult was to get back in touch with some family members; many of which we had barely seen for 17 years. After we got reacquainted, they started inviting me to things: lunch, shopping, etc. Every time I got an invite, I would ask to invite other people: Mom, Sister, another cousin. One day, my step-granny pointed this out. She was a little annoyed (or perhaps just very abrupt) when she asked me why I was always inviting other people along for these things. I was taken back a little because being rude had not been my intent. However, I did not have an answer to her question, so I stopped. It still is my first reaction to invite others, because I don’t want anyone left out. During a time of observation, some reasoning became clear.

There were a few events that Dad made sure we did every summer. We always visited Grandma at the beach and we always went on at least one camping trip. I have many fond memories of vacations with the family. Camping trips were relaxing and fun. Brother and I learned how to ride our bikes while camping as kids, and drive a car around the campground as teenagers. Dad would take us hiking, swimming, and boating. Mom and Sister would join too, but not as intense because Sister was so young. As the years went along and we got older, things started getting more in-depth with the cult. They got more involved in our family life. Things would get taken away if we were in a lesson. Things like family trips. Whomever was in the lesson wouldn’t be allowed on the outing. I remember having to stay home from fun outings with the family. The only ones who had to stay home during a vacation was Mom and Sister. I remember for sure two vacations of which they didn’t go with us. When we were apart, this caused some anxiety for me. I liked having the family together and happy. I knew that whomever wasn’t with us wasn’t happy because they were in a lesson, and that would take away some of my happiness. I saw the anguish in Mom when we would leave. She didn’t want to be alone. Sister didn’t really understand yet, but she knew Mom was upset.

I really missed having my Mom around during a particular camping trip during which I had my period. I worked up the courage to tell Dad, and then Dad took me to the store. I was standing in line with Dad and Brother; they were both doing their best to ignore the items on the grocery belt. The checker (perhaps attempting humor) holds up the items and says “Who are THESE for?” in a sing-song voice, looking directly at me. I ran from the store and into the parking lot. Dad and Brother appeared a few minutes later. They never spoke of it; we never spoke of it. I thanked Dad for the items and silently wished my Mom was there. We drove back to the campsite without speaking; probably some music playing but I didn’t hear it. It took us a few hours, but we all got over the experience. I never told Mom that I missed her, and I don’t know if she ever knew about this story. It would have been so much better had she been there.

I realize that the separation was a control tactic on the leaders’ part. I realize that they were afraid of our power. As a family, we are strong.

We have survived.

~E