My Father Was A Great Man … A Great Leader … According to My Mother
‘John-Wayne-Mother’ is always telling me so. Her favorite stories are of the brilliance of ‘God-the-Father’ and her brother ‘Uncle-Apostle-Paul’. They hold the reins of the Congregation with powerful hands.
“I want to believe you are right Daddy. If you are wrong … if this is not God’s One Righteous Truth,” My five years old self is sad and afraid when talking about this, “it feels like a mean way to treat the people.” I kept thinking.
I am startled by how hard it still is for me to let go of the pain of my father’s wrongness.
I don’t want him to be the ‘Darth Vader’ of the Jehovah’s Witness’s … I don’t want him to be a leader in a cult.
I want him to be the hero of my mother’s vibrant word paintings.
I Burn My Chest.
I am afraid and shut down. How can I speak or move or breath with my mother sitting so heavy on my skin? How am I to slough this shackled cage of bones pinning me to the bed…to the sadness… to the pain. Her pain, my pain, the pain of the children.
I clinch my throat when I write the last sentence. I notice my body hiding behind the silencing stiflement-I feel urgency for things to change. I have urgency for the violence to stop.
I am sitting with the violence of tone and body language I still carry in my body. I notice how much of my mother, father, and uncle, I live with in my body. Letting go of these Superior body attitudes feels like losing yet another piece of connection to them. Being shunned means I have very few permitted intimacies with them. My body still carries these reminders in my eyes and my face and my intense ‘leaning in preacher’ body language.
I have seen my family cut people’s self esteem to ribbons without saying a word.
I have done it myself. I am willing to stop.
Jehovah’s People in the Front Seat
My little cousin is four years old. It is my aunt’s turn to drive car pool. Some of the children being picked up are Witness children…some of the children are Worldly.
“Jehovah’s people in the front seat, Satan’s people in the back.” my cousin’s voice pipes up with typical 4-year-old blunt directiveness.
When my mom tells me this story I hear her say my aunt is embarrassed by this bald statement of the Organization’s message of fiery death and destruction for most of the world.
“Why is she embarrassed?” I remember asking my mother.
At 12-years-old I know, the requirement to be careful how we talk to outsiders about the details of what we Believe. Some Trickster got into me that day and I couldn’t resist this perfect opportunity to poke a question at the rule.
“I mean,” I think to myself, “after all, it is the Truth all of us have been taught for our entire lives. Armageddon is just around the corner and everyone who does not follow the Society’s view of God is condemned to destruction. We are to stand up in Fearless Witness at all times. That’s what they are always saying in the Literature and at the Meetings.”
“Yes, it is the Truth, but we need to be careful how we talk about that to Worldly people. Your cousin is going to have to learn some tact.” My mother frames how I am to think about this issue.
The double message of outspoken proselytizing and hiding the true harshness of the message from outsiders is one my cousin was too young to really get…I didn’t get it either…and my mother’s answer gave me no new information.