Type: Serious and reflective Length: 12 minutes Quality within category: 8
This is part explanation and part letter to those who would accuse me of disrespect. If you are not a Christian, you may not find this post to your liking (just a warning). And, for those of you who like my rants, this definitely does not qualify.
I had 4…and was fortunate enough to make it way past college with all of them alive. I loved them all equally, but as I grew older I started to feel that the reciprocal was not true. I never could put my finger on it. And, to this day, with 3 out of 4 passed on, I still can’t. Looking at the facts doesn’t do it. I am not sure if any witnessed my high school graduation speech, and I know that none of them were present to see me accept my college diplomas or to witness me accept the highest achievement in one of my degrees at a dinner in our honor. If I wanted to see them, I had to come to them. None of them ever witnessed the ribbon cutting to any of the successful businesses I started nor were they ever around to witness any milestone event in my life beyond high school, be it career or personal. When cancer came to take me, the only extended family that came were cousins. So, from a factual stand point, all things are equal. But, I cannot shake the fact that with 2 of them, I felt deeply loved while with the other 2, I felt no better than a shiny broach worn to church by a woman misguided by the thought that outward appearances mattered more than inner peace.
My maternal grandparents had little education and even less wealth. They worked hard and lived cleanly. He was respected by everyone he knew (with the exception of his son in law). Not only did I never hear a bad word spoken, there was never a time that his name came up that I didn’t hear multiple compliments paid (and no, not the lip service type that everyone receives upon departing this world). When cancer came at him a 3rd time, I was in a position to drive him to and from Austin and Marble Falls on many occasions and am eternally grateful for that time. He was a happy go lucky man who just happened to be married to the most bitter woman I’ve ever known. You never had to wonder where you stood with her as she never missed an opportunity to re-clarify exactly where that was. Even now, with one foot planted firmly in the grave, her own children have a difficult time seeing that she doesn’t leave this planet while residing in a home. She was/is, and quite possibly will always be the meanest woman I’ve ever known. And yet, I’ve always known she loved me and that she, without hesitation, would turn that anger on anyone that meant me harm.
Recently, my paternal grandparents passed away within a couple months of each other. This is the reason I write today. Much has been said about my choice to not attend those funerals. Many in my family choose to believe it is because I didn’t want to be around the father that sued me. I made phone calls to certain members of the family to clarify, and yet word still reaches me about my “lack of respect”. I put pen to paper, as it were, to settle this issue in my mind once and for all. I do not believe the subject is worthy of the effort I put into it today. But, doing this will allow me to walk away from this part of my life knowing that I handled it the right way and on my terms. It has always perplexed me in our country, that when you confront those that would run you down behind your back, you are made out to be of worse character than they are (as if the confrontation itself is the more relevant sin). To me, this idiosyncrasy points more to the unending layers of the human psyche and its insecurity’s ability to propagate and protect itself than it does to any character flaw on the part of the one who would defend his/her honor. I would like it known that I would much rather have this discussion with those who look upon me with a modicum of disdain, but, were that possible, there would be no need for me to write this. The problem for me has always been and will always be that those who disagree with me in disrespect, do so behind my back. They know that I relish the opportunity to intellectually joust (if you will), and, in their fear, they degrade my character as bull headed and argumentative (chief among them, my own father). Those who truly know me understand that I am proud of my ability to change my position on a subject the moment I am presented with the flaw in my logic and display so little hubris upon doing so that it is difficult to accept my change in position as being anything more than a condescending retreat. Over the years, I have had to learn how to protract my swift acceptance of their logic in an effort to ensure their acceptance of my change in position. For me, pride in ones beliefs only serves to hinder the acquisition of a more correct position when presented therewith. Furthermore, pride in your beliefs, when examined, serves only to display the arrogance that what you believe is 100% correct and there can be no other. It simply serves as a “we’re closed” sign for your mind. Many people mistake my lack of pride in my logic as humility when, in reality, it is only efficiency. I digress.
Please understand that before you read the following, I am not writing out of anger nor attempting to commit libel. I am simply displaying the facts as I see them. It is a pet peeve of mine to attend a funeral and have a preacher talk about someone they never knew as if they were an angel. In this case, I am quite sure the presiding preacher knew them both well, but I highly doubt he mentioned any of the laundry list of things they would be answering for upon their arrival at the pearly gates. This is the main reason I will quite likely not be at my own father’s funeral. I do not wish to be a part of any ceremony that brings God into it without being completely honest. It is one of the most hypocritical things I believe we, as believers, could ever do. Forgiveness does not mean there will be no accountability. We are free from sin but not free TO sin. Therefore, to ignore the abominations we have committed during our lifetime in order to project a “better” self on the day of our burial is something I choose to not be a party to. I have a difficult enough time attempting to avoid sins that are not thought out, let alone planning and committing one as a group project.
My paternal grandparents (RV and Patsy) were always there. If you came, they were home. They were always good for a $20 on your birthday and Christmas. From what I understand, they never failed to lift a hand to help the church when the church needed it (or they thought the church needed it). They were deeply committed to their church, pastor, and congregation. I regret that they did not display nor contain this level of commitment to/for their own family. I never saw them argue, fight, or even exhibit annoyance with one another in public. I later learned that this was more a result of a shared desire to keep dirty laundry hidden from the public than it was an example of their love and devotion. They came from a time when children were expected to work to make life easier on the family unit. Yes, each child had a mouth to feed, but they also had 2 hands and were expected to give their all to the benefit of the family even if this meant repeating a grade in school. In their minds children owed them, not the other way around. That may very well be why they never visited. I have no memories of them ever coming to see us. In fact, I’m sure they knew where we lived, but could never prove it if pressed. In 5 years, they never found their way to my college (2.5 hours from home with a population of 12,000 students) and yet they were capable of finding a small town in Colorado (2 states over with a population of less than 2,000 people). I know they were proud of the fact that I was the first to gain a degree while wearing their name, if only because I heard it from the likes of their friends and pastor (even though it was never mentioned to me directly). To their death, I never heard any words of congratulation or expressed pride come out of their mouths on the subject. And, arrogance aside, to go from a family with a combined college experience of one year to a family with 2 BBA’s (and a valedictorian of one) overnight is no small feat. But, apparently, it didn’t warrant a word in private. It’s only worth was to improve the station and reputation of the family name to those in direct contact with the family, so as to become a source of pride within their own community. For that, they could have at least thanked me…, but alas. I didn’t expect thanks or congratulations. By then, I had long since discovered that their “love” for you was directly proportionate to how much your actions affected the “family name”. Upon discovering that one of their grandchildren had fallen prey to a pedophile, their response was that of disdain for the child who had allowed this to tarnish their family name. At no time did they express concern for the grandchild or their child, for that matter. They were only worried about how this would make the family look. I grew up with an acute sense of the concepts surrounding the “family name”. So much so, that I put off having a family primarily because I wanted to make sure that there was no way I would inadvertently hand down these and other unhealthy practices. To that end, I would rather have a pure family name than the perception of one. It is very important to me the kind of men my 2 nephews grow up to be as they are the last males to wear our name and I can only do my best to see that they leave the name better off than they found it (a task that shouldn’t be all that difficult for them).
Roy once told me (while drunk) that he would give everything he owned (approximately $50M at the time) if his father would walk up to him and give him a hug. He said it killed him to see his father hug us because he knew it would never happen to him. If you aren’t aware, Roy is my father. Out of habit, I occasionally refer to him as my father, or dad. It is a choice I made at 32 to refer to him by his first name. This is not out of disrespect as he would have you believe, but rather, out of accuracy. Many step fathers out-perform the real fathers on a daily basis and never hear the word “dad” uttered. Roy stopped acting like a father years prior to my 32nd and my adjustment of his moniker simply reflects his choices. To the point at hand, Roy spent the majority of his adult years attempting to make his parents love him. And, unless something happened in the last few years that I am not aware of, he never achieved his goal. RV (Roy’s father) went against both his sons. He attempted to keep Roy from learning welding as a trade while screwing his other son out of business they both held together. To my knowledge, RV never made any attempt to repair the rift he created between himself and his eldest son, and, if he felt he was wrong, I know of no one that can attest to it. RV in all instances except the church only looked out for himself and his wife. Even as RV went broke and Roy provided funds to build them a place to live, RV diverted much of those funds toward the church and elsewhere. Then, RV had the audacity to ask for more (quite likely because he believed he was owed). I know for a fact that the home they lived in until their death cost twice what it should due to RV’s lack of financial responsibility. Sadly, Roy felt the need to make it a condition of his lending that RV agree to sign over ownership of the home to my brother and I so that RV couldn’t get in over his head again. It saddens me because their loveless actions towards their son helped to rob me and my brother of a loving father. I could be wrong. It could all be genetic. But I doubt it. I do believe, however, that Roy did “inherit” (via environment or genetics) the worst from both of his parents. He contains the same cold detached demeanor of RV while exhibiting all the signs of Munchausen’s syndrome that plagued Patsy’s life. Roy always said she was a hypochondriac (which I believe added to his disdain for doctors and hospitals) but I believe it was far worse than that. Some blame her actions on RV, but I don’t. RV catered to her every need at the expense of anyone and anything else. She used this as an emotional weapon and to great effect. This did/does not bother me. It only affected me in so much as to the degree that it affected Roy and his ability to be a decent father.
Things like this are reasons people should have been thankful I did not attend the funerals. There is no way I could have sat through those 2 circuses without shedding a spotlight on the truth. In fact, it was all I could do to NOT attend. I knew 3 of their pastors over the years. On more than one occasion, I was told that they were worried about my soul. Hmmm. So worried they could express it to a preacher, but not to me directly. In fact, the last time I was approached was July 2010 or 2011 during the weekend of the 4th when I was in town to shoot the fireworks show for the AquaBoom. I had never met this man prior to that day. He introduced himself and told me that he recognized me right off. He explained that he knew about the “trouble” I had been having with my own father and that RV and Patsy were worried about me and prayed for me often. I doubt (but hope) that there will be a day that I think about that moment and don’t immediately get angry. Anyone but a preacher would have gotten dropped on the spot. I couldn’t have believed anyone could have said that with a straight face. 2004 was the last time I spoke with Roy via any method other than attorneys. RV and Patsy were aware of this. For 8 years, neither of them wrote, called, telegrammed, or sent a carrier pigeon to offer help, prayers, or even to speak to their son about his attempts to destroy me. But, during all of this time, they were gaining “points” with the church by making that pastor think they gave a damn. Not only did/do I feel betrayed, but I felt betrayed for God. I knew that the pastor would feel the same way so I stifled my anger, thanked the pastor, and never let him know the truth. Insanity is the only word I can come up with to describe these actions. Having the cognitive ability to know what God expects from you and to know that the church would be thankful for your actions while decidedly NOT doing those things and allowing the church to believe you have done them is a deception perpetrated against God and the church that I cannot fathom. To lead that pastor to believe you care while doing NOTHING to prove you do (outside of telling the pastor you do) is akin to a small child claiming they didn’t steal the candy whilst sporting sticky cheeks. It hurt enough that NONE of my family stood up to Roy and confronted him about the things he was doing to me, but then to discover that they were using the situation to gain favor with the church BLEW MY FUCKING MIND. Now, I know God forgives all sins, I really do. But, I can’t see how this wouldn’t be close to the top of his list of things to discuss at the pearly gates. If they couldn’t speak my name where I could hear it, they should have never had my name in their mouths to begin with. And, when I get to heaven, I hope they actually made it so we can discuss this one on one.
The few family members I spoke with around the time of the funerals told me that they had forgiven them their sins. I have done so as well. To forgive is not difficult if you truly are a Christian. To forget is quite another thing entirely. So, when anyone asks why I wasn’t there, you can assuredly tell them that I am not yet the Christian I’d like to be. I cannot pretend those things did not happen. I cannot pretend they asked forgiveness for their sins (as I don’t believe they thought they sinned). And I cannot stand idly by while others pretend in the name of the God that I pray to. Furthermore, I could not and never will be able to lie about something so important. To go to those funerals and allow all of their church going friends and pastors to praise them without learning the truth,….I just could not bear it. Besides, any idiot that tells you I wouldn’t go anywhere because Roy would be there is just that, an idiot. Roy has far more reason to be uncomfortable around me than I do him. After all the lies, the accusations of drug use, the filing of a false lien, the perjury in open court, and the selling of my company at a 6 figure discount to a “family friend”, Roy knows he is lucky to be alive. And anyone that truly knows me, knows that when I don’t show in the same place, it’s because of my concern for his safety rather than for my fear of an uncomfortable situation. Besides, the fact that I walked into his “back yard” (amongst all of the police he owns) to attend Jim Schumann’s funeral should be proof enough that Roy is not the reason I did not attend either funeral.
Based on actions I have seen and on words of theirs repeated by Roy, I firmly believe they took to heart the scripture in James 2:17 that explains the concept that “faith without works is dead”. But, even Roy knows that you can’t “buy your way into heaven”…with money OR good deeds and hard work. It is my contention that RV and Patsy knew Matthew 6:19-21. They understood that where there treasure was, so was their heart. This, I believe is what caused their disdain for Roy’s financial success. However, I believe that “treasure” is figurative. Their treasure was all of the things they did for the church. That’s where their heart was. They were concerned about getting into heaven. They did what they thought it took to purchase their ticket. They proved their faith by their works. In my opinion, they still missed the point. Turning your back on your family to help the church does not constitute an act of faith. Sitting idly by while your son acts to bring about the demise of your grandson definitely does not constitute an act of faith. Turning your back on your child when your grandchild has suffered a grievous crime because you are afraid of what people might think is NO WHERE NEAR an act of faith. Never making amends for those actions is simply adding sin to sin and serves only to prove that you never believed you had sinned in the first place. I will never be convinced that they did not understand the error of their ways. I will never be convinced that they made any attempt to right those wrongs nor perform any act of contrition. I will never be convinced that their efforts to help the church and their attendance at church were nothing more than a Trojan horse effort to gain entry to heaven. I can only hope that it was a child’s mentality and not pure deceptiveness that led them to lie by omission to the 3 pastors that I have had words with over the years. I can only hope that their countless hours of service to their church acted in some small way as an admittance of all the wrong they committed and all the wrong that they refused to address that was committed in their presence. I can only hope that there was some other reason, something honorable, something beyond my ability to reason, that led them to deceive those within the very church they used for asylum about their own family and the goings-on therein.
I have always said that I will try to do what I believe to be right. Whether you are “my friend” or not has no bearing on the decision, because if you are my friend, you will expect me to do what I believe is right while you attempt to do the same. I have only been asked to choose (between what is right and loyalty to a friend) once in my life….and I still can’t remember his name. Those who know me know that you can have no more fierce an ally in your attempts to get it right. It is this thinking that ultimately led me to stay away from the funerals. I cannot respect nor show support for those whom I believe would not or could not openly accept their mistakes and attempt to right them even if they are family. I have known sin and I have known salvation and I tell you now, the second DOES NOT truly come upon you until you have denounced and done everything in your power to right the first. It is not my intent nor my right to judge, but I WILL NOT allow my complacent attendance at their funerals to be seen as approval of the actions in their lives. Please keep this in mind as you silently rebuke me for my actions. One thing that may have slipped your mind prior to expressing your dislike for my lack of appearance is the fact that I rarely do anything without a damned good reason. To discover it, all you had to do was ask.
The following is a quote that comes to mind anytime my father enters the subject.
“Cold enough world without gettin’ gone against by your own.” – Sheriff Seth Bullock