One of the harder conversations that my sister and I needed to have happened last night. I've been dreading it, really. How do I start this?
When I left home, I knew, in my heart, that I was breaking away from my family---not just my father. I knew that, by leaving the way I did, there wasn't much chance of my going back. At the time, the urge to self-preserve trumped my fears and worries for those I was leaving behind. That's a guilt I've lived with for the last several years and it's partly why I insisted on anonymity. Being anonymous and letting my father remain anonymous in turn felt like a small way to protect the people I left behind. As it turns out, I was partially right.
Rachel and I started talking about her memories of my leaving in the middle of the night. I'd always wondered how any of my sisters slept through my furious gathering of clothes in the middle of that night. How did they not wake-up? Why did I not get caught going out the back door? As it turns out, I did wake someone up. Rachel was awake when I left. Rachel.
Last night, she poured her heart out about how it felt to be left behind by the only person in your family that you felt loved by. That broke my heart. She was just a little girl when I left and I betrayed her trust. She reminded me of one afternoon, when she'd received a particularly unjust punishment for some small thing, and I had consoled her by saying that I'd never leave her alone with dad. Then, I left her. She said that the morning after, when I had to ride in the police car to the station from our neighnors, my father had them go to the window to watch me ride past. As I've always suspected, he was telling them horrible things about me. Rachel says that my dad told them I "was in so much trouble that even the secular authorities" had to step in to "control (my) wild behavior" and that the authorities felt it wasn't "safe" for me to come home at that point. I had run away! He was painting it to look like I'd been taken away for breaking some sort of law. In any case, my dad told all of the kids that "even if I came home", they weren't to speak to me. Rachel says that when I didn't come home- dad told them; I was a whore, I was running away to be with another boy, I was garbage, and that I would be dead within a year. Those were his predictions.
What I had always feared was that my leaving made it even harder for my sisters and I was right to fear it. After I left, my dad went even more fundamental and insulary. He cut off the house phone and bought a cell phone that only he carried. He started sending the kids to every Gothard suggested camp or intervention because my sin of leaving had marked them, too. Just crazy stuff! Rachel says that this really didn't let up until within the last two years. She says she kept preaching the party line and saying she rejected my choices just to avoid angering him. Then she left, too. She said she went back because she remembered how hellish life had been for those left behind when I left. I asked her if she was afraid of what was going on since she'd left again and we both cried. The truth is: even though my father has shunned Rachel, that is no guarantee that he's "washed his hands" of her. He could be using us as examples to control those left behind- my mother, in particular. Rachel has filled me in on how "into it" the remaining sibs are and maybe they'll be okay because they seem to really be "into" living the QF life. I'm still scared. And, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I was selfish when I left Rachel. God, this sucks.