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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Family; My Life

Some people look at my family and they make assumptions.

My brothers and I are in our twenties and we still live at home. Only Ian has a job; none of us has our own vehicle. Ian and Erin cannot drive. There a lot of things that we don’t pay for yet because well, we can’t. My brothers can tend to be socially awkward and they suffer from moderate to severe learning disabilities. We don’t have many people come to our house and we are not invited to a lot of things. Not complaining, it is just the truth.
Many people look at my family and see only the negative stuff…I too used to view my family this way while I was off at school. To my shame, I did my best to avoid going home, often staying at school over the shorter breaks in order to avoid my family. I am a really bad son/brother and I know that some of the ways that my brother’s act is my fault.
I used to be like my dad.

But since coming home and returning to life with my family, I have grown to love them with all of their dysfunctions. It is hard to explain the behavior of family members to outsiders because they really cannot fathom our lives, especially good church families who live more like Leave it to Beaver than a modern family.

We did not always go to church.

There was a time in our lives (when we were children mostly) where we rarely went to church services. I would not become a Christian till age 14 and my brothers would not become Christians until years after that. That being said; we did not grow up in a “Christian home” and to be honest, I don’t know if I would qualify our home now as a Christian home. We grew up in an environment where God was not hated just ignored.

That all changed in 1998, when were attended our first church service in awhile; a few months later, I became a Christian. My teenage years were somewhat happier than my childhood years.

It can be argued my childhood did not exist.

My father, who was reared in a very strict environment, was absolutely dictatorial and overbearing. We were not children; we were no different than the sailors he went out to see with. We were to follow orders and if we deviated even a slightest bit, we paid mercilessly for it. I learned quick and early that the best way to not experience the wrath of God; was to try to be perfect. It is one of the reasons I hated God, because my dad would only talk about God when justifying beating the crap out of me. I got it the worst, because in the early days, mom was afraid of him, but then later mom finally stood up to him and set an ultimatum.

After that he still disciplined but not like before; not without mom watching him.

Still, that did not stop him from being just as hard on my brothers; we all grew up to hate our father; until recently I had been very angry with him for all that he did to me. It has taken three counselors and a lot of prayer, but I don’t hate my father anymore. I am angry that my childhood memories were taken from me; that only memories I will have share with my children (if I ever have a family) are bad ones. I was robbed of my memories and that is almost as bad as being robbed of your dreams.

I didn’t have any friends; I was never allowed to do anything. I was not allowed to walk around the neighborhood and I could not go over to other people’s houses unless my mom knew them, and since my mom rarely got to know anybody because of my dad, I had no friends. My brothers suffered the same fate and together we all tried to work like adults while being socially awkward and outcasts.
I was regularly picked on at school; I never dated (no girl would take me as her boyfriend) and so I was ostracized , made the brunt of jokes, and was called gay. All the comments hurt; if I am not careful I can still let their tiny, ridiculous voices play through my head. I hated life; I hated home and hated school. So, as a kid I played with toys a lot by myself. When my maturity out grew my brothers; I would play games against myself. When computers became more affordable; I began to lose myself in video games; especially violent ones. I think most of my family’s obsession with TV and video games is an escape mechanism; a way to cope with a ghastly, unchanging reality.

In sixth grade we moved to Alabama where my dad went to work for a friend of his in the crawfish industry. It was there that I was treated the worst I have ever been treated in my life. A lot, of my reserved attitude and hesitancy to trust and connect can partly be attributed to Citronelle Middle School. I was an outsider, I was new, and I was a “yankee.” It was during this horrible year that I was introduced to my second coping mechanism: sexual addiction. It started with historical romance novels, went to past-midnight cable, and then evolved to internet pornography. During that time, I saw nothing wrong with it…and until high school, I secretly indulged in this escape.

My brothers were not treated much better and they would also have their own battles to deal with. Our family moved back to Virginia when the business went to crap and dad rejoined the Navy. It was the beginning and new era for us, but some things remained the same. I would become a Christian right before I started high school and my family began to go back to church, where we got heavily involved and I thought I had made lots of friends (which turned out to be a lie) and it seemed like life was making a turn for the better.

Then my dad and I went to a Promise Keepers rally.

After that rally, my dad changed for two weeks; he became the dad I had always wanted…it was unbelievable. He made lots of promises and he finally started talking about being the spiritual leader in our family and I believed him; he lied to us all. For whatever, reason he reverted back to his old ways and then even was “called to the ministry” and began taking classes for that. I was in disbelief. That is when life went screwy.

Our first church’s pastor started becoming paranoid and dictatorial; he began speaking like he was Moses leading people to the Promised Land. It was evident that he had become to think of himself to highly and that he had surrounded himself with people who just told him what he wanted to hear. It ruined the poor man; it ruined him so badly that he ended in an affair, using the church’s phone for explicit calls, and using church money to buy himself personal items. The church split; the family turned against each other and my family was forced to leave.

My dad has really not completely returned to church since.

The next church, though better, was infected by the same group of people. We once again had to watch as a church and pastor we respected disintegrated into a mass of compromise. It was just heartbreaking. In all of this, my brothers and I lost all of our “friends” in one fell swoop. I never really made friends at the next church because I was so messed up by the first. My brothers did though; and they left all of those friends behind when we moved to Athens.

All of this time my dad does nothing but buy things for himself, thousands of dollars of things for himself. We watch as we went from debt free to a deeper hole than we were in Virginia. Erin has had to struggle longer than normal through high school and he believes that the love of a girl will fix all of his ills. Ian dated a girl for several years who cheated on him many times and it has scarred him; he spends most of his time in childish shows and games, trying to gain a childhood he never had…not realizing that those days are gone. Erin has a direction in life, but Ian seems to be stuck at Dollar General working for a manager who makes the Wicked Witch of the West sound like nice Betty White. Their lives are hard and they seem to be going nowhere.

Then there is me; I managed to be smart, industrious, and able to go off to college; it saved my life. At college I learned more about being social and having relationships than I did anything else. While I am still behind from people my own age; I am up to college if not post-college level. I thank God for the opportunity to gain friends and to be able to see that I can live a happy existence on my own. I wish my brothers had the same opportunity; I wish they could somehow escape.

But now we come to the present day; I am without a job, car, or money and I am 26.47 years old.

Tomorrow, after I meet with Justin Beddingfield, I am going to sit down and think and pray about my future, away from this house and its atmosphere. I am behind in the responsibilities of adult hood. This is because my mom tried to counteract my dad so much that she accidentally made us all codependent on her. I am still learning simple things most people learned when they were still in high school. I am a long way from being a man, but I am much closer than my brothers.

These are tough times; it would be nice to have a strong, godly father to stabilize and guide our household. It feels like sometimes that being men will always be just beyond our grasp because we are having to learn by ourselves by trial and error. Most people know these things growing up; we did not grow up learning them. There are many social customs/expectations we will never live up to. It makes me worried for my brothers; will they never get out of this house? If they don’t, will someone ever marry them? I am especially worried for Ian; whose world revolves around the release of the next video game. Erin likes every girl that he sees because he just wants someone, even if it is the wrong one, to love him. My guess he is looking for the love and affirmation his father never provided.

And myself; I am getting older…while marriage and kids are happening increasingly later in life, I am getting past my prime. I am still crippled by not having my own transportation, not making any money, and not having my own place. At my age, no one will date me, period. I am ok with this, as I wrote previously, but I cannot consider anyone and no woman (in my age range) will date me. I could be an awesome guy, serve God faithfully at church, and be seeking to make a difference in my community; but without the social/economic necessities, I will remain single whether I wish to or not.

I have dreams and I have a vision about who God is making me to be; but I have no guidance…for all intensive purposes I have no father. Yes, I know God is my Father and I grateful to him for it; he has been so good to me. Yet, he cannot replace my human father and the fact that there is not a man that I have encountered who is willing to be my foster dad. I really could use a godly anchor in my life and it pains me that I do not have one. I often feel like I will never become a man.

You may ask why I am writing all of this; do I seek to hurt my family? I seek for you all to understand my family and all that we go through. I only ask that you stop and consider our circumstances and our journey before you pass judgment. Yes, my dad has not been a great dad, but to be honest, my dad my not even know Jesus and therefore not provide the kind of leadership and love that I need. My dad is fifty year old man who thinks he is still adolescent; there is nothing I can do about that. It is necessary to share this for the sake of understanding, not to shame my dad who I don’t think would care very much anyway.

Thank you for reading, and may God be with you all of the days of your lives.

Grace and Peace


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