I’m thinking about isolation. Not what you do on a Sunday morning? Just me?
Several recent conversations with my sisters and my mother have reminded me how isolated we all were from each other in years past. The stage was set within our family for absolute obedience and we were a perfect storm of noncommunication.
Firstly, the cult of Pentecostalism required isolation from the world in general, effectively taking away any context for normality. Intrinsic to that religious culture is the submission of women to men. Women cannot hold positions of power or have a public voice. Their submission must be evident in behavior and appearance.
But you know that.
Add in an ambitious, power-hungry, sexually frustrated narcissist on a mission from God with a public persona to protect and we have a family of women who were not allowed to talk to each other. Not because we didn’t want to, but because we were forbidden and didn’t know how.
When crises came around, we were already in a state of silence. By the time my teenage fallopian tube exploded (see Close Call for the story) and I was near death, we were all perfectly trained. All Dad had to say was do not speak and we didn’t. Our silence went far beyond lying to church people who would judge him for having a wayward daughter. He didn’t have to tell me not to speak. I hadn’t spoken out loud in my family for years and was not about to start.
Mom knew I was sick but was not allowed to visit me in the hospital, nor to comfort me afterward. Dad told my sister that Mom didn’t know what happened to me and not to tell her, so she didn’t. My sister was the only person who spoke to me during my six weeks of recovery following surgery. I sat home alone with no one to blame but myself. My other sister was told nothing at all.
Silence filled our home, the air too thick to breathe. Not one word was spoken between mother and daughters nor sister to sister about the fact that one of us had a tragic, terrifying, near-death experience.
Thirty-ish years later, with the threat of Dad’s wrath long gone, we talk. Now we know what we were forced to deny. Now we say the words. Now we are free to love each other. And breathe.