I had a long day today, but that isn’t necessarily the reason I am going to pause on the story for a day. My main reason is because a conversation I was having with my mother about my late father’s–odd–behavior. In part, this very behavior is the central reason I am the way that I am. It is a driving force behind why I write.
Writing, you see, is a form of therapy for me. I exorcize my demons through the written word. My deepest scars can be found in many of my characters. My insecurities, my desires, my dreams and nightmares, and everything else. My darkest secrets are there too. Those events that formed who I am.
To put this into perspective, let me ask two simple questions.
1. Have you ever observed someone long enough to see things that no one else has noticed? Better yet, Have you ever watched someone and thought is this guy on a perpetual hangover and/or drunk?
2. Have you ever heard someone insecurely accuse their mate of cheating and suddenly realized that they were just covering for their own improprieties?
My father was one of those that should have never gotten married. He was not a family man. He felt trapped, not blessed. He thought he had to marry my mother just because he got her pregnant.
Over the ensuing 30+ years that they were married, I watched him berate, accuse, and tear my mother apart. I heard him accuse her of infidelity, knowing full well that mom never had the time to cheat. She was always too bust trying to see that us kids had everything we needed for school, for church group, etc. She had to make sure we got to the mandatory church functions such as sporting events and youth competitions…and proms.
She sacrificed so much that, at times, she did without things she needed. And he refused to supply those things. He refused to be a father. He refused to be a husband.
For nearly all of my childhood, I was forced to be a part of a cult. Yes, I admit that the church we belonged to was a cult. They were ultra strict, believed in following the Bible-especially the Old Testament laws-without err. As a child, I couldn’t make much noise. I had to sit and make notes every service. We followed the Biblical Holy Day cycle.
We failed to realize the symbolic meaning of each Holy Day. We failed to realize, as Christians, that Christ fulfilled those very days in His existence. They really held no real significance in the scheme of Christian life except as a series of rituals that pointed to his ultimate birth, ministry, death and resurrection. The final day pointed to the end.
Our misguided devotion to the letter of the law also had its consequences. We forgot to read the New Testament as it had been meant to be read. But, then, Christianity has always been a bit misguided from the century after its inception and realization to the current time. Christians, as a whole, have been so easily misled. So easily knocked off track.
In the Middle ages (and even until the 1800s in Spain and Spanish held lands) the Inquisition raised its ugly head and slaughtered millions, maybe billions of innocent people in the name of sniffing out and then snuffing out heresy. Yet, it was the heresy.
Also in the Middle Ages, Europe held wars in the name of God. Though the wars were initially to “free” the so-called Holy Land, The Crusades were driven mostly by European greed for control, land and resources. It had nothing to do with God, freeing the people of the Holy Land, or even stemming the tide of Islam.
Until the 1800s, in this and many European kingdoms, Slavery was justified Biblicaly through the OT, which was a directive to Israel, not Christians. Israel, like the Christians, failed their calling and-ultimately-God. By the time of the war between the States, England and many other nations had already abolished slavery, at least in the homelands. Their colonies, on the other hand, weren’t that smart.
Neither was the United States. Southern plantation owners, being the lazy “Gentry”, felt they needed to have others-free labor-do their work for them. Instead of mechanizing, and opening their own textile companies, the south was stuck in tradition–a sad fate all of Christendom has constantly fallen into. Instead of being hard working from the beginning, they had to be forced to do their own work.
As a result, a handful of hateful ex-plantation owners who’d lost it all, along with a handful of hateful ex-Confederate soldiers and generals formed the KKK. No, they were not a by-product of either political party. Nor were they ever dormant. They have always been active, and no more so than now that they have gained control of a party. But, then, their agenda plays well with that of corporate and wealthy America’s. Free labor at any cost. And those who do not fall into line? Well, they are bullied.
But enough about religion and true, real history. This was about my father. But religion did play a big part in his reasoning. While our cult was a cult, it gave his philosophy on how to treat his family credence. But as changes swept through it and transformed it into an acceptable church organization, his justification was being challenged.
He was big on appearance. He appeared pious. He appeared to be upright. He appeared to be diligent in his payment of tithe. But at home, he was a “holy” terror. Susceptible to double standards and backpedaling, he often denied any wrong and even refused praise for work well done.
When I was a teen, I began noticing that something was amiss. He didn’t act just right. It was almost as if he had something weighing heavy on his mind. Yes, I would sense that he felt guilty about much, but used it to fuel his cruelty.
I began to believe two things: 1. My father was a closet alcoholic; and 2. He was cheating on my mother. The first belief came from the fact that I had observed a few alcoholics in my life (my sister being one, her husband being another…along with a few other family members)and had begun noticing certain common traits. Short temper, such as is evident as a heavy drinker is suffering from a hangover or was on a heavy buzz. Impatience, as if they had something better to do than be around their family. There were others, but these two-along with the inability to think well the morning after-seemed to set off alarms for me.
The second belief was born out of the true statement “those who accuse others of stepping out on them are doing the very thing they accuse their other half of doing”. In other words, my father was always accusing my mother of cheating. Yet, there are empty spaces that have no explanation. Nights when he was supposedly working overtime (mom would later find out that he had not, in fact, been at his job when he stated…but that is after the fact), there were times he would go “do business” without telling anyone where he was going or what the business was, and the fact that he seemed to always have a guilty conscience.
I know, I know. There is a lot of conjecture here on what a man, now dead, did in those hours he had simply vanished or excused as overtime. For a overtly religious man, these made no sense. None of his actions made sense. Nor did his philosophy.
And a man big on how he appeared to others having a guilty conscience, hiding secrets, being mysterious, and lying-especially when he was in a cult that frowned at lying, cheating, and being worldly-makes someone wonder. Was there another family? Was there another woman competing with my mother for my father’s affections? What was really going on? And how did he justify what he was doing, if this is all as I suspect, with what he supposedly believed in as a Christian?
As you can tell, my family was a bit dysfunctional. We were a psychotic mass of hypocrisy that left me scarred and confused about a lot. It was out of this that formed my lack of trust in those claiming authority within the christian community. It is why I became a seeker of truth rather than a mere follower. It is why I have fought to hold every one of my marriages together. And probably why I ultimately failed. But was it actually me who failed? Or was each meant only to be temporary and to teach me-and those who I married-a valuable lesson about myself and others?