I guess at this point in time and space I'm ok if there's an indication of things going in the right direction.
My JW father, who joined the JWs in 1973 when I was 8, has always had all the characteristics of the stereotypical brainwashed born again weirdo. As a JW he always felt the need to show that he was more devoted than the rest of the crop. To him, life became very easy from that point on: "the Bible", interpreted by the millions of WT publications, along with the information in the meetings and getting involved in all JW activities, were the answer to everything and anything in his life". He found his true, his reason to live, his education, his answers and his shield from the world that he fears facing all by himself.
Besides that WT crap, he also considers himself "old school". First thing that I noticed is that he was always playing the old school card when it came to all that conservative nonsense that he was constantly trying to shove down other people's throats, and not just his family, literally everyone who came across his path. In time he learned to tone it down. He also used the "I'm old school" excuse every time that anyone contradicted him or did something he didn't like or heard something he didn't like hearing. "As the head..., as the man..., as the Bible says..., as per Jehovah..., as per the faithful and discreet slave..., as per this WT book..." he always needed one of those crutches to deal with anything. Never have I heard him, not once, stating something that he thinks, his words were always said under some kind of invisible shield.
He used his Bible (the one with his favorite yellow vinyl cover) as some kind protective amulet. Every time that he was going to talk about anything, he'd have his yellow bible on his lap. Nine times out of ten his answer would be something along the lines of "Let's see what the slave says...", yes, the slave, not even "Jehovah".
It would have been better (or more believable) if he was in fact happy living in his cute little JW bubble. The truth is that he was a very angry, bitter, violent man. You could see all that right through his glazed happy face when in public, and feel it and experience it if you were living with him. All his newfound peace through the WT seemingly magically disappeared when he was angry.
After decades of violent outbursts, mistreating his children, never sharing his own self to anyone, and having a WT-based answer for everything, most of his children, like me, went on with our lives.
Today, I, as a decent person, decided to overlook all that history of violence and mistreat and conservative crap that he vomits every time that he talks about everything. I have a better understanding now as an adult of what a controlling, high demand group like the WT does to people like him needing a sense of structure, or guidance, or answers, or just feeling part of something. I now have a long history of humanitarian, volunteer work and activism, standing, fighting and advocating for communities and people I believe in. Many of the people from those communities I believe in are not even people I know. If I have done all that for perfect strangers, why on Earth shouldn't I do something for my own conservative, born-again weirdo father?
Besides the moral responsible aspect of it, I am in the more understanding position, with having the opportunities (and interest as well as willingness) to learn more, research more, have more doors opened to me, and ultimately know better than the WT crap - that he didn't. He stayed in his bubble. I didn't. I know better.
Twenty years ago or so I decided to reconnect with both my parents. I was doing that by visiting them once a year where they were living. Aside from planning involving vacation time and plane tickets, I also prepared myself psychologically. Going to their home was like going back in time to when I was forced to be a JW under the vice of abusive violent parents. The only difference is that I had a little more of an upper hand. I know they love(d) me, and they were happy to see me, and loved the idea of me visiting.
Those visits made a lot of difference for the three of us. First, I got to experience seeing them as a grown up, mature adult. Second, I was able to express (when appropriate, tactfully and with cultural/religious sensitivity) how I think and feel about things. Third, I got to see admiration for me from them, that's something I never got to experience growing up, no matter how overachieving we all were in the house. But the most important part was for me to come to terms with them. Before my mother passed, I made sure that during those visits I said everything I wanted to say, asked everything I wanted to ask, and listened to everything they wanted to tell me. I also let them know that I am there if they need any help or support.
Those trips ended in 2009. The year before I married my now husband, a fine gentleman that they had met before as a "friend". They weren't too happy with me having "wordly" friends (me being in my 40s), but were ok with him ("Seems decent enough"). Thought my mother has been more aware and open to talk about "my problem", she was still a JW and everything she had to say was all about the bible and all that hateful useless nonsense that they say about gay people. My father forbid me from mentioning my husband, or otherwise I wouldn't be welcome in his house. (If I got a dime every time that he told me that I wasn't welcome in his house...). This time I only looked at him and said "Ok". He thought by my "Ok" meant that I wasn't going to talk about my family. By "Ok", however, I meant that I wasn't going back to his house.
That's where I decided to draw the line, and this is a common occurrence among many JW families dealing with non-JW in-laws. Handling family relationships between JWs and non-JWs has always posed challenges on both sides. In my case, the same sex marriage thing is just one more layer of it.
I stayed in touch of course, and they never dared asking me why I never returned. They never dare asking any questions. They are not supposed to, they are blindly obedient JWs. Plus at this point my father was well aware that his yellow bible amulet wasn't going to work, neither was raising his voice or violence. I never saw my mother in person again. She passed last year.
After my mother's passing, my father went to live with my JW brother, and he seems ok. I have been calling him to check on him. That's what responsible, decent people do. I can tell that he's very depressed and sad. He misses my mother. They spent a good 80% of their lives together. He can't walk properly and he's forgetting things. He's old and sick and he doesn't recognize the WT Society as he once knew it. He hates the Internet. He has a hard time seeing these younger generations of JWs who slack and enjoy some freedoms that he never had or allowed for his own family. I have the feeling that he's finally opening his eyes. He truly believed that he and my mother were going to make it together into paradise, and now even if she's back in paradise, they are not going to be married. No one from the congregation visits him (as per my brother), and no one misses him if he misses a meeting.
He's under my JW siblings' care, which means that
he's barely having his basic needs. None of my JW siblings developed any
education/skills that are marketable enough to receive a good salary,
and none have ever even entertained the concept of preparing or planning
for a future other than their "paradise on Earth". They all put their
trust in their Jehovah to get whatever they can to get by.
Yesterday I gave him a call. I asked him how is he doing, and though he said that all things considered he's ok, I know him too well to feel his sadness and depression. It makes me very sad to see a person at this point in his life so sad, lonely and depressed, and with very few people noticing. He was happy to hear from me, and here's where the "progress, not perfection" part comes to play. He actually acknowledged that my husband exists! Granted, it was with the purpose of inviting us to the memorial, but knowing him and knowing about the way he feels and think, it's a gigantic step for him to mention "that guy that lives with you".
I felt good for that, but I feel a lot of sadness for him, for his life, for all the time and energy that he wasted in the WT crap. Most importantly, I feel sad that he pretty much lost me as a son for decades.
Do I love him? Sometimes I think I do, sometimes I feel I don't. What I do know is better than making any decisions around my relationship with him based on that. Emotions are not your ally when making important decisions, especially with family. It has been much better for me to go the "I'm a decent, responsible human being" route. As a decent, responsible person, I get to do what is right for both, as challenging as it may be at times. Later, I guess I'll be able to tell if I love him or not, but either way he's a human being who tried to do his best with the information that was handed to him.
In the end, the dream of every good father is to give a better life to his children. My life is better than his, so mission accomplished.