is what broke the camel’s back in my severely strained relationship with my father and for years I was angry with him. I thought he was being unfair and harsh and I had yet to see my mom’s part in all of this and looking back, I honestly don’t know how I missed it.
So, let’s look at those events:
Strike One: Caught in The Closet;
The “Prayer Closet,” was my mother’s brain-child. I should also point out that my mother is an uber-Christian, my father was an atheist for most of his adult life who underwent a complete 180 degree turn went to seminary got his Master’s of Theology (started Doctoral thesis work) and became a minister. My mother’s prayers finally heard by God.
We, as a family, were in the midst of a flux point and life was changing radically. The family business was in decline and it was apparent at this point that it couldn’t be salvaged. My father and grandfather were fighting constantly. My father and I were fighting constantly. It didn’t help that my father chose this time to stop smoking, drinking, and eating meat. He also decided to start attending church and as previously mentioned returned to university.
He wasn’t the only one changing. Life for all of us was receiving a mandatory overhaul and I have to say I went kicking and screaming. We all became vegetarian. The sibs and I were pulled from public school and enrolled in a private Christian school (with a satellite program for the children of diplomats and missionaries…aka…homeschool). Most of my beloved classic novels were now banned reading material and were either promptly returned to the library from whence they came or burned Third Reich style. Our television was taken out back and shot like a lame horse and where we once had Rachmaninoff, Wagner and Verdi we now had Hymns.
Life, needless to say, was a nightmare from which I couldn’t awaken and when mom sat the three of us down and explained the purpose of the “prayer closet” we sadly didn’t question it. It was a place for us to sit quietly and safely in personal reflection and review all the things that we were doing wrong that was upsetting to our father (and to this day I am not sure if it was father or Father, as in heavenly, and I suppose knowing my mother it was probably both). Now, I can’t really say for certain what my siblings felt about the closet but I for one thought that:
A). our father might benefit more from this quiet reflection than we would
B). this might be a beneficial boon, a gift of silence, solitude and a chance to read my now banned (but sneakily reacquired) novels.
It became a gift of sorts for all three of us children, while our mother had lovingly prepared “bible bags for the prayer closet,” (or as we called them, the “bpc bags”), filled with a bible, flashlight, and small square pillow, we covertly added things that were now banned but much loved. Toys, books, magazines, a borrowed cassette player, tapes, and headphones, letters from old friends, snuck to us via cousins, grandma and Margaret (our closest neighbor and family friend). It was at our mother’s discretion as to when the closet was to be used and who would be in it.
On that fateful night when my father swung open the closet door and found me reading a banned book, we were both caught by surprise. Now, my father was angry…just…not at me. I, being caught with a banned book, was feeling guilt and shame for breaking the rules…his rules. I was also dreading the inevitable repercussions of breaking said rules. Expecting to be punished and thinking I had nothing to lose, I mouthed off in my typical sarcastic and abrasively, blunt manner and was promptly banished to my room. My sentence for my sins being hurled at me like bullets as I walked up the stairs to my room.
My father, unbeknownst to me, was angry because the coyotes had gotten into the livestock, he was after his rifle and shells and the prayer closet that had formerly been home to his gun safe was now filled with his oldest daughter, lazily reading banned drivel. My mother, in all her glory, had forgotten to mention that the gun safe was now in their bedroom closet rather than under the stairs. She did have the foresight to mention that my sister was with a friend for the evening, my brother was with the grandparents and I was allegedly in my room doing homework. Two, truths, a lie and one big unmentioned closet switch. Our secret stashes discovered and confiscated.
Events 2 & 3 fall along a similar pattern.
Strike Two: The Pizza Fiasco;
We seldom ate out and if we did it was usually after Sunday Services either lunch or dinner but never both. If it was lunch it was bread, cold-cuts, chips and soda, which with the switch to vegetarianism wasn’t happening anymore. That left us with pizza for dinner since there were veg options there. Eating processed foods or eating out at all, being a limited option, and therefore a special treat, we had ordered pizza just once since our switch in eating habits.
Mom didn’t want to cook and sent me for pizza. Simple enough. Here is where it gets convoluted. The plan was, mom would go home and phone the order in, I would head to town and it should be ready shortly after I get there, pick it up, head home, we eat and everyone is happy. My mom loves to talk, so she flitted around after church going from group to group talking about evening plans. My aunt, being in one of those groups overheard the pizza plan and rushed out, her daughter in tow and flagged me down.
My aunt and my mother have this weird competitive thing going on between them that defies explanation so I won’t even bother, and since it is my father’s sister, I had learned to just do what I was told. I told my aunt to call her order in and let my mom know so I wouldn’t be in trouble for being 10 minutes past my expected time frame, she gave me money and my cousin and off we went.
My aunt did tell my mom and they decided that it would be best if they call the orders in from the church, and they did, but mom got side-tracked talking and placed our former regular order. Mom realized her mistake but I was already at the pizza place by the time she called them to change our order. What was supposed to save time and put us ahead of the sunday night crowd back-fired. I got home at 9:30 p.m.
My aunt had gotten worried since it had been awhile and called our house. I don’t know why my mom didn’t call her and explain what happened, her calls upset my father, assumed that I was pulling a fast one and mom didn’t even attempt to take my side in fact she threw me under the bus. Everyone ate pizza in silence except me, I was sent to my room without supper and had two extra weeks added to my grounding sentence from the closet debacle.
Strike Three: The Sucker Punch;
To tell the truth I am still a bit baffled by this one and here is the reason why. I didn’t spend a great deal of time with my family and for obvious reasons. The less time I was around them, the less chance I had for getting in trouble. I worked…a lot. I waitressed and I worked as a nanny. The nanny gig took up most of my week days during the summer and waitressing took up most evenings and weekends, including Sunday but I could not miss Sunday services.
My schedule in the summer was:
Monday thru Friday, 5:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Nanny
Monday thru Friday, 5:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. waitress
* Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. dishwasher, grill cook, kitchen prep.
4:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. waitress *
Sunday 12:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. waitress
*On Saturdays I did everything I could possibly do to beg, borrow or steal double shifts. Just to avoid home.
Once in a blue moon, my boss at the restaurant would feel sorry for allegedly over-working me and give me some time off. I hated this and pleaded for her not to… but…it happened anyway. This was one of those evenings; literally and figuratively. Now, I always had to give my mom my schedule, she on the other hand just dropped things on me and everyone else like rain drops on a sunny day, suddenly and with little warning of the impending storm.
Long story short, my family was going to go to dinner with friends, I was not expected to attend, in fact me being available to go was just as unexpected on my end as it was on my father’s. He was as unaware of me having a night off as I was of their dinner plans. What was an honest to god trip and fall in my rush to get ready, was seen by my father as a temper- tantrum. I was again thrown under the bus by my mother.
To this day I am not certain if my mother is just so unfocused that she can’t keep track of things or if she was purposely creating chaos in order to fulfill some personal agenda. I hate to think it is the latter but it was that absent-mindedness that put a chink in the relationship I had with my mother.
Photo: Medusa, The Cistern in Istanbul, Turkey, camera phone