Nothing but the Blood - Chapter 2

by daniel-p 8 Replies latest jw friends

  • daniel-p

    [This is the true story of my life. I'm posting it in installments. The final installment will include post-script-type thoughts, with acknowledgements to those who've helped me along these last two years, as well as those who've been an inspiration. I hope you enjoy reading. -dp]

    Chapter 1:

    Chapter Two

    At the time of his studying with me, Cleve was married to his wife of thirty-five years. Unfortunately, she later passed away due to an incurable illness. He was a practical man though, and knew his own weaknesses. He always had a woman in his life, and he knew he needed one. He mourned for three months and then began his search. Word went out like wildfire. Not so much for the fact that he mourned only a short while, but because he was known as a spiritual man, was a well respected elder, and had a decent living. All the older sisters from miles around were immediately interested. Of course, my mother had an immediate in, since this man routinely picked me up at our place in the country, drove me to his home in town, studied with me for an hour, and then carted me back, all with big smiles and kind, soft words. I liked him, but he was kind of old, and it didn’t feel right that he would be my father. My mother was more than fifteen years younger and it took her a little while to get used to the idea of his affection for her. In the end, she made a practical decision, and not one to be looked down on by him, either. Practicality was his middle name, and to him it was as honorable a reason to get married as anything. For my mother it would mean not having to work menial jobs to support her three children, for us it would mean new clothes and fuller meals. Also, she had become increasingly concerned about the welfare of her boys, who needed a strong spiritual example. In any case, he was a blessing to our family. I firmly believe this now, although I would have never admitted to it for the first twenty years of my life.

    The first few months of their courtship was more than a little awkward, as various older women in the congregation and other congregations throughout the region expressed their jealousy by harping on the fact that he hadn’t mourned long enough. Complaints and statements of stumbling were “filed” with the elders, but the general consensus of those elders was to hell with ‘em. Our family was the poor, fatherless one in shambles, struggling to get by, materially and spiritually. No loving and sympathetic person was going to deny us advancement in congregational status.

    The marriage signaled the end of our country living. The trailer we lived in was not fit for proper habitation, and it was too far from school, work, and the Kingdom Hall. To me, leaving the country was the death of something I have yet to identify. It was the last time I was to not live in a suburb, and also a disconnection from many living things. I could go tramp around in the woods and the hills, get in dirt-clod fights with my brother in the vineyards, scratch around in the grass and get ticks on my neck, eat whole patches of miner’s lettuce for a snack, re-route streams in the pasture, or nuzzle our horse, nose to nose, inhaling her deep primal richness. The glory of nature was in my blood but I didn’t know it yet. We packed our things, euthanized our Doberman, sold our bay mare (one which my mother raised over the course of twenty years as well as the broodmare), and moved into town.

    This was hard on my mother. She was making what she thought was a good decision for her children, but she had to give up her last horse. Her horses had been the most constant thing in her life, throughout a lifelong, debilitating disorder, and even past her first marriage that ended tragically and left her as a young widow. The horses were present even before she came into the truth. Ever since then it’s always been pictures of beautiful horses on her refrigerator, images of horses on t-shirts, and many other cultural references sprinkled through her daily life. She gave up on ever having them again. Her immense sacrifice breaks my heart more than any loss I experienced leaving the country.

    From then on, it was a cul-de-sac life. My step-father was already semi-retired and had a somewhat nice place to live. He worked a couple days a week as a delivery driver and soon started taking me with him on his routes. It was against my grain, and completely alien to accompany a “father” around, helping him with his work. It soothed me on some deep, foreign level, but repulsed me on many others. My own father had since moved out of the area and married another woman with two boys of her own. They, in turn, had been abandoned by their father. To this day this is a puzzle to me, a perverted but real-life version of musical chairs. It impressed on me that divorce, separation, the destruction of a household, is one of the most tragic things a child could experience. One that forever shapes their outlook on life. For all intents and purposes, I don’t have a father. That role was removed from my psyche at a very young age, and I am re-creating it out of my own hands, with loose threads of examples from here and there, trying to piece together what I think is true for a man of my age to be. It could be a sad thing if it weren’t also tremendously empowering.

    As for my spiritual development, the next few years were when it all began to take hold. I watched my brother and sister go through their own spiritual developments, analyzing their steps and the reactions from my mother, step-father, and the congregation. My sister seemed more interested in getting out from under the criticism of my mother; I was firmly on the side of my sister in this respect. Ever since my mother re-married, she suddenly became old and crabby, losing any semblance of her easy-going nature. I believe this was in reaction to the aloofness of her new husband, who was from a different generation entirely and couldn’t understand her. Meanwhile, my sister just wanted to get out. She had suffered tremendous mental trauma throughout her childhood and teen years, had lived through three different fathers, two of them abusive, and was the object of hatred and jealousy from the other girls in the Hall. She was allowed to wear makeup before they were, and underwent trumped-up charges of sluttery and flirtatious behavior. It had even devolved into meetings at the Hall, all under the auspices of Mathew chapter five, I’m sure. I was still too young to remember the details, other than there was no significant outcome—as it seemed for most congregational complaints.

    After these episodes, my sister—a classically beautiful woman—began to attract the eye of various suitors. She was fifteen or sixteen at the time, and while my mother would have never consented to her actively and openly dating, it couldn’t keep the boys from coming round. To my sister’s credit she wasn’t a malicious baiter, but she was a flirt and enjoyed it. Eventually though, her and my mother’s relationship became strained to the point that my sister took ever-longer extended vacations away from home with distant relatives. Our lives were easier with her gone, since it at least meant a little peace, but I missed her terribly. She always paid me special attention and affection. She loved me as a brother, but also as a mother, since she was so much older than me. One time, while she was away at our cousin’s house, she called to announce she was engaged to be married. After a few initial rounds of vicious denial and disbelief, my mother resigned herself to marrying off her daughter. This was another point at which my family changed permanently, and was the start of my sister’s long slide into mental instability. However, this is not her story and I don’t yet have the strength to tell it. Suffice it to say, she is one of my life’s biggest losses and I cannot recall the early sweet memory of her without tears.

    My brother was becoming a much respected teenager in the congregation, advancing into adulthood. The congregation always had a sweet spot for him, due to his lack of a constant father and his noticeable love of spiritual things. Everyone made sure to impress upon me that he was my spiritual role model. They told me this, not realizing that I already looked up to him, as any younger brother would. This was a slight infraction upon my pride, but I developed an ability to ignore it, to make my own advancements despite always being overshadowed by my brother. I suppose it helped me to be humble, or at least helped me to realize that humility is something that can only come voluntarily, without any coercion from oneself or others. This belief was in direct contradiction to how my mother treated me.

    He started to carry microphones and give talks. I even remember his first “#2” talk, a brief reading of scripture framed by a simple introduction and conclusion. His narrow body, trembling, was dwarfed behind the podium. The entire congregation was tremendously proud of him. He was their ideal youth, a congregational success story—a perfect poster child for the unrealistic notions of what the Society thought youth should be. Of course, I knew all his weaknesses and secrets. While he gave more talks, started pioneering, and even after he was appointed a ministerial servant at the age of seventeen, he showed me “rated R” movies like Die Hard. At the time, I thought this was positively evil, but this was probably his worst sin, other than furtive glances at pornographic magazines in liquor stores.

    My brother became an example of dedication and untiring effort. Things didn’t come natural to him, but he found ways to perfect the technical facets of public speaking and the door-to-door ministry. You could tell his heart was in it because he tried so hard. You could see the effort in his face, and admired him for it. Even though he could be judgmental, narrow-minded, and awkwardly sensitive, I loved him for his willingness to follow a path with no one to lead him. Of course, he would say he was following Jehovah. But this is where he attributes his own strength to his God, when in reality it comes from inside him. He doesn’t know this, nor, I think, ever will. So he goes through life feeling unworthy and weak, when in actuality he was always strong, falling naturally into the role of middleman for our family, the arbiter, the one tenuously clinging to rationality in the face of maniacal anger and madness.

    I was the youngest, so I could stay back in the shadows and watch my family’s events unfold like watching a play. This was my survival tactic: to distance myself as much as I could. They had become especially hard times. My sister, and later even my mother, came to realize that they had multiple personalities. I witnessed their morphings from people I knew into people I had never seen or heard before. My mother had a teenaged girl personality that was infatuated with my brother. My sister had a six-year-old girl personality that played Legos with me. I’m not sure if I dealt with it because I could suspend my belief, by disassociated myself, or by simply accepting it; probably a little of everything. One time the little girl wanted me to do something for her and when I refused, she began crying and sobbing. I was angry with her at throwing a tantrum, but didn’t know what to do. I tried to comfort her, but she was inconsolable. Something snapped in my mind as she shook and threw a tantrum with the voluptuous body of my older sister.

    Fourth grade was a succession of days of utter boredom and listlessness at school capped by terrifying and inconceivably awkward episodes at home. I had a habit of going out at night and lying in the bed of my brother’s pickup truck, staring up at the stars, not feeling the cold or anything else. I sealed off my mind from the incidents in my home; eventually this seal extended to my heart. To this day I feel that I lack empathy and emotion which I know I should have for them.

    One of the worst family incidents occurred at the Kingdom Hall, for all to see. Even now, I find it easy for my brain to want to believe it didn’t happen, but that’s a comfort that leads many to madness and one which I refuse to take refuge in. Even if disbelief would remove the memory, the painful emotions would linger on, unidentifiable, and only that much more dangerous. My mother had one personality that was a baby—purportedly split off at the initial stages of her mind-altering physical abuse. In the middle of the Sunday meeting, she—my mother—began to argue with Cleve over something. Something in her changed, and she started to revert to the baby. She began crying and hyperventilating in the exact tone of a real baby, got on the floor, and started to crawl down the aisle, toward the back of the Hall. Time froze as everyone stared. I was standing near the counter in the back and immediately disassociated myself as I knew how to do by their example. I saw myself steering her into the back library and closing the door as quickly as possible after the rest of my family followed. I was probably twelve at the time, and I absolutely refused to comprehend my own welling horror and embarrassment. There was a girl I had a big crush on in the Hall, and all I could think of was what she thought of me and my family.

    For months after that the only way I could survive going to the meetings was to be constantly in a state of disassociation, imbedded in the walls, embracing the cool comfort and closeness of inanimate objects as the boring voice of the public speaker droned on.

  • Ruth Eeker
    Ruth Eeker

    wow....can't wait for the next installment.

  • Open mind
    Open mind


    Your candor is very refreshing daniel-p.

    I also appreciate the lack of bitter venom. Not that I begrudge anyone who feels like venting, but it makes your story that much easier for any borderline JWs to keep reading. (If you feel like venting your spleen in future installments, I still promise to read it.)

    There was a lot of pain and beauty woven into this. You could have easily painted your brother and your step-Dad with a one-dimensional brush turning them into easy-to-hate subhuman characatures. I'm glad you took the time and effort to paint more realistically.

    I hope this is healthy for you.

    I'm so glad you're part of JWD.



  • daniel-p

    OM, Thanks for reading! Any biterness I had petered out during the first year or so that I became inactive. I've spent too much of my life being angry and resentful of many things, and will not nurture those poisonous emotions longer than I have to in order to process them. However, there will be some "venting" in future installments. "There will be blood"! It is a painful process to write all this, but it's something I've known for a while that I would have to do.

  • dawg

    You're a great writer....I'm duly impressed. I can't wait to hear the rest

  • Galileo

    Wow. Absolutely phenomenal. You have a great talent. I can't wait for the next installlment, and I hope you don't edit yourself too much. Don't worry about the length, no matter how long your installlments, they seem to end too soon.

  • Open mind
    Open mind

    Definitely bttt-worthy.

    And a plug for Chapter 1 as well.

    Thanks again daniel-p.


  • Odrade

    "To me, leaving the country was the death of something I have yet to identify." Could it have anything to do with the apparent fact that getting a new stepdad and moving to town meant losing your (mother's) horse and killing your dog? gah. poor kid.

  • daniel-p

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