Meanwhile back at the ranch…

While I was busy making bad choices, so was Preacher Dad.  While Mom and sister were out of town, PD’s friend showed up.  They retired together to my parent’s bedroom.  PD saw the look of shock on my face and said, “Oh, it’s just like when you have friend over.”

#1.  What friend?

#2.  I’m not an idiot.

Eventually, PD was caught in a gay bathhouse and secretly fired from the church.  A story was concocted for the congregation and he moved to L.A.  The concocted story was told to us all, including my mother.  NO ONE told my mother why her husband no longer had a job even though she was church secretary.  PD found work in L.A. and his partner joined him there. (No one was calling him “partner,” but that was the truth.) He would come home for an occasional weekend and pretend to be husband/father.  Mom was left alone, trying to make ends meet.   No one took her aside and told her the truth.  Except me.  I can’t remember how the conversation came about, but we were sitting on her bed.  She was unable to believe all the evidence that PD was gay, so I told her that PD’s partner had slept in her bed while she was out of town.  I asked how long it had been since he slept with her and she said not that long, so I recommended an AIDs test and saw the understanding settle into her face.  To her credit, she wasted no time in doing that.  She also packed her bags, moved back to Vancouver and divorced PD.  It is impossible to overestimate the amount of courage these actions took.  He never once had a real conversation with her, never apologized; never gave her any sense of closure or reassurance that he had ever loved her.  PD was done.

I had no understanding of regular relationships, no sense of how to be in the world.  It was clear that I did not fit in anywhere.  I worked in restaurant offices and could see that the wait staff, mostly college students my own age, lived lives I could not comprehend; attending school, living in apartments paid for by parents, socializing.  Shopping in malls and having relationships.  It was all so far beyond me.  I was weird, but I supported myself and was free of religion.  I was also desperately lonely until I struck up a friendship with a man at work.  He was creative, brilliant and funny and came from an atheist family, so I married him.  He married me because that is what I wanted.  We set about starting a family right away because that is what I wanted.  He was a companion and a friend and he loved me.  And we had beautiful babies.  I built a cocoon, wrapped up in a family of my own, ignoring the parts of myself I was neglecting.  Because you just can’t fix everything at once.

About a month after baby #2 was born, I came home to find a handwritten envelope from PD on the table and my heart lurched.  It could only be bad news, and it truly was.  He wrote one letter to everyone in the family and sent copies to us all.  He had AIDs; had been HIV positive for quite a while and the disease had progressed.  He was starting treatment, but the prognosis was not good.  It was 1995; just before medication that worked became available.  I went to see him with my sisters on Father’s Day and again in November.  By then he was hospitalized; it was near the end.  I had some time alone with him in his hospital room; knowing it was the last time I would ever see him alive.  We chatted about this and that.  When I tried to turn the conversation to a personal place, I choked on the words. He turned on the television.  A news story was running about a mother who had killed her daughter.  She was being dragged off in handcuffs yelling I didn’t did it, I didn’t did it.

Conversation over.  I left, heartbroken and stunned.

A few weeks later, the phone rang at 2:00 am.  I lay in bed feigning sleep, knowing what the call was.  PD’s partner called again at 6:00 am and this time I answered.  It was over.

I read this poem at his funeral:

Only a Person who Risks is Free

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach for another is to risk involvement.
To expose your ideas, your dreams,
before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To believe is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken, because the
greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The people who risk nothing, do nothing,
have nothing, are nothing.
They may avoid suffering and sorrow,
but they cannot learn, feel, change,
grow, love, live.
Chained by their attitudes they are slaves;
they have forfeited their freedom.
Only a person who risks is free.

– Anonymous

After I read the poem, I took my still-nursing daughter back to the car, out of the wind of the Oregon plains.  Unfortunately, I sat in the driver’s seat to feed her, where she promptly kicked the car horn, which emitted a very loud blast and everyone attending the service turned to look. I thought it a fitting end.

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17 thoughts on “Meanwhile back at the ranch…

  1. Thank you! I do intend to complete my story in book form. Maybe I can get a publisher with pre-sales??!!
    Mom is alive and well and reading this:). She is the strongest person I have ever known.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also want to say, I am ex-UPC, I have several friends who are. There is so much covered sin in these churches. Sin is everywhere, the problem comes when they (I’m speaking of ministry only at this point) refuse to repent and even worse, confess and ask those they hurt for forgiveness. There is such a spirit of hierarchy, self-righteousness and legalism. This very same ministry that professes that they are helping others to know Christ better, actually are ruining others perception of Him, so much so, that they have a very distorted view of who HE really is. I am so thankful that I knew who HE was prior to coming to a UPCI church. Its the children, especially the PK’s that see through this hypocrisy, actually live with it under the same roof, that are damaged the most. Your story is heartbreaking, please continue to tell it. There are more people than we will ever know of who have been damaged and can be helped by knowing they are not alone.
      A Pastor that I sat under, had had an affair with a much younger, married woman in the congregation. When he got caught (by the church secretary) he was forced to stand before the congregation and confess, but in doing so, the only thing he confessed to was that he was pridefully angry that he got caught and was furious that the congregation no longer wanted him in the capacity of Pastor.
      Then to add more fuel to the fire, his wife stood up and said that she forgave him, as she had had an adulterous affair too. Who were these people that the congregation had so devotedly adhered to for years?? Then the story gets better – And it was then disclosed that the young woman caught in adulterey with the pastor, should be forgiven as Mary Magdelene had been. Why should she be forgiven? Because her husband had been caught molesting a two year old girl in the Sunday school and the young woman, being distraught, sought solice with the Pastor!! I think she found more than solice and here this child molestation in the Sunday school room had been covered and even lied about?? Unbelievable!!! There was also drug abuse found with the Pastor and his friend who was a Pastor in the adjacent town was caught stealing hydrocodones from one of his perishners. And the story goes on and on. But there are many other stories, that haven’t been told, have been covered and even lied about! If we tell the stories, it helps others know they are not crazy and that they should not accept this and that they are actually right in exposing the “deeds of darkness “, no matter (and especially if) it is with the so called and pretty much “self-proclaimed ” “man of God”!!!
      Thanks again, please keep telling your story, it helps others. I don’t know where your at now, but do know that God was behind allowing you to see the truth behind what was happening with your father. There is a really good video of a sermon by T.G. McKneely’ – Trophies of Hell

      His father got caught up in adultery and alcoholism. It may help to listen to 🙂

      Your in my Prayers!! Keep writing

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for writing, RJ. I walked away a long time ago and never realized until I started writing, just how many other people have suffered from this abusive system. The stories you share are sick and sad and so prevalent. We’re all only human and people in a pedestal are dangerous. I glad you escaped and have taken care of yourself. I’ll keep writing. Your words of encouragement are well-timed, because I quit twice last week!😄

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  2. We are all human, I suppose, and can rationalize and justify the choices we make. By saying this, I am certainly not condemning DWF being gay, but his lame excuses for avoiding being candid with his wife and family, and his self-denial, as evidenced by the rationale “it’s like having a friend over,” with more holes than Swiss cheese and which you saw through immediately.

    How ironic. DWF the Executive Vice President and editor ate excuses like that for lunch. As the college newspaper editor in 1976-77 and yearbook editor in 1977-78, I answered directly to him. Had I conjured such a weak rationale for some shortcoming with the media while in his office, he would have torn me a new asshole. (And a couple times I did and he did.)

    I’ve seen the same irony in my political readings. Richard Nixon the prosecutor, the zealous anti-communist who outed Alger Hiss; Nixon the relentless interrogator–would have loved to have been the Watergate Special Prosecutor.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m appalled at the behavior of your father. It looks like he never did any self-examination or self-reflection before he got married, had children and began a career “ministering” to others. He sounds like a very insecure, frightened individual who bullied those who were in a weaker position than himself. It appears that christianism was a crutch and a cudgel for him. Sorry if this sounds harsh, but reading your entries leaves me with a strong distaste for him.
    And a whole lot of compassion for you.

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  4. That pretty well sums him up. And thank you for your compassion. He was a product of his environment. When his time came for growth and change (we all get that opportunity) he kind of left his family out. Could be that he would have gotten there if he had more time. I’m not without compassion for him, too.

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    1. Ronna, I guess what upsets me is that he never seemed to read the bible he so supposedly adhered to. I became christian at 16 and I clearly remember the crux of the matter was to treat others as you would want to be treated, bear one another’s burdens and the horror of hypocrisy. When I came out as a gay man in 1974 ( I had just turned 20), there were a few bumps in the road but my faith caused me to clean them up as best I could. I am appalled at the mess PD would never face up to. I know you are not soliciting it in the least, but I am angry on your behalf. It seems like PD was highly narcissistic. I am glad you are able to have some compassion, because I’m too far removed to feel any based on the story.

      Full disclosure: Though I have been a non-believer for about 5 years now, I still see how my “faith” at the time helped me to make responsible choices and was an integral part of the values that guided me through the next 40 years.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for sharing a bit of your story. I have no judgement regarding anyone that wants/needs/likes faith; it can be very useful and comforting. PD was highly narcissistic and maybe he doesn’t deserve compassion, which is all the more reason to give it. He missed out on the relief and joy that comes from repairing relationships, his grandkids, living a whole life. Maybe he wouldn’t have ever gotten there. Life is too short to stay angry; wasted too many years there already. I greatly appreciate your kind words and support, especially when my story got uncomfortable. A lot of people got quiet.

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  5. It is such a hard space for you to be in. As outsiders looking in in the year 2015 it is a little easier to have some compassion for your dad but I know this is not easy. My grandfather was gay. My nana got pregnant at 16, married him and had 3 babies by the time she was 19. At this point he left her and went to live on the streets of Vancouver. It is easy for his children to feel anger. They have a right to feel anger at being denied a parent. He did abandon them after all. He never visited, not once. But I do feel compassion for him because he was a gay man trying to live a straight life in 1945, 70 years ago. I can’t imagine if I had to fake homosexuality when I am not attracted to women. It repulses me to think about it. I wonder if faking heterosexuality was repulsive to him?
    At any rate, he died alone after a head injury of an unknown cause. It was well known in his community that he was an alcoholic.
    As with all our stories and in this case your story of your dad, there are parts that are sticky and parts that are slippery. it is so hard to find a place where we can figure it all out.

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  6. I just saw this comment for the first time and I am so sorry for not responding a long time ago. I imagine there would have been no way for your grandfather to live a genuine life so long ago. His is such a sad story; more so for the pain he caused his family. I am not sure there is any figuring it all out, but I am trying. I truly do not believe that anyone escapes fundamentalism without sexual damage, straight or not. The streets are still full of LGBTQ kids rejected by their families. So things are better but not yet fixed for all of us.

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