Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Worst Christmas Ever

First of all, I want to apologize for not getting over to everyone's blogs to wish them good tidings. I've been insanely busy with what was possibly the worst Christmas ever.

I'll start at the beginning and apologize in advance for the length.

The day after Thanksgiving, I had to tell my mom about my stepdad's indiscretions. I didn't come to that conclusion lightly. I had warned stepdad that if I so much as suspected he was up to something, I would be telling my mom. The day after Thanksgiving, he disappeared for hours and my mom couldn't find him. She told me she thought he was cheating. Still, I didn't say anything except for her to get proof if it. By lucky coincidence, she called my stepdad who gave her some bullshit story and then forgot to hang up his cell phone. My poor mom ended up hearing a sordid conversation between him and another woman.

So I told her about the email and apologized for not telling her sooner. Well needless to say, my mom was furious at stepdad and he was furious at me. And seeing as how he was my boss, it left me in quite an awkward position.

Now as it always happens (at least in my family), the situation is far more complicated than just an ordinary case of adultery. In order to explain it fully, I have to go back through my own family's history to before I was born.

Back in the 60s and 70s, my parents were hippies. My stepdad and his ex were also hippies. And they all became hippie converts to Christianity. They joined a cult called the Children of God. I won't even condescend to give them a link, but there is a lot of information on the internet about them.

Before I go any further, I just want to make clear that my vitriol against this cult is in no way an indictment of Christianity in general.

Part of this cult's schtick was that the world was going to end and America was going to be destroyed, so everyone better hightail it for parts unknown. My parents ended up in the middle east. I was born in Greece, but only just missed being born in Turkey. My sister was born in Iran.

Now, as it turns out, there was a great deal of conflict occurring in Iran in the year of 1978. No one was really hanging out the welcome mat for Westerners and my family and I had to leave under much duress. I don't remember being frightened, but something must have heightened my senses because my first memories are of airplanes in the dead of night, and watching a clock in what I think was a train or a bus station. It had a black and white tile floor.

My parents concluded that perhaps the cult leader had it wrong and it was everywhere but America that was going to be destroyed, so they came back to New York and had the rest of my sisters in quick succession. Eight in all. I should, perhaps, state right here that they no longer wanted anything to do with the cult. And it was the year they left that the cult began to get malignantly crazy, as opposed to benign, hippie crazy.

My father was diagnosed with leukemia when I was 11. We moved to Houston when I was 15 so he could get treatment. But he died when I was 16 leaving my mother with almost no money and eight daughters to raise on her own. A few months after my father died, my stepfather came out to pay my mom a visit. He and his ex had just divorced. They had eight children also. Against everyone's wishes but their own, they married just over a year after my father's death.

Resentment reigned supreme. To my stepdad's credit, he put up with all of it and managed to establish a successful real estate business. This of course has all been done with my mother waiting on him hand and foot and encouraging him the whole way.

Now to the present situation. Stepdad hasn't been cheating on my mom with some skanky native. No. He has been seeing members of the cult. They call themselves The Family of God or simply The Family. They are up to their same old tricks which include having the women (married and unmarried) sleep with men who have money and bring them into the fold. A more parasitic group never existed. I could go on and on about the mind games and house of cards logic these deluded individuals practice, but I'm sure you can guess.

Part of the problem is that it is very appealing at first. It appears to be a laid-back, whole grain, patchwork skirt kind of atmosphere. Women are allowed to sleep with anyone for the purpose of "conversion." And they justify it all in their morning bible study. Honestly, what man wouldn't jump at that opportunity?

But that well dries up pretty fast and once you're involved, it degenerates quickly into petty power struggles and a deep, overriding fear of damnation. Your free will is sapped into the collective and suddenly you are no longer an independent, autonomous person, but a powerless, defensive member of a cult. It becomes a drug and you become an addict. You may think you've left, but one day you hear someone call you by your cult name and suddenly you belong to them once more.

I'm rather afraid this is what has happened to stepdad. He doesn't want to divorce my mom, but I don't think he wants to stop seeing these people either.

So the current situation is quite tense. My mother, in an understandable but foolish fit of rage, told my sisters everything. Most of my sisters haven't dealt fully with our father's death and our mother's hasty remarriage, so as you can imagine, stepdad was persona non grata for the holidays.

Two of my sisters wanted absolutely nothing to do with him and said they wouldn't come down for the holidays if they had to step foot in his house. So I offered up what seemed to me the only workable solution. Have everyone except stepdad over to my house before Mass. Stepdad could then meet my mom for midnight mass and then go home with her and the kids who live there. But Stepdad didn't like that idea and insisted on going to the early Mass. My mom, who can't say no to anyone but me, tried to talk the recalcitrant sisters into letting stepdad into the house just for a little while. My sisters didn't budge, and stepdad, possessing the maturity of a coked up adolescent, decided to come in anyway.

Knowing the shit was a millisecond away from the proverbial fan, I took him outside and tried to gently persuade him to go have a drink for a few hours, then come back. He said no. My sisters came out in full on fuck-you-in-your-cult-loving-ass mode, and everyone said the fuck word at least 11 times apiece at 7:30 pm in a quiet little family neighborhood on Christmas Eve. I've seen more refined homeless shelters.

Stepdad, drove off in a royal snit, my mom jumped in Jethro's car and screamed at Jethro to follow him, which, bless his precious heart, he did. So, if I may wallow a bit in self-pity, I was left with The Bitches, my Jewish grandmother, my German grandfather, and without my husband on Christmas Eve. I had spent hours making a pretty cool hors d'oeuvre supper which went uneaten, and I had the added misery of knowing that my dear husband was hungry and stuck with my insane, grief-stricken mother.

Christmas morning was a blast though.

Gwennie and Emma loved their presents. I think we hit one out of the park on those. And I got Jethro a couple of shirts, which he need badly. And he got me a gorgeous bathrobe and slippers. I liked the slippers so much, I had a nightmare that I accidentally wore them outside.

And now to wax unforgivably sentimental. My greatest gift is always Jethro. Somehow he saw through all the drama and found something good in me - enough that he wanted to share himself with me forever. I couldn't dream of more, and there is nothing more to be had.