“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” – Exodus 20:12
The rest of my family’s time in Branson was fairly awful and routine. We only lived there a few short years but it seemed like we went up and down, from just about making ends meet to near financial collapse. It was a deeply troubling time for my childhood. My parents had never argued much growing up but these two short years it seemed like arguments were an almost daily struggle. It was obvious to me that moving to Branson had never been gods plan in the first place.
My mother found work at a small shop on the strip that sold decorative angel figurines. My father bounced from one job to another. When it was apparent that the boys ranch vision was little more than an elaborate con, my father and his former boss started a security business in old town Branson. Jobs were few and money was short. To make ends meet my father attempted phone sales and soon found it was not for him. He was hired to work at a small kiosk, outside the IMAX theatre, that sold decorative glass figurines, (A humorous endeavor since the kiosk was tiny and my father is a tall and large framed man. He probably broke more figurines than he ever sold.) Finally, his break arrived when one of the larger hotels hired his company to provide security. Things seemed to get better for a short period of time when the hotel chain abruptly ended their contract, later we learned that the hotel was in severe financial problems and would close not long after.
After losing the security contract, Dad had reached his final straw. Reluctantly, he went back to Iowa, staying with his parents for a few weeks, while he found a job and a place for us to live. I was overjoyed. Not only were we moving back home but I would get to be with my friends again and we could put the Branson nightmare behind us. I would however miss the church and the friends that I had made there, but as I said in my last post, I thought the majority of them were foolish anyway.
Being back in familiar surroundings was wonderful, the thought of returning to the dull and droll sermons, in the church that hated children, however, was not so wonderful. We attended the church that had been our home a few years earlier just a few short weeks before my parents decided it was not the environment we could endure. The minister had begun to have some mental issues, whether it was dementia or Alzheimer’s we may never know but his moods were anything but predictable. He could go from happily praising God to screaming at a member of the congregation for not being devout enough in second. We left that church and never returned.
The next church we attended would be my family’s home church for close to the next decade. The minister there was a kindly older man who I still think of fondly. He had actually been the minister at the Assembly of God church that my family attended during the 1980’s and so there was a connection there He also happened to be the minister that had dedicated me to the lord as an infant. (A ceremony in which parents offer their children to god, symbolically in the same manner that Abraham offered his son Isaac) So the family felt comfortable at his church and though the services weren’t as lively as we had been used to, there was at least no screaming at congregants. More to my liking, the services were incredibly short by the standards I had become used to, generally an hour or two instead of the 4 or 5 hour services we had attended in the past.
By this time I was nearing the age of 16 and the only things on my mind were girls and getting a car. I was working at a factory at night, getting rides from a friend, in hopes that I might save up to purchase my own vehicle soon. On my 16th birthday, just after getting my driver’s license, my parents surprised me with an old beat up vehicle that they weren’t too worried about and let me go. I had never experienced this amount of freedom before.
I would drive around constantly, listening to the radio and having to constantly switch the station due to the poor reception I received in the vehicle. I believe this might be where I earned my eclectic taste in music that almost no one but me can stand. The Punk rock genre became my passion though and I lived the life as well as one can in rustic southern Iowa. The Clash, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Dead Kennedys, The Dead Milkmen, and Greenday were personal favorites. There music spoke to me in a way that nothing outside of religious euphoria had ever come close to. I began collecting albums almost immediately much to the chagrin of my parents, who found the lyrics to be satanic and the beat far too quick to enjoy.
I began staying out late and sleeping very little, I started drinking and experimenting with pills and drugs, you could say that I had fallen into the wrong crowd. I, however, found the experience to be absolutely marvelous. I still believed in god but over time I had begun to tire of the dogmatic approach to the gospels. I was bored with all of the rules and tired of having to worry every single day about some sin I might have committed without ever knowing it. I quite praying and by the time I was 17 I quit going to church. Understand that during this time, I was still a fundamentalist at heart but a fundamentalist who knew and didn’t care that he was going to hell.
Around this time I got into a serious relationship with a girl from another town. This relationship would last nearly a year and would end up being one of the most abusive experiences of my life. If you’ve never been in an abusive relationship then it is hard to grasp how easy the abuser can make the victim feel as if it is their fault they are being abused. At this same time I began to question why god would allow me to be treated so poorly? Was it because I was so sinful? Was it because I had quit on god and not became a minister? Was it because god really didn’t exist? I decided I would go with option 3, really knowing nothing about atheism and yet still calling myself an atheist. It was more of a rebellion from my parents since I still thought that in reality a god had to exist.
Thankfully, that relationship didn’t last too long and I was able to break it off without getting myself killed. Although she did try to run me over with her car the day I broke up with her, after I had stopped to get back some of my things. I was happy to be away from that situation and in all honesty I had better things to do with my time. I had met an absolutely gorgeous girl on-line and while we were fairly good friends at the time I was hoping that maybe I could make it something more. She was fun to talk to and knew all sorts of things about topics that I had no understanding. She introduced me to music I had never heard before and ideas that I had never thought before. In my mind I said to myself, I’m going to marry this woman some day, and you know what, I was right…even if things didn’t go exactly as I had planned…
For part 7 click here.