My maternal grandparents, missionaries and liars
My Grandparents are missionaries.
I know, I've mentioned them before, and kept saying I'd explain and explore that one. I finally got around-to-it, and so, here it is. But of course, background first.
My Grandmother (B) divorced my biological Grandfather (K) when I was about three or four years old. My mother cut him out of her life very quickly, and I was told that he was a horrible drunk who beat B and my mother and her siblings mercilessly. That clashed weirdly with the man I remembered in a handful of very early memories. My Grandpa K was a nice man, very sweet and gentle to me and always ready for a hug in that Grandpa way. I remember being told, when I was maybe 12 and asked about that difference, “Well, he loves you very much; he was just never much of a father.” I was also told many times, “He loves you in his own way,” but it wasn't until I was older that I understood what the hell that meant.*
B moved to New Mexico a couple years later near my Great-Grandmother (Omi). Omi lived in Hobbs, and had for some time; she loved the weather in the South-west and if I remember right actually managed a petrol station right off the free-way. During the next few years B moved back and forth between Michigan and New Mexico, often crashing –sometimes literally-- at our house. She was a couch-surfer from way back.
Couple years passed and she met this guy, A. He had five kids, I think, lemme count, sorry, four-- I've only met two of them, and an estranged wife. He was a drunk, as was his wife. He found Jesus, and stopped drinking. They fell in love! Went to a fundie church, that IFB church I've told you about in Alamogordo. They got married! Awww, how sweet! Second marriage for both of them, and look how happy they are together!
That was 83 or 84. Funny thing is, the divorce wasn't final, so he actually got arrested for bigamy and did time, although it was a pretty short jail sentence, 90 days maybe? As a side note, they did get married down at City Hall as soon as they could, but that was, I think, eight months after their church wedding (the better part of a year, anyway)! Crazy, huh?
I remember sitting in the kitchen, at the table doing my homework when the telephone rang. My mother picked it up, and I could hear my grandmother wailing about how “they'd” taken A away! What was she going to do! His evil ex-wife put the cops up to this! She was such a bad person. Satan must have possessed her, that bitch!
Yeah, it was pretty hysterical.
At dinner my mother told my Dad, “Well, Mom called me, and they put Dad in jail for bigamy.” She said it so blandly, like “pass the butter”. I found out later that everyone expected it, but were hoping that the divorce would be finalised before the ex, R found out that A and B got married. Evidently not, huh?
“What's big-Amy?” I asked.
“When you're married to two people at one time,” my mother said.
“Oh, you can do that? Have two husbands?” I asked, thinking that would be pretty cool. I was young, remember. Although some days I wouldn't mind having a wife as well as my husband... but that's for another time!
“No, it's illegal. That means the police will take you to jail,” she went on.
“Grandpa's in jail? He's a criminal?!” I was getting pretty upset at this point, I'd see that show with my Dad, Cops. I knew that happened to those bad people, the policemen made them lay down in the dirt and put handcuffs on them, and then took them away! It was awful! And some times the big police dogs would bite them, and chase them, and it was so scary!
“No, R is a bad woman, and she told lies about Grandpa. So when the police took him to jail they didn't know the truth,” my mother lied to my face, as I found out later.
Not knowing that cops do make mistakes-- all the fucking time-- I thought it must be just terrible for them, once they learned they'd been lied to. And you're not supposed to lie to the cops, that's bad! So that R lady, ooooh, she was going to be in trouble! But the cops would make it all better, I knew. I was a very naïve little girl, and thought the cops actually gave a shit about the law; I learned better, as most of us do, pretty early on. If any of you want to defend cops, and tell me what a horrible, hard job they have, I have one thing to say to you: Shut the fuck up. See here, and tell me how fucking hard they have it. Then you can tell me why “police brutality occupy” came up on my Google fill in when I had only typed in “police b”... yeah, I thought so, suck ups.**
The time he spent in jail was time he wasn't working, and wasn't paying his child support, and so A went into arrearages. That means he owed back child support. He worked for McDonnell Douglas as an aircraft inspector, and he'd served in the Air Force and Navy (before they wouldn't let you do that any more). I remember how mad my mother was that R was entitled to half the pensions from the military-- both of them. My mother and grandmother actually mourned that money, like it was going to terrorism, or something! You'd think R used it to finance Satanist parties, rather than paying off her house, and bills and making sure the two kids living at home had food, and clothes-- you know, like normal custodial parents and child support.
In fact, what I learned from the two kids, my aunt and uncle who were one and four years older than me, respectively, was that their mother worked two jobs to make sure they got food, and clothes, and often A never paid the child support. He was a dead beat dad, but to hear him talk, R was a blood sucking leach-- which is familiar to anyone who's ever heard a male-rights-tirade.
It's also familiar to anyone who knows evangelical christianity. You see, A and B honestly felt that R was sucking away their blessings, taking their money! Because Jesus gave it to them, and she had no right taking him to court over and over to force him to pay child support. It's not like he was raising them, or responsible for them, or anything. I mean, shit, he didn't even want them, right? Well, maybe he wanted them, at the time, but they didn't want to live with him, so good riddance to bad rubbish!***
So started my grandparent's money trouble, but I'm sure three mortgages didn't help (yeah, they owned three houses for the longest time, one just outside St. Louis, and two in Alamogordo). They “borrowed” thousands from my parents to keep up their lifestyle-- which is your evangelical chic, too many bibles, too many church clothes, too many people over for dinner to show off.
While he worked they didn't do too badly, really. She even flew out to see us in Germany while my Dad was stationed there. Every time A had to work away from home my grandmother would “get depressed”, though. I wouldn't say it was actual depression, and he would only be gone a couple weeks at a time. I think it was boredom. She's too neurotic to have a depressive episode-- she'd slit her wrists, trust me on that one.
Time passed, and they got more and more involved in their church. He was a deacon, did that whole bus thing. She taught Sunday School, and sang in the choir, and lookit who sanctified they are!
They helped my mother fall down the rabbit hole of fundamentalism with them, and dragged us kids along for the ride. It was like a roller coaster-- and have I mentioned roller coasters make me nauseous.
They stayed pretty close to the church after we went to Germany and the minister was sent to prison for theft. We would get updates from them on what the pastor's family was doing, in that gossipy “remember to pray for them” kind of way. I never liked the pastor's kids, so I didn't give a shit if they were OK, or all fucked up over the whole thing.
I visited them in St. Louis a few times, and remember when they finally sold the two houses in New Mexico. I guess they rented the St. Louis place for a few years after he retired and they moved to Michigan. The house they bought in Michigan was such a cool place, a little weird in the lay out, but cool (the walk out basement was actually your first floor. The living room was down there, with a fire place, and two office/dens rooms. Bedrooms, kitchen and dining room were up stairs.)
They started going to the same church my mother went to, the one in Paw Paw with the fundamentalist pastor who liked to talk about how he used to use drugs, and sexed up the entire state of Florida and drink too much, and all these horrible things before he got Jesus. They were pretty happy there for quite some time, almost ten years, actually.
Then, the lack of cash really started to be a problem. So they had to find some dupes to give them some dough.
I mean, they found their calling! At this point, I was living in Killeen, so everything I Heard came second hand through my sister. But suddenly they were going to “help out” at the county fairs, in Van Buren county (the county they lived in) as well as the handful of touching ones. They were working with a group in Tennessee that sends missionaries to fairs, festivals and other things like that (not Ren Faires, as far as I know, though), and they set up these booths to ambush you into finding Jesus.
The booth has a cute smiley face on it, and it's usually multi-coloured, bright and shiny, and they ask you the question: Do you know if you died today, if you'd go to heaven?!
I wish I was joking about the fair part, but I'm not.
So I start getting these weird, quarterly report things from them. Just like they sent to their supporters-- honest. There was even a little thing at the bottom of the last page you could cut off and pledge to send them so much cash a month, to “help spread Jesus.”
That cash influx did great things for their lifestyle. They sold their house and bought a camper and a new pick up truck to tow it. They upgraded the camper three times that I know of-- it got bigger and more expansive every time; they've also went from a mid-sized GMC to a Dodge “dualie”-- one of those two tonne pick up trucks. Praise Jesus and pass the collection plate!
Within five years of this, and as I was moving back to Michigan they got more and more into this missionary thing. I remember going to the church one night, to see the presentation they were giving-- I'd been asked. To my horror, I see these slides, one after another of county fairs, and tractor pulls, and figured prominently in every one of these photos is one or both of my grandparents, and some person they “saved”.
He was talking at the lectern while clicking through the slides, and said something along these lines, “God has just blessed us. Every where we go we bring more and more people to Jesus. Of course, like Paul said, we just spread the seeds, and maybe if we're lucky we can water it, but God brings the harvest.” Then there would be a crowd of “amens” and “praise gods” wafting through the congregation.
He went on, telling us about this person, or that one, who was “freed from the cult of” whatever religion they used to be. Jews, Muslim, Seventh-Day Adventists, all these poor people were brought to the “saving knowledge of Jesus Christ” by my sacrificing grandparents and people like them.
The presentation was over, and wouldn't you know it! The pastor called for a collection, a so-called “love offering”. The donation plate had already passed for the usual Sunday night money grab; this was in addition to that. It's expected that every religious person, missionary, visiting pastor just touches your heart so much with what they're doing for God that you'll whip out your cheque book and give them some money!
Really. I'm not joking. I'm deadly serious. I hadn't been ashamed of my family like that before. I was absolutely mortified!
The look on A's face when the pastor prayed over them, demanding the congregation give them some serious cash told me all I needed to know about why they were doing this whole missionary thing:
They were all about the cash.
Couple years later I got a look at their tax returns, and they made some pretty good money. They'd changed their residency to Tennessee, and I think they didn't have to pay state income taxes. They were living pretty well on the largess of these deluded christians. And I was ashamed of them.
The spring after my mother filed for divorce they popped in for my oldest son's birthday (2008). I made Asian food, and iced his cake to look like a cross-section of a brain (marshmallow fondant, and damn it was good!) My mother showed up after dinner, in time for the cake, and of course turned on her “Oh, Mimi loves you, I miss you so much!” shit.
We sat down at the kitchen table later that night and my grandfather regaled us with stories of the people they'd saved. How Muslims worship the “moon god Allah”-- a total lie and christianist propaganda. How Episcopalian were leaving their church because it was so full of daemon worship-- another christianist lie, hearkening back to the early Protestant lies about the RCC. He talked about a Seventh-Day Adventist they had “saved” and how “she grew up not able to eat pork, but now she eats it all the time”. He even threw something in about some Quakers they'd met! They were convinced that the Society of Friends were a cult. A cult?! Fucking Quakers? I was pretty shocked, needless to say.
“Why?” I asked. I've rebutted everything I could to that point, as kindly as I could. No, Allah isn't a moon deity, but merely Arabic for “God”, just like Yahweh or Jehovah. Duh, right? No, Episcopalians don't worship daemons, they're christian too. “You know, Seventh-Days are very Jewish in their christianity. Most of them are vegetarian. But all of them are christians.”
You'd think I called him a liar to his face, which I didn't. I just asked why they'd celebrate eating pork. Everyone at that table knew I can't eat pork, that I'm allergic, or intolerant, or something that makes me vomit. They also knew I had a good friend who was Seventh-Day.
My Grandparents stuttered and my mother lost it. She threw a fit all over the place. Told me just because I was college educated I had no right correcting her parents. That I was wrong, and she should just set me straight.
I just looked at her. Then when she was done ranting I did the unthinkable, “Please show me where I was wrong, so that I can correct it. I don't want to disseminate wrong information about the denominations.”
This started her off again. She informed me that they weren't denominations they were cults! Cults I tell you! Even the Friends, who only God knows how insidious they are! With their pacifism, and social activism and pro-life/anti-nuke/anti-death penalty! Yeah, her rant got pretty hard to follow after awhile.
I remember putting up my hands, and hearing my grandmother say, “B, B, stop! Calm down, you're shouting. Em was just asked a question, and I think that shows discernment on her part. Not all Seventh-Days and Quakers are lost; some of them really are christians.” Finally my mother shut up.
The whole time my grandfather sat there with a smug look on his face. This is the man who told me he's pay my tuition to Oral Roberts University, knowing that I didn't want to marry a preacher, and that I wouldn't be able study what I wanted to there. This is the man who told me women were good for breeding christian babies and cooking for their husbands. This is the man who I had shouted at a hundred times for trying to be my father, who told me point blank that no man would ever want me, because I was too rebellious and thought for myself.
So I looked at him again, and asked, “Why? Why is eating pork so funny? You realise that if you follow the Bible, literally you can't eat it, or shellfish. That's all the Seventh-Day's are doing. They're trying to follow the whole bible, not just the parts they like.”
“You eat shell fish, don't you?” He said, as though I could un-write his book. That whole “two wrongs/sins make a right”, or something.
“Nope. Sure don't,” I said. I was a vegetarian at the time, “I don't eat meat.”
That made my point. My mother left soon after that, after telling me I was terribly disrespectful to my grandfather, who was “a man of god”. I just told her that he was lying, whether on purpose, or from ignorance; but she'd told me herself that ignorance was no excuse. I wasn't rude to him. I didn't demand he recant. I just stated the truth, and when asked, I told them how I knew (hint: comes of actually knowing people who follow the fucking religion, and maybe even reading the damned books!)
My grandfather though, he nodded thoughtfully. I know I didn't change his mind; he's ignorant on purpose. But I knew that I'd gained respect and he would stop trying to fleece me. That's one thing he always did have, a grudging respect for me. He hates me and my intellectual outlook, but nothing I've told him has ever been wrong. I could prove it, whether using his own book against him, or the laws or what have you. It's kinda hard to lie to someone when they know the score, huh?
Later on he encouraged me. Told me to hang on, that things would be OK; when my mother freaked out and tried to sue my Dad for support, and when she wanted to have me evicted from the house. It was the nicest thing he'd ever said to me, actually, when he told me “she's wrong, and she'll get it some day”. But based on the way they treated me and my Dad after that (literally writing us out of their lives but claiming to be “praying for us” of course) I know it was just words.
I'm not the right kind of christian to get any real affection from them. I'm one of those intellectual people, those elite thinkers! I question! I don't swallow whatever they tell me to, because God! They know everyone, and me, I'm just s little lost, black sheep. So they'll pray for me, because you know, it's the gossipy, christian thing to do. I've lost my way, and gone over to those socialists who hate god, and whatever else they've decided we do.
Last I heard from them was about three weeks ago. They keep sending me Facebook friend invitations, and I keep declining them. This time they asked me to connect with them via “LinkedIn”. I'm not on LinkedIn” so that one was kinda weird. I got a Xmas card, from them; but I don't know how they got my address. I didn't give it to them. I'm surprised they haven't called me, but I'm not sure I'd take the call.
Oh, and they send me these trite, adorable glurgy “forwards” a couple times a month. You know the kind. I never read them, I just delete.
On very rare occasions I get a legitimate question from them via email, but thirty seconds and one “Snopes check” later I debunk the shit they sent. Why they can't do that themselves I don't know.
So, beware the town fairs; watch for the county tractor pulls. You might get accosted by the Jesus-freaks and unfortunately two of them are my maternal grandparents. I'm sorry. I didn't teach them that! I thought I'd taught them so much better: tolerance and love for the world, but I guess it didn't take.
If you do see them, tell them I said, “Hi! Stop lying to these people!” OK? Then have some cotton candy or an elephant ear for me. I love those damned things, so much!
I'll probably revisit the lying for Jesus thing later on. Suffice it to say they are liars, and consider it acceptable to do so, because they're convinced they're helping save people from hell. This is not to excuse them, merely the reason I've heard. Go ahead, Google "liars for Jesus", and then follow the links to Barton's theocracy and how the US is a Christian nation. It's rubbish and it's sad as hell that people believe that shit, and fucking propagate it!
*Allow me to translate“loves you in their own way”. It is merely code for: doesn't give a shit about anyone, or anything except themselves, but I don't want to admit it, because it's mean and although true will hurt your feelings”.
**Yes, I am anti-authoritarian. You want me to respect you? Fucking earn it pig. Yes, I dislike cops. Yes, I loathe them, actually. I have met far too many men who got into law enforcement so they would have power over others. I know too many people who have been brutalised by cops. My own fucking cousin is a state trooper in Michigan, he's a power-trip cop and actually threatened me with “probable cause” once (which he had none). He said it in a half-joking manner that told me he was serious as hell, so I picked up my cell phone and said, “Go ahead, I'll call my lawyer and have your badge, pension and have you publicly disgraced. Wanna play, Ray?” Then I smiled so sweetly, and waited.
He backed off, of course, trying to turn that into a joke. Thing was, he wasn't joking, and actually tried it on another of our cousins, because he didn't approve of her lifestyle (she was getting divorced from an abusive man, so I'm not sure what there was to disagree with). He tried that with everyone he could get away with; and he's the kind of cop if he gets you for speeding he'll come to your window with his fucking gun out, because you're going to threaten him, or something. He's also a raging hypocrite. So yes, I hate cops. They're all bullies, and they can kiss my ass.
***As a side not, I spent several weeks visiting them in California the year I turned 9. My aunt and uncle where there, and they were miserable living the summers with their father. I never felt like he wanted them there, he saw them that summer, and any other time he visited, because he had to, not because he wanted to. My grandmother actually told people R “dumped them off” on them for the summer-- rather than the truth: it was his parenting time/visitation. My aunt and uncle (no, I never called them that, and no, I don't have a relationship with them) stopped seeing him a short time later, unless he went to Florida to visit them. I can't blame them one iota.