At first, I had the common experience of being a little kid who has a mom who is trying to go to meetings and choose the narrow path
to salvation, and the inactive but believing dad, but my dad happened to be a drug dealer and addict. So, we are at the meeting, getting
our “spiritual food” and then when we get home and walk in the door, my dad is smoking crack, and using the burner on the stove to heat it up.
When I was 11, we moved to a new small town, and my dad went through rehab. Newly sober, he decided that he was going to start
going to AA meetings and Kingdom hall meetings. Well, the AA meetings didn’t last very long at all. I wonder if this was a good choice,
because people are putting trust in the elders who are making decisions about people’s lives, but they aren’t medical professionals,
counselors, or social workers. They are just some random people who found some religion that makes all the decisions for them.
I think of this whenever I think of how they handled my dad and his problem. See, even though he had sobered up, I don’t think he
ever tried to do the personal work one does in order to have a happier, more fulfilled relationship with oneself and the people around
them that makes them a better person. Actually, I feel that the JW organization actively discourages that.
My dad could have been on a path like that, but he swallowed the whole idea that if you are unhappy, if your family is suffering,
then you need to pray, and ask for the help of Jehovah to help you persevere. It never occurred to anyone around me that maybe it
wasn’t Satan, the Devil working overtime that was causing our problems, but because my parents needed some serious help.
Any self improvement work that they did was through studying the WT literature like the Family Life book, which has some great advice,
such as talking to your son about his struggles with masturbation. The mere thought of my dad broaching that subject horrified me.
I could never talk about my junk with this person who was emotionally and physically abusive, and who I could never trust in any aspect
of my life. Once, he did try to bring it up, and even in an embarrassed sort of way. I just sort of excused myself from the room, and
he never brought it up again.
My mom tried to work on herself a little bit. Aside from the library of Jehovah’s Witness literature, the few other books in our house included
one called Codependent No More. But she never followed through. My dad, though, forget about it.
For about four years, my dad was the über zealous Jehovah’s Witness. My mom was sort of checked out of the JW religion, just showing up to
the meetings. My family did the same thing we had always done, which was to hide our problems and pretend that we were all okay
at all times. But when he started drinking and popping pills again, it all began to unravel.
At this point, he was trying really hard to become a Ministerial servant, and was on a raging power trip. He was in his mid 30s and
he was on the same level of the JW hierarchy as the kids who were still under 20. I mean, 16 year old boys were running the mics and
managing the sound equipment, and he just barely started getting the privilege of doing the reading at the bible study.
He had been pioneering for about two years, and felt ready to move up, but the elders felt that he wasn’t quite ready yet. He was pretty
disappointed about that. I guess maybe he forgot that less than 3 years before, he was a uncontrollable drunk and crackhead,
and a drug dealer who pulled a gun on my mom and almost killed her. Plus I also think that they thought my mom was spiritually weak,
and I was pretty noncommittal myself.
He already ruled his family with an iron hand. But then he started trying to control what other people were doing, saying that the
teenage pioneer kids had no respect for authority. He also had started giving his pioneering partner, LaDonna, a tough time
because she was using applied kinesiology to determine what types of herbs to take. This involves holding an herb in one hand,
and testing the muscle strength in her other hand. He thought that it was using divination.
The interesting thing about it is that LaDonna is one of the most zealous JW’s I have ever met. You should have seen her Watchtower!
I mean, wow! Comments on every line, and I remember one of them had “I love this one!” written on the cover. She loved the Watchtower.
The reason he was able to be a pioneer was because at one point, he had been a construction worker, and had injured his back on
the job. He managed to get a disability pension from the injury so he didn’t have to work, and we had a small but sustaining income
coming in every month.
One day, an older brother who was sick gave him some pain killers, unaware of his drug addiction problems. My dad took them,
and I can’t remember now but somehow it triggered his addiction and he began drinking heavily on the sly.
First, we just noticed some weird things. We moved into a new house, and he just hid out in the back shed.
Which, really was fine by the rest of my family, because he had hounded everyone so much that the less he was around, the better.
But then we found two empty bottles of whiskey in the bottom of the garbage can.
We requested a meeting with one of the elders and took the bottles with us. It was a sort of retribution for all of the grief that he had
caused us as a family. The elder and his wife were sort of taken aback, but the elder agreed to talk with my dad and figure out what was up.
My dad, suddenly humbled by the whole situation, wasn’t so keen on being the control freak he had been, but then he began
getting belligerently drunk on a regular basis. He also started walking with a cane and asked the elders if they could provide
a recliner chair for him at the kingdom hall. They did provide one that was reupholstered in the same scratchy pink fabric as the rest
of the chairs, which was placed in the back row where our family had usually sat. What a comical sight!
My dad was still reading at the book study, but one night, he was reading in this really peculiar way, and I had this realization.
Oh, my god, he was trying to hide that he was as drunk as a skunk up there on the stage! I wish I could say what happened,
but no one told me. Suffice it to say, I am pretty sure he didn’t do any more reading at the book study after that.
Things were nuts at home too. Exasperated, my mom called on the elders one night while my dad was super drunk. You should
have seen the look on his face when he was sitting on the kitchen floor yelling, and there is a knock on the door, and in come all of these
elders with bibles in their hands. Arguing with a drunk man in tough enough, but they were trying to reason with him with scriptures from
the bible. Old brother Jovanovic said, “Let me beat you up with this bible!” He needed more than bible verses, thats for sure. He argued
with the elders for awhile and they left. I think that he was reproved.
After seeing that my dad was beyond help from the elders, she began calling the cops when he got crazy. And he went to jail.
A couple of times.
By this point, the elders were ready to DF my dad. The thing was, the elders didn’t want to, but they didn’t have a lot of choice,
since it was the JW protocol. On the night they announced his disfellowship, he actually showed up to the meeting. I think he thought that
they wouldn’t actually go through with it.
My sisters and I went to a different kingdom hall that night. Someone told me that before the meeting, my dad had been talking with
people like nothing was any different from any other night. When they announced it though, he got up out of his recliner chair and
ran out of the kingdom hall. Some elders went after him, and saw him jump into his car and drive away, yelling “I love you all!”
After that, he moved back to the city to try to get back on track, but ended up drinking himself to death in a matter of months.
I don’t think anyone took it as hard as LaDonna when my dad was DF’d. I would even say that she took it harder when he was DF’d
than when he died. Because then, at least he would be resurrected.
My mom had been DF’d when it happened, and all the witnesses came over to our house anyway and offered support to
my mom and the rest of our family, which was pretty great.
That has been quite a while ago. I think that if my dad hadn’t died, I would most probably be estranged from him today.
At the same time, I can’t help but wonder if he had been around people who knew a better way to address the situation,
like helping him get treatment instead of deserting him, he would have survived. Isn’t that what churches and communities
I think about that congregation from time to time. The Kingdom hall is the same old place, same literature, same boring meetings.
I find it fascinating how it continues, almost without even a sense of history, but instead with a narrow focus on this elusive
‘paradise on Earth’ pie in the sky that everyone puts their life on hold for.
During that time, the ups and downs were a formative experience for me, but this whole drama unfolding was just a flash in the pan
of this congregation.
The old timers might remember that crazy family with the disinterested mom, the kid who had green hair, and the dad who tried so hard.
I wonder if they bring it up every now and then.
But mostly, I wonder what they ever did with that scratchy pink recliner.