It isn't stamping related, its a little long, but I thought you should know...
How I met my mom…
So my Mom called me Monday October, 14th. That doesn’t sound all that special. People talk to their mom’s all the time. What makes this call particularly interesting is that I had not heard from my parents, nor have I seen them in 13 years (almost to the day, I might add). Many of you know this part but I’ll recap for those of you who don’t know the back story.
It is a long story, I’ll be as brief as I can. My sister and I grew up going to church on Easter and Christmas on a good year. I had later come to understand that as a C & E! My Dad always told us that they wanted us to decide what we wanted to believe (which is code for we are too lazy/not even sure ourselves). Fastforward to my Junior year of college. I was in the financial aid office between finals trying to figure out how I was going to pay for that year’s tuition. My parent’s had not done their taxes for a while and I couldn’t get financial aid. I literally had no idea what to do. I was granted financial emancipation from my parents at that time and because I had filed taxes they used my financial info for my financial aid. Shortly after that point, I remember my Aunt Marie asking me if I was mad at my Dad, or something like that. It was at that moment I decided I would never let any decision or action of my father affect my life negatively again.
He picked me up from school a few days later to bring me home for the summer and I remember him telling me the entire ride home (plus stopping for lunch) how he and my mom had found God. I found this story disturbing because it wasn’t a story of faith and fulfillment, it was a story of faith-healings, exorcisms, and visions of demons. That to me was nothing to be excited about and I was frankly scared about the things they told me. To say I retreated from my parent’s was an understatement. I avoided them at all cost.
For the next few years, my dad closed his Photofinishing store, worked a ‘regular’ job for a friend and eventually “retired”. My mom kept working for her job and that is where they had money. This meant he had basically unlimited time to study the bible and other theological material. They had a bookcase in our house for the first time in my life with lots and lots of bibles. My parents were becoming more and more withdrawn from family events either not attending get-togethers or going and saying/doing very weird things. One year they denounced Christmas as pagan (at the Christmas celebration). They were outspoken and were quick to point out what things in our world were evil, and in no uncertain terms, we were told we were going to hell! While I continued to communicate with them, I kept my distance.
Fast forward a little further to the fall of 1999 and I am married and living in California, and Lisa calls me to tell me that Mom didn’t pick up my Grandma for a Dr apt. like she was supposed to that day. When she called her office, they said, “she no longer works here”. We were a little sick about that cause that was their only source of income. Lisa went out to the house and one of their cars was in the driveway, most of the “stuff” was there, but some stuff was missing: some of their clothes, some of the pots and pans, the wood burning stove, the majority of their bibles/books. We figured they must have gone off and joined a cult.
We tried to contact some of their friends, but frankly we were not exactly sure who all these people were. We were able to put together that they were asked to leave a few different churches as bridges were burned and, not surprisingly, my dad had been vocal about what he believed they were doing wrong. We wanted to put a missing person’s report on them as we didn’t believe my mom would have left her --family, especially my sister and I, willingly. A few weeks later, the day before my sister left to fly to California to be with Andy and I for Thanksgiving, she received her letter in the mail. Mine would come a few days later. The letters were written to each of us, one from my mom, and one from my dad, saying goodbye forever. They confirmed our theory that they believed that with Y2K, the end of the world was coming, that organized society as we knew it would be gone, so they decided to “leave society”. We were stunned to say the least along with many, other emotions.
One year later, as it turns out a friend of a friend of a friend was able to place a missing person’s report out on them and we got a hit in early October of 2000. They were squatting on county land North of Duluth, and the Sheriff had been called in to tell them to get off the land after some hunter’s reported them to the DNR. Andy and I had moved to Iowa that past summer so we drove to Minneapolis and after hours of waiting on people to call us back and confirm what was going on, we joined my sister and my aunt, MC to drive up to Duluth. We basically begged them to tell us where they were and after some persuading, we were given directions to their VERY remote location north of Duluth. We couldn’t even drive the car where they were as the “road” was too bumpy. We sat at their campsite for about 4 hours. Andy and MC did all the talking—Lisa and I couldn’t manage much.
They told us they were happy. They looked aweful—both my parents were always well kept. My mom used to have a fun spiky hairdo and always wore makeup. My dad was always clean shaven. They were living deliverance-like and my moms hair was all grown out and kind of dirty-greasy. My dad had a long dirty-gray beard and his big pot-belly was GONE! WE talked about all kinds of things, but not much was accomplished.
We told them that their house was being foreclosed on, but they could come back, sell it and pay the bank off and buy a plot of land up there if that was what they wanted. We asked them to stay in touch with us and they agreed.
It has been 13 years and not a word, until 2 weeks ago. I had a couple of ladies over for stamping, and Ella’s phone was ringing. We had converted our home phone to a cell phone and given it to her for her birthday about a week ago. I ignored it because the number was one I didn’t recognize so I figured it was a spam call.
It rang again 2 or 3 more times, and I didn’t pick it up. We were all home that afternoon sitting in the living room doing homework and practicing when Ella answers it and with a weird look on her face hands it to me and says “its for you”. It was my mom. She spoke in a monotone, robot-like voice and said that out of respect for my father, she wanted me to know that he was brought into the hospital and was very sick. She gave me the number to the ICU nurse and said I could call her. She said that he had flatlined and been resuscitated 3 times, already but that he now had a DNR (do not resuscitate). In the mean time, I told Andy to call my sister to tell her what was going on. All I could say was “don’t you love me anymore”. The call had literally brought me to my knees. I was a little hysterical talking to her. I couldn’t believe what was happening. She asked for Lisa’s number and I gave it to her.
I hung up with her and spoke to Lisa for a minute before she called Lisa. I seriously didn’t know what to do at that point. I called my Aunt Marie, not knowing what else to do and Andy and I talked to her for a minute. We talked to lisa and I decided within a few minutes to drive to Minnesota. I was still in shock. Andy asked if I was okay to drive and I said I think so. Marie offered to call the ICU nurse for us and while I was driving, she called to tell us that my dad had died.
I got up to Minneapolis and Lisa met me at Marie’s house, which is the closest to the drive to Duluth. She offered to go up with us and we drove to Duluth that night. She spoke to my mom’s friend, Nicole. Nicole has been friends with my mom for about 3 years and was the one who helped find our numbers (I pop up pretty easy due to my Stampin Up business) and she told my mom in the hospital that it was time to call us.
Marie talked to her a few times and to my mom, and arranged a meeting with my mom the next day. Everyone was exhausted, no-one had slept much, but we set up a meeing with my mom at Nicole’s house. We were there for about 2 hours. She thanked each of us for coming. She apologized to each of us and told us many times that she had made many, many mistakes and couldn’t take back the past. Once again, Lisa and I didn’t say a whole lot. Marie did most of the talking. She told us about how she was living, about how my Dad had died, and a little of what their life was like. He had Celiac disease. The ER docs told her he probably had cancer and he came to the ER very weak and dehydrated. My mom described him as emaciated and that he looked like a concentration camp survivor. She also said they went to a doctor this past June and he had a complete physical, but that his tests all came back clean. I kind of doubt that. The doctor asked him to come back for a colonoscopy, but he was going to manage things, “naturally”. My guess (and I’m no physician) was that he had colon cancer.
She said they were living in a trailer 45 minutes North of Duluth on some land that the land owners let them live on if they paid the property taxes. She said the funeral was likely going to be Friday but they were not sure as they cancelled the meeting
With the Funeral home so we could see her. She asked us what was going on in our lives. She knew we both were mothers. She wanted updates. Marie told her about her life and her family. She told my mom her Sister Lou had died 10 years ago, her aunt Claire died about 7 years ago and her mom died a few years ago. Lisa and I offered her nothing. I didn’t feel comfortable telling her anything about my life.
Marie suggested it was time for us to stop and leave. My mom thanked each of us for coming again and hugged us and said goodbye, in case we didn’t want to see her again. As we left it we asked her to contact Marie with the funeral arrangements. She asked if she could contact me and Lisa and neither of us agreed at that time. I kept shaking my head, not so much saying no, but I just didn’t know what to say to that.
We drove to a restaurant to just sit a few minutes before we were to get on the road again and to kind of process what had just happened. Marie had talked both to my mom and Nicole before that meeting so she knew a little more about what was going on with my mom. She had said that her husband and her, as well as some of the other people they associated with, did not believe that the way they were living , apart from their families, was right. Nicole said that my mom almost looked relived when she got the news that my dad had died. She repeated over and over that The Gospel did not teach that.
As Lisa and Marie sat there for a while it certainly became apparent that there was a lot of information to share with quite a few people, so Lisa came up with the genius idea to hold a conference call for our families later that afternoon. Most everyone could get on the call and we were able to share everything we knew at that time. The basic facts and how we felt about what we had just witnessed. It was so reassuring to feel the love and support of so many people from our families on that call. It was very comforting to know that they were behind us and encouraging to us. I might add that just before the call, we walked by a martini bar and decided we would stay in Duluth one more night! J
That night, I decided to post a blurb about what happened on Facebook. For a long time, I’ve relied on my “extended” family, my friends, from all facets of my life near and far. Since it has been Andy and I for many. many years, I’ve come to rely on “talking through “ as my “process” and so I wanted to put it out to facebook what was going on. It was kind of like the conference call—not having to tell the story over and over but getting the word out to lots of people. My instincts were right—I had so many kind comments, private messages and so on from that post. It became very clear to me that I had so many people supporting me and it was overwhelming and amazing all at once!
We went home the next day and I decided that I knew my mom needed a great deal of help and so I knew I needed to go help her. Marie had a business in Duluth the next week, so I decided to go up there knowing that Marie would be nearby, and it would be safe. As I was driving home from Minneapolis, Marie called to tell me that my Mom called her with the funeral arrangement details. That was pretty huge. She called us back. She followed up with her promise to call. For me that was monumental because she promised 13 years ago with my dad but did nothing! One thing I was absolutely sure about was that I would not be attending that funeral. In my head my dad had been dead for many years. I did not really feel all that sad about it. I looked at him as the instigator of all this, as an oppressor and someone who controlled my mom for a long time.
I also called Nicole on the way home to Iowa. I felt like I needed to reach out to my Mom. When we left that day I gave her nothing. I just couldn’t. I wasn’t really ready to call my mom directly, so I knew Nicole would talk if needed. She was incredibly gracious. She told me they felt for a long time that my Dad was not living right. That being apart from his family was wrong. That he controlled my mom and did not let her do things. She referenced a time a while back that my mom was sick and she wanted to go to the doctor. He told her God was punishing her because she was rebelling. She wanted to go to a bible study. I believe it was also during that conversation that she said that my Mom’s name was not on anything: their bank account, even the phone bill had my dad and, get this, their dog as authorized users, not my mom! The picture of their life that emerged was one that I was not completely surprised about. It still was very hard to hear. I asked Nicole to tell my mom that I loved her and that I was planning on coming up on Monday to help.
Marie had decided to attend the funeral both to be there for my mom, but also to do a bit of reconnaissance. We still have a great deal of questions regarding exactly where things are at with my mom and what her faith looks like. She said the funeral was pretty brutal—people talking about how great my dad was. How much he had meant to them. She said she felt sick, but also that she had not ate much that morning! The service was extremely simple—just a short ceremony at the gravesite. That was it. They went back to Nicole’s house where they had a luncheon planned. Marie attended and spoke to many of the people there. As things were winding down, she asked if she could talk with my mom, and asked Nicole and her Husband Mike to be there as well, to help out. By the way, most of the people that were there, had only known my parents for like 4 months. Nicole had know my mom for a few years, her husband Mike had known my dad for like 5 or 6 years.
Marie was able to confirm that they were not in a cult, but rather a bible-based home church (meet in living rooms). They are really into the Sabbath, spoke a lot of “The Word” and used phrases like “What a Blessing”, and “that’s on my Heart”. Of course our big question is why. How could they Leave, why they felt they should. My mom described it as “the perfect opportunity to move North”. We of course feel that when someone “moves” they typically sell their house, take their possessions, and announce it to everyone with a forwarding address. She said that my Dad set the stage to leave and she followed. She said she choose to leave and couldn’t explain why. My aunt said that you pushed everyone away—it was unbelievable what we had to go through. My mom said she didn’t intend that.
Marie said that she was concerned that my mom was abused. She said when your behavior is controlled against your will, that is abuse. My mom understood it and agreed, but kept coming back to “the Word” Chuck spoke “The Word”.
Michael (Nicole’s Husband) had the longest relationship with my dad that we know of since they disappeared. He talked about how he felt more and more that things were not right with my dad. He said, “God Spoke to me” to impress on my Dad that he abuses his Authority. He controls and manipulates things now (like in bible study, etc.) as he ad done in his earlier life. He talked about how everyone would openly pray and share what was on their hearts, admitting sin. Only my dad would NEVER admit his sin, but would often call out the sinner’s of the world.
They talked about how/why my mom would not stand up to him. She said she was afraid to confront my dad because of the hurt it would cause. Marie reiterated that it was abuse if you are afraid to speak the words of your heart. She said that the hurt was more than she could stand. He had information on us and would not allow any contact at least 2 different times. She also said that he liked to start projects but never finished them. He had started to work on the pipes for winter, but he never finished so they froze. She was forced to do dishes and laundry in the tub and she said she cried because she couldn’t stand to live that way.
Nicole and Mike said that my Dad’s belief system was “not our faith community. “ Marie said that it was not for me to call our the sinner and judge, but my mom kept coming back to “it’s The Truth—its in The Word”. I believe it was at that point that they decided they would have to agree to disagree. It was also shared that they believe Christmas to be a Pagan holiday, and they don’t celebrate birthday’s either.
As Marie told us all this, I couldn’t help but be depressed again. It was clear that my dad’s strong willed, always right, don’t challenge him on anything attitude had been observed by my mom for years and years. She certainly picked up a few things along the way. For as much as she was able to admit abuse, it is clear that she was still very entrenched in his thought process and the ways he went about his life. I knew then that things were never going to be even a shred of what they were before they found God. We also believe that she is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, where you sympathize with your captor.
I was really scared moving forward how she would judge my life and how we are raising our kids. I spent most of the next day feeling pretty defeated. I was worried that I may have bitten off more than I could chew with offering to come help my mom.
We arrived Monday, we drove in to see they lived in a trailer that was apparently given to them. The land they lived on belonged to Meth heads who deal as well. The area was filled with piles of stuff. Lots of piles of old wood boards, two trucks and a car. All I could think of was Hillbilly Hoarders. There were several buildings around the main trailer. A greenhouse, a wood shed, more. When we arrived a guy named Ed was there. We were introduced and then we went inside to see my mom. She had a cough when we saw her that first time, and it was clearly a bit worse now.
Inside the trailer, the first thing I noticed was the menorah. I was confused. My mom hugged me and thanked me again so much for coming. We briefly looked around (I took pictures on my phone under the radar as best as I could) and then Marie went out to talk to Ed to find out what the deal was with him. We were not sure what the story was with him, so she went to investigate. I sat down with my mom in their “living” room and she asked me about my family. So there it was, I was on the spot. So I went ahead and told her. I didn’t really gush that much. I’m sure a mother would, normally. It didn’t feel quite right. Instead, I showed some pictures and gave her a basic overview of the family. She asked their names, and Carl is named after her father. She seemed a little taken aback by that, and happy.
We looked around just a bit. Marie came back in and declared Ed to be another Angel. He was going through everything and trying to figure out how to sell stuff so my mom would have some money. All she had in the bank was $1000. Period.
Marie said she needed to use the bathroom. I think she will look back on this as a mistake! Their bathroom was an outhouse inside. You sit on a commode (like what a person may have in their house after a surgery and they cannot make it to their own bathroom). She shakes baking soda over the top and you put your TP in a bucket that she burns in the wood stove in the living room eventually. Ick! It smelled after Marie came out—since things were opened back up in there. We decided we needed to get going to town—there was a lot to do. Marie also suggested maybe my mom should pack some things so that if we got busy in town, she could stay in stead of having to bring her back up here. Really, I think we decided then and there that there was no way in hell we were going to let her stay there one more night! I texted Lisa a few pics quick. We texted back and fourth quite a bit to keep her in the loop on what we were seeing.
Mom had mentioned that she needed to pay her property tax bill—it was a few days overdue, so I suggested she grab her money and we could do that in town. She grabbed this folder thing and it had money she had been escrowing from their social security checks for things like propane, wood, a side of beef, taxes and so on. There was around $2000 in this folder. I thought if that trailer burned down that was it—nothing left! So she grabbed it and I asked if there was anymore money there. She went into the silverware drawer and pulled up the silverware caddy to grab another $350 or so! I said MOM, is there any more?? She giggled and said no, that was it. Her matress was not stuffed! Sheesh! We left and as we were headed down the road mom realized she had forgotten the tax paper, so I ran in and grabbed it for her….I had not been in their bathroom or bedroom, so I stuck my head in each and snapped a quick photo…ick and Ick!
We headed into town and I felt it was important for mom to have an ID, since she said her license had expired a while ago so she was going to have to take a written and driving test to get her license back. We went to the DMV and it was actually 11 years ago! They told us to the the ID, we would have to go to the bigger branch (we were at a mall location). We then were trying to decide if we should take her to urgent care or not—or where there even was one. We went to a natural foods-type store and bought these “fullproof” cough drops. We then went to their bank which was just a block or two away. We wanted to get my mom her own account. The bank was a credit union that seemed to know my mom and dad. They had heard about my dad dying and offered their condoloences. Their server was down and due to scheduling couldn’t take care of us and suggested an appointment the next morning. We left and by then my aunt had a work commitment to get to and it seemed like we really didn’t get much done that afternnon.
Marie and I decided to get a room at our hotel for my mom. There was no way we were going to have her stay with us—she would be coughing all night and we needed time to process and decompress. She seemed kind of excited and so we left we got her settled in and then Marie left and we decided to meet in about an hour for dinner. I was nervous about dinner—I mean this is the first time I would be totally alone with my mom. So I took her to a bar! I suppose ti was ok, since Marie told her they had a fabulous salad there, so she probably thought it was going to be ok. One thing I forgot to mention, Mom is hard of hearing already and whatever bug she clogging up her head was only making things worse. So here we were in a loud bar…I felt like I was practically yelling at her! Luckily we were able to sit in a quieter place. And even better, I could focus on the list of things we had ahead of ourselves to talk about.
We said goodnight and I told her we would come to her room by 8 in the morning to get her for our long list of errands. I suggested she take a long hot shower. I got back to the room and Marie was done with her work event just a short time later. Lots to digest from the day. We felt a call into Nicole and Ed were warrented. Ed was reeling from what Marie had told him earlier that day and they talked for quite a while, filling in the gaps. We asked Nicole a few questions before we got to sleep that night…oh, and Marie came back to the room with 2 bottles of wine.
The next day we set off. There was lots to do. First off we called the Social Worker my mom had worked with to get my dad to that doctor as well as help her get the funeral costs paid. She didn’t answer so I left a message. Great. Another thing that wasn’t working out. Well it all changed from there.
We went to the correct DMV location, they got right in, no wait and got her ID taken care of. They turned around and there were at least 15 people in line after them. Blessing. On the way there we passed the office of the Social Worker and clinic. I said, why don’t we stop by and check in to see if she is there. She was and though she couldn’t see us right now, she could have us come back at 2. My mom left to got to the bathroom so I gave Jessica the Social worker a “cliff notes” version of what really had been going on for the past 14 years and she was shocked. I said we need help for my mom—Medicare part B and anything else she cold guide us through. She suggested we call 211, the number for the United Way for housing options. She also suggested we see if they could get us in at the clinic across the hall. We did—they could get my mom in at 1pm…how perfect! We got things set up for the apt. and then headed for the bank appointment. Blessing, Blessing, Blessing.
We got to the bank and I took my Mom in so Marie could take care of some work stuff. My mom went to get some hot tea in the back for her cough and I gave the lady at the bank a run down of what really was going on. I told her we wanted to empower my mom as much as we could to make decisions on her own and Olivia said that was a huge part of their company vision. My mom came back and she handed her a sympathy card that everyone at the branch had not just signed but written a personal message in. It was unbelievable! I couldn’t believe these people seemed to care so much! Olivia was more than willing to look over the old account for anything we needed to be aware of—auto pay’s and any weird payments. She even offered to transfer the bulk of the balance into my mom’s new account. They told us they couldn’t before. We were thrilled. Another thing checked off. My mom walked out with her own checks and debit card, something she never had before. She said this was the first day of the rest of her life.
Next, phones. We couldn’t really even figure out what was going on with their phones so we went to a couple of places and found out that her bill for the cell phones was overdue. I asked the guy if he could just cancel them and we would pay the bill. He said hold on and must have gone in the back to talk to the manager. They took care of the bill. I guess they figured that with my Dad dead and the dog being the only other authorized user, we were good. Another Blessing!
Marie took my mom to grab something for lunch and I ran to the Verizon store and added my mom to our plan. Got her an iphone so she could have internet access and we now had unlimited calls and txts, which was a good thing as we were already way over! I gave her the phone and said I’m giving you the gift of communication. I hope you will use it ot keep in touch with your friends and start to reconnect with our family. She was overwhelmed and thankful. Another blessing.
Headed to the Doctor….more of the same. It was her first visit to the Dr in 15 years. I “slipped” out of the room and asked the nurse if we could chat with the Dr briefly to give her a run down of what was going on. Oh, and she had a student following her that day. My mom said it was ok if she observed…when we spoke in private we told her she would never have heard such a story. The Dr was shocked, but to the credit of this student, she kept a straight face! We wanted to make sure the dr understood the situation and could hopefully develop a rapport with my mom to keep her coming back for more and maybe get her into their counselors, dentists, etc. She perscribed my mom some meds and even found a pharmacy down the street that fills prescriptions on a sliding scale as the antibiotic was probably $200 regular price. The total came to $34. Oh, and there was no line/wait at the pharmacy. ANOTHER blessing. While we were clinic, my Dad’s phone rang. The phone had not been entirely deactivated yet, and marie answered (mostly because we were curious!). The lady on the line said she wanted to talk to my mom because she had heard my Dad had died and that my mom may need a place to live. Up to this point, we had no idea what we were going to do in this department. We had made quite a few phone calls which all turned up unavailable or coldn’t work. Laura told Marie that they lived in a home and could offer her room and board in exchange for help around the house. We could stop by anytime to check it out….ARE YOU KIDDING? We were headed there next.
As it turned out, Laura and her husband housed 3 adult Developmentally Disabled residents that they care for 24-7. They needed some help with the residents and clearly were a very caring couple with 3 kids of their own. This was their full time job and it seemed to me that these two were extraordinary people. Laura gave us a tour of the house while Marie pulled her husband and gave him a brief story of what was going on. My mom had met Laura in a bible study so they had at least known one another before this. The tour was nice. We met two of the three residents and saw the room my mom could have. We went back down and Laura was explaining how they had to keep track of things for their state licensing and that mom would need 40 hours of training. We were thinking this sounded a little overwhelming for someone who had not even had a moment to greive her husband. Right in the middle of her explaination, Ryan stops Laura and says, Barb, if you need a safe place to stay, with no strings attached, you are welcome to come live in our home. You don’t need to worry about anything else. He said that when Laura had been diagnosed with a brain tumor, they lived with a family for 7 months in Rochester while she when through treatment and they know what it means to share that kind of blessing. Of course Marie an I were crying at that point. We couldn’t believe it. This family was opening up their home to my Mom. They had not even talked to one another about this, but freely invite her into their lives. We were beside ourselves. Another GIGANTIC blessing! Later when I was telling Andy how the day had gone, he said the last one was like God shaking you saying if you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been busy today! We couldn’t agree more. While I may not have said a lot about God working in people’s lives, I was certain of it that day. It was clear that the prayers that were coming in from far and wide made a difference that I still can’t quite comprehend!
That is about all for now…she is moved into her new house and about one more trip shy of being forever out of the old house. I told her I wanted to move forward with the idea that she would not have done these things had it not been for my dad. He orchesttated everything. Maybe nieve, but I am not letting her off the hook, I’m not forgetting, I’m moving forward. She cannot take the past back and for as much as I would love to understand why any of this could happen, I will satisfy that with the best answer I think I’ll ever have: my Dad. I told her I am moving forward starting fresh. She referenced “the first day of the rest of her life” several times and I think she will do that as much as she can. There will be bumps in the road. There already have been. On Tuesday night, she described a story where Nicole and Mike took them to Mall of America to shop and ride the rides to “get away and escape” their challenging lives. It made me sick to my stomach—I had to get up and leave the table. To think they were basically home—the majority of my extended family lives in the twin cities. It was more than I could take. But I know this is going to be part of things moving ahead. Right now I am going to move ahead knowing I have a mother once again.