The following is a letter of disassociation mailed to the local congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses as well as the Watchtower's Governing Body in Brooklyn. Not merely a letter of disassociation, it is the life story of a family decimated by control, both of natural parents as well as the spiritual parents that governed them. Like begets like, as they say.
June 4 1998
Kingdom Hall of
Amityville Central Congregation
To the Elders
of Amityville Congregation
To the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society
My past association with the Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses has prompted me to write a letter of expediency. I am hoping it will be read with an open mind and a prayerful attitude.
Part I: My Personal Experience
I had been living on the top floor of a four story building in New York City when I first answered the knock on the door. The man was short, elderly, gray haired. He spoke with an accent, I gave him a dime for the magazines without hearing much of what he said.
When I closed the door, suddenly my father was very close. Twenty two years had passed. Puppa had committed suicide by shooting himself in the mouth with a double barreled shot gun. Just five minutes before I had seen him with the gun. He put his arms around me, bristled his moustache against my cheek and told me to go.
I was seven years old. I loved my father. He was good to me. He kept his promise. He would let me sit in the attic with him and uncurl the drawing pencils which he used to draw cartoons of fat-bellied men. His penmanship was a meticulous Spencerian script. From the attic window we could see the fireworks at the Country Club in the distance. He took me to the circus in the pouring rain. My time with Puppa was so short. I wished so many times I could see him again.
Mumma always yelled at him. He was drunk a lot. I don't know why Mumma yelled so much. Years later I learned why... She was the root of the problem.
As I grew, I remembered the yelling and I told myself if ever I got married I would never yell at my husband. I would do anything to keep my home one of peace, no matter what.
So the gray haired man climbed the stairs and brought more magazines. He was a very gentle man, unskilled in speaking. Between baby bottles and diapers I began to listen, then to ask questions. That was over forty years ago.
My husband was a musician, a real Latin lover, a real ladies' man, a sport. He had an ulcer. He drank. What I didn't recognize at the time, he was an alcoholic. He had a career. That meant phonographs, publicity, sheet music, band uniforms, traveling. There was very little money or time left for the family. I did odd part time jobs to help. There were times I kept the children quiet, when the landlord toured the halls, collecting the rent.
The only one who had seen a Christmas was John, the oldest boy. Thrift shops were a blessing. If I could squeeze the money I had saved for clothes, I managed to buy a few toys and books for the boys. They always had white shirts and clip-on ties for the Kingdom Hall. I bought dresses for myself when they were reduced to three for a dollar. I made everything I could from remnants of fabrics. I sewed matching shirts for the boys for six cents a piece. I even made shirts for John so he would be stylish at the hotel summer job. Little did I know the money I was saving for him was spent on buying another round of drinks at the bar.
John would come with books he found at second hand stores, books on religion, books on medicine. They were for me to research. He liked books on the shelf. The only books I remember that he said he read were Will James and his favorite, Sherlock Holmes. It was the only book he ever told the children he had read.
In a second hand book shop I found an old Watchtower-published NEW WORLD book. I used the illustrations between the front and back covers to teach the children Bible stories. Even the youngest knew the story behind each square.
There weren't many children at East Manhattan congregation. but the few joined us in cleaning the Hall and the Yankee stadium. My husband didn't go to the Hall or assemblies. After I was baptized in 1959, he took a batch of books to the hotel where he was engaged. Two weeks later, we all drove to Philadelphia, to another assembly, where he was baptized.
My becoming a Jehovah's Witness was just what he needed. It was ice cream on the apple pie. I was already submissive. I had kept my promise to myself to "keep the peace no matter what." To be a theocratic submissive wife meant the children could not do what children do and wives couldn't do what wives would like to do... not under theocratic headship.
John continued to pursue his career in the field of entertainment. He gave "talks" to the guests at the hotel. He was a professional showman with personality. His gift of "gab" captured many an ear in a philosophical discussion.
He never had a personal Bible study with a brother, nor had he attended the Kingdom Ministry School. After research in the Watchtower volumes, I contacted the elders in East Manhattan Congregation and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society for understanding personal problems that existed.
Through the years my sister had been very helpful to me. She was suspicious of John. He never was there when he was needed. He never helped my mother. My sister's husband became carpenter, errand boy and chauffeur. George would pick us up in New York and take us out to Long Island for rides in the country, picnics and barbecues. We didn't celebrate Christmas so we didn't have to buy presents. But she did... for the children.
She thought John was misusing me, abusing and neglecting the children. Our family recreation in twenty years amounted to two trips to Jones Beach, two movies, (prince Valiant and Ten Commandments), and one real live stage show, Fiddler on the Roof. He had all the entertainment, food and fun at the hotels where he worked. We didn't need anything. My mother tried to be a good grandmother. She climbed the stairs with homemade cinnamon buns and Hungarian pastries. She cried when birthdays and Christmas came. She couldn't understand why John couldn't get a regular job??? My sister's tolerance ended.
She severed her relations with both my mother and me.
On January 2, 1965 John and I were rebaptized. Problems were straightened out??
My son John had been valedictorian at his High School graduation. He had gotten five awards, among them the Mayor's Scholastic Award, scholarship to Pratt Institute for Architecture and the Architects Award.
After graduation, in 1965, we moved to Brooklyn. John went to Pratt for three months, quit and married the girl across the street. I don't know when he joined the Air force but when they asked him where he learned to speak, he said "In the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses." ( He had never been baptized.)
John's mother died in 1965. She left John about a thousand dollars. I was never materialistic. Second hand furniture was a way of life I had always wanted a wide gold band bracelet. Other musicians wives or girlfriends had one. John could get a hundred dollar one for thirty dollars from a musician.
He surprised me. He came home with a beautiful sleek, black Bonneville with white leather interior. It was just what he needed for show when he went to play with his band at the fancy hotel resorts in the summer. He bought the car on a Saturday intending to get insurance on Monday. He parked the car around the corner. On Monday the car was gone. The police located it on a major Brooklyn street after it had been involved in a horrendous accident. The innocent driver, a young female was seriously hurt, hospitalized. The young man driving was arrested for DWI. He spent a few weeks in jail but John never followed further action. He got off free and we were left with the mangled twisted Bonneville we had never used. There was no insurance.
In August 1965 my mother died. She suffered a stroke. When I didn't get an answer to my telephone calls, I went to her house. I contacted the police. They let me in. She was lying on the floor just behind the kitchen door. She was alive. For twenty one days she lingered. When I notified my sister via Western Union to tell her Mom was in the hospital, critically ill, she did not acknowledge it.
We never reconciled. My mother left her house to me free and clear. We took a mortgage to give my sister $5000. The lawyer said it was the right thing to do. She had helped my mother for so many years. I gave her nothing but anxiety. Of course, we bought another car, a Tempest station wagon.
In 1966 we moved to Long Island City. I signed over half the house to John. He became a banker juggling credit cards. He was still pursuing a career. Money went out faster than it came in. The youngest of the boys was nine. I went to work full time in the post office from 6:00 PM until 3:00 AM. I worked many nights for eleven hours, loading skids with bags of mail. I went to scheme training classes and practiced scheme training at home.
John made chore schedules for the boys, Peter,14; Dorian, 11; Jeri, 9; so I wouldn't have to do all the housework, just cook. They had to be quiet so I could sleep. But they were used to that. (For years they had to be quiet when their father came home from work, if he worked). He didn't do anything but supervise, go to the musicians union and pick up jobs. He bought a grand piano second hand and spent time practicing.
We started attending the Astoria Congregation. The majority were Greek. Bethelites came regularly. The night John played an affair for the governor of Puerto Rico, he made it home just in time to collapse on the floor. He had a duodenal ulcer for years. He hemorrhaged all over his beautiful mohair tuxedo.
The fire department vehicle took him to Elmhurst Hospital. There, a doctor from Pakistan operated on him without transfusion. His count was so low he almost didn't make it. Dr. Naqvi told me twenty-five doctors had refused to operate. He said "your husband had such faith in his God I had faith his God would take care of him." He did. Before he came home from the hospital, I painted (as I had done one many times before), the bedroom and more.
That was the end of the music career. He didn't go back to work. He didn't have to. My mother had also left a small insurance policy and bank account. I always turned over my paycheck to the theocratic head and was given carfare and sometimes lunch money.
As a family we began to attend the congregation more often. But there was hardly any association with brothers. Dorian helped the Greek brother who was the main cook at the Sunnyside theatre during our assemblies. He scrubbed the stainless steel and pots scrupulously. Jeri did the same. They really worked "whole souled" although they hardly spent time in the door to door service. The brother invited them for a boat outing with his family, children. John was very theocratic. He wouldn't let them go. The brother would have beer on the boat.
There were some fairly wealthy brothers in the congregation with children. Some of them were schoolmates. John wouldn't let Dorian or Jeri accept their invitations. Those children were rebellious,' bed association.' While he took away associating with Witnesses, he also forbid them to associate with "worldly" friends. He offered no substitutions. The only time he spent with them was to teach them how to use hammers, saws, and the safety of electrical wiring. But no fun.
Peter had already had his "white elephant." He had ordered a trunk of surplus, outmoded electronic communication equipment from the government. He registered in a correspondence home study course. Not much was accomplished. Dorian's white elephant was a synthesizer that never worked. He was in such a rush, he tried to complete it in a week. He must have connected two wires that let out a Screech that could be heard at the end of the block. There was no enjoyment of father and son activities. Only theocratic headship. John's ego could not tolerate a mind more intelligent or creative than his own, even though they were his own sons.
When I asked the elders for help, a brother came to the house to sit in our family study. He told John he was doing two thirds of the talking, we were doing one third... he wasn't teaching. A little more attention was turned toward him. He had plenty of time. He had never gone in service with the boys, or me. They encouraged him to do so. I remember going out with him once.
He hadn't gone back to work. I wrote letters to the Department of Labor so he could get disability payments, Through Vocational Rehabilitation he took a course for computer technician. He passed with flying colors; then couldn't accept a job. He went on a referral. He had to lift computers and carry them. He was a bleeder. He couldn't afford another operation. Time went by. Disability payments ended. So did the money my mother left me. I transferred in Federal service from the post office to the Social Security Administration so I could work day hours. I continued to increase my job skill until I received a financial award for superior performance.
Then I was awarded a Stride Internship. I would be paid for eight hours a day, work four hours, and go to college for four hours, prepaid with all expenses, through a Bachelor's degree to an administrative position. I declined, gracefully, I wrote a thank you letter saying it would interfere with a greater commitment of spending time in service with Jehovah's Witnesses, teaching the Bible. At the time I don't think I met the quota of ten hours a month in door to door service. So, instead, I accepted a higher paying job with training and advancement possibilities.
But I was so tired. The emotional problems I was having with John was taking its toll. The more I struggled, the smaller I felt. John's ego was a dominating presence in the household affecting us all. He stayed up late watching TV. He got up late, just in time to supervise the boys when they came home from school. He complained he was weak and that he was suffering from sleeping sickness. It was self-induced. I found the white capsules with blue stripes. He also had Valium in the the secretary in the living room. I don't know where he got them. He had given up most of the alcohol because of his stomach.
He was on his way to another hospitalization. He ignored both his ulcer and diabetes diet. He loved deep fat fried pork rinds and more. Whenever I complained to the elders, you can be sure John would be sick again. And he was. He had been guzzling ice cream shakes and his next trip was to Astoria General Hospital. Diagnosis: keto acidosis. He pulled through that, too.
When each child had begun school, I had written a letter explaining Jehovah's Witnesses stand on holidays, flag salute, blood, etc. and asked to have it placed in the child's school record. Before Peter finished high school, I went to a parent teacher's conference. When I mentioned we were Jehovah's Witnesses, the teacher said he knew. The letter was attached to Peter's record. Every teacher, every year had read it.
Peter graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School with honors. He was working and pioneering. He applied for Bethel. He was rejected. He would never have passed the physical. He had a bad heart, aortic stenosis. Doctors at New York Hospital, where he was born, told me not to expect a life span more than nine years, but he made it. He had survived encephaletic type of polio in his first year of life... just before the polio vaccine. I had to massage, massage, massage. He made it.
Brothers in the Astoria Congregation were very generous with Peter. Alcohol flowed freely. He was only 19 when he got married. He arranged the wedding himself, with help of understanding sisters and brothers. My husband wouldn't do anything. Margaret was from Haiti, passed as white. Her family was large. They came to the wedding from Canada, Florida and more. Blacks who had married white redheads. Their children were beautiful. Her uncles and aunts, all were highly educated, refined, financially secure. Some were witnesses, some not. But all were generous.
John didn't want to go to the wedding and forbid me to go. I almost didn't make it. I bought a dress in a thrift shop so I could have something to wear. John already had a tuxedo, the one he used as a musician. We gave them $100.00 for a wedding present and a used hi-riser so they would have something to sleep on in their apartment. Peter had to arrange to move it the day before the wedding even though John had a station wagon. They didn't go on a honeymoon.
Dorian was nearly seventeen. He was a brilliant student but his grades were slipping. We were asked to come to a special parent's conference in Brooklyn Technical High School. The teacher didn't have a chance. My husband took the floor. "We're Jehovah's Witnesses. Dorian has a problem. It's masturbation." He spent time witnessing to the teacher who must have heaved a sigh of relief on having found out what Dorian's problem was-his father!!!
As a theocratic head he did not think twice about punishment. "The one holding back his rod is hating his son but the one loving him is he that does look for him with discipline." Proverbs 13:24
John had made a written calendar of rules which stated among things, what Dorian could do, should not do, how much milk he could drink, what he could eat. He worked part time in a pharmacy. The boys had to turn in one third of any money they earned. Dorian was intelligent, conscientious, hardworking. But he was rebellious. He drank more milk than he should have and the punishment, (at age 17), was to stand in front of his brothers and me, pull his pants down to his bare behind. My husband had a wooden slat from a wall we had opened. He beat him. Dorian didn't cry, but I did, inside. I couldn't take anymore: a father emphatically trying to destroy his son's spirit. So I said, "Get out! Get out!"
He did. I thought he was safer sleeping outside in empty cars than under his father's roof. My husband didn't correct me and call him back. Instead he told the elders that Dorian was incorrigible. He was reproved in the congregation, the youngsters were told not to associate with him. I don't know if they did, but when Peter's wedding came, they asked if Dorian could go to the reception. The elders said "yes" and they could talk to him. He wasn't told to come back home. He stayed with friends and at times slept in abandoned cars.
When school started and weather was chilling, I would go to work in the morning and see Dorian across the subway on the other side as if he was going to school. He wasn't. He joined the Air force. He changed his name, falsified records and fooled the government. About three years later when he wanted to get out of the Air force, he revealed his identity and I was contacted by the Air force. A long letter from me and Dorian was discharged without loss of benefits.
Both Peter and Margaret worked and pioneered. Peter was appointed an elder in Astoria Congregation. When Margaret had her first child, he brought her to me instead of her mother, to teach her how to sterilize bottles. I sewed baby clothes. She had a vacation. I was not only a grandmother, I was Mommy. By that time we had sold the house in Long Island City (at great profit). We sold the piano. We bought tin North Babylon. We paid cash and still had plenty of money left. Supposedly, I would continue to work; I would take the LIRR at Babylon and two subways to work. After an extended leave of absence, I resigned my work with the Federal Government stating that my husband was ill. He was, again. This time, Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip. Diabetes.
We went to Babylon Congregation. Again problems surfaced. I needed help. I had my own problems, and had had very little medical attention. I underwent a total hysterectomy in January, 1974, without blood transfusion, at Good Samaritan Hospital. When I came home from the hospital, I slept with a girdle on, on the sleeper couch in the living room. Two months later, the elders came to the house to talk to John. I was not present during the meeting. Before they left, they smiled at me and said, "Kiss and make up." They were hardly out of the house and John said, "Come to bed. "
John actually got to be appointed accounts servant. An elder encouraged him to go on return visits with him. A householder had a grand piano with a leg missing she no longer wanted. John was rewarded for time in service that day. We put a chair as a substitute for the missing leg. Later we would completely restore it. It was worth it.
Jeri had quit high school. The Society was not encouraging higher education. He worked with an elder's son at the Massapequa Mall from five in the morning to ten o'clock, cleaning and waxing floors. He spent time in service with him. There was a little more association, with young sisters and brothers; rollerskating, bowling, and ice cream. Jeri made friends with the daughter of an elder. He discussed a Biblical point with her which she relayed to her father, Brother D, who was climbing the ladder of success, congregation oversight.
He wasn't enthused about a part time cleaner becoming involved with his daughter. He refrained from association with Jeri's father. A possible relationship was squashed. Jeri's questions were passed on to another younger brother who could not give satisfying answers.
The situation really didn't improve. When things got hot again, in 1976, John decided to move. I had already withdrawn my retirement fund in Federal service. We sold the house in North Babylon and bought one in Copiague. This time we took a mortgage and banked the rest of the money.
John was given the Publishers Record Cards for Himself, Jeri, and me. He kept Jeri's card. We had just settled in, when John was hospitalized again, this time at Brunswick Hospital in Amityville. We had not yet been to the Congregation. Elder P. knocked at the door. He did not ask what the problem was, why we hadn't gone to the Hall. (The elders at Babylon Congregation must have told them we had moved.) Elder P. opened his Bible and proceeded to read Hebrews 10:24,25, "Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together." John had to control himself.
The same afternoon, Elder A came by. He was the kindest, most gentle, soft-spoken brother we had met in a long time. If he hadn't come I don't know if John would have gone back to the Hall. But we did go.
One of the few nice moments I had was when John played the piano. I stood by, singing. The only other thing we shared were trips to the Flea Market at Copiague Drive-In Theatre. Most of the time we split and he looked for tools and hardware (which hardly saw use) and I looked for paint brushes and art supplies, bric-a-brac, clothes. Everything we had was second hand.
I had long expressed the desire to go back to the town where I was born, in Pennsylvania. I wrote on a paper all the things I remembered. It was Jeri and his wife, Kathy, who with their children, drove back to see the house where I had lived, where Puppa had ended his life. Everything was there, even the neighbor next door. She had grown, gone to New York, and moved back again. Not much had changed in all those years.
John never fulfilled the promises of taking vacation trips. We never went anywhere. In 30 years I don't think we went to more than three congregation picnics. At the first, I was the only woman who didn't wear pants. He didn't want to accept an invitation to a housewarming party because the hostess said we could bring the salad. When sisters stopped by, John would be in his pajamas. He would never change or put on his bathrobe, nor did he leave the room. That was my association with sisters.
In 1978 I qualified for a CETA job as an Arts and Crafts instructor in a Senior Citizen Center. The hours were short, the pay was good. I took college courses, part time majoring in Fine Arts. It would assure my position for permanent employment. While I worked in the Federal Government, I had taken two college courses in English offered free to employees. I used every opportunity I could to witness for Jehovah. I wrote a 23-page article on Christmas "Christmas, A Christian Holiday?" I quoted and credited much of the information I found in the Watchtower. In addition I had researched a variety of reputable references. It was just before the holiday. The teacher asked me to read the article, all 23 pages of it, to the class. A student commented, "You spoiled every Christmas from now on. I believe everything you said, but I'm going to celebrate it anyway." I got an "A".
I was aware the Society did not encourage college education, but improving my skills made my earnings more sure. John was bringing in very little money. We had a mortgage and two cars. I worked hard to keep my job. I could not witness directly to the seniors, on the job, but all the employees knew I was a Witness. There were some anti-Witness comments, but I managed to remain tactful and courteous. I developed a rapport with the seniors.
In college, I was one of the oldest students, so I had more difficulty retaining facts. I worked all the harder. I looked for ways I could witness for Jehovah. In Cultural Anthropology and Contemporary Issues of Philosophy) used the opportunity to incorporate the Bible and many quotes from the Watchtower.
On a part time basis, I made the Dean's list and graduated with an Associate's Degree, with distinction, at the age of 65. I did not allow higher education to interfere with my belief in Jehovah, his son, Christ Jesus, and the Bible. Yes, I did miss some meetings, but in college assignments I probably gave a better witness than I could have done at a door. I am not a spontaneous speaker. I have to think before I speak.
John started to go to the Kingdom Ministry School regularly. He bought an $800 typewriter with a correction device and changeable types so I could type his assignments. He told me it was my anniversary present for the next fifteen years. As a theocratic, submissive wife, I was privileged to be his secretary. I had to correct and reorganize his material into "logical, coherent development."
In conversation, he "pulled the wool" over many ears, but when it came to writing, he wasn't "Equipped For Every Good Work." He hadn't gone past grammar school. When I told him he should be going to the brothers for help, not me, he became irate. There was no pleasing him.
I was startled by a phone call. I answered. "Juliska? Only four or five people knew my Hungarian name. Two of them were my sister and her husband, George. He didn't know that I didn't know that my sister was dead. She had died of cancer of the pancreas five years before. He had remarried, was moving, and had come across old family documents and my brother's Purple Heart. He thought I might like to have them. When I told John that George had called, that my sister was dead, that she had died five years before, he didn't let me cry. (That was a time I would have welcomed his hug). He ignored my tears and dismissed the conversation.
When George came over with the package, he brought his wife. John wasn't home. George asked me why I had never reconciled with my sister. I told him she had written me an open postcard stating that I should leave her alone or she would "do like Dad did or else." Somewhere I may still have the card. I'd like to show it to him. No, there was no pleasing. Our relationship widened further apart.
But John's egotism was also playing a sinister part in Peter's life. Margaret came to Long Island several times with or without the children. She accused Peter of having abused her. John, deviously, asked her questions. "Was Peter ever alone in the bathroom with the girls? Did he ever give them a bath?
It was not long after that, Peter, early one morning, while getting in his car to go to work, was attacked by two of Margaret's brothers, beaten black and blue and his glasses broken. Child Protective Services stepped in. Shortly after that, Peter was in court and so were Margaret and the children.
They had undergone psychological testing. Peter was exonerated. Margaret was mentally ill, suffering delusions. John did not express concern or think perhaps he had planted seeds in Margaret's fragile mind. He never realized his own ego was creating an illness within himself, not easily cured. It had been growing like a cancer. Again, I had occasion to discuss John's view of headship and authority. Again I mentioned that he had withheld Jeri's record card. Jeri had never been contacted by the brothers. As far as they were concerned, John, as theocratic head judged him dead. He didn't exist.
In 1983, another committee was scheduled. I wanted a separation recognized by the congregation. My spirituality was affected. I wasn't throwing John out of the house, although no worldly judge would have prevented me considering the circumstances. I wanted freedom from an abusive theocratic headship.
Jeri, (now married with two small children) asked if he could move from Patchogue with his family and stay with us (paying rent) until house application finalized. On February 14 (Valentine's Day--makes it easier to remember) John went on a rampage. He wanted me to cancel the scheduled committee meeting. I refused. First, he tried to buy me. "I'll sign the house back in your name." I said "No."
"I'll burn the house down." "Burn it." "I won't let Jeri move in."
"He's already on his way." The phone rang. Peter was on the phone, calling from Brooklyn, crying. Margaret had jumped in front of the subway. Her father was with her and saw the whole thing. (Yes, she survived). She was eventually diagnosed as schizophrenic. She had been ill for many, many years. Peter had kept the burden in his own heart.
The moving van arrived, ending the discussion. Jeri moved in. I went to the Committee meeting. I no longer sat next to John in the center of the Hall. I sat in the back, close to the restrooms. John told the sisters I had arthritis. John no longer wrote "logical coherent development" assignments. The brothers knew it. Eventually he was eased out of conducting the Kingdom Hall afternoon book study for the elderly sisters and brothers. They were always looking for New Light.
Again, John was sick. When he was in the hospital, I cleaned the room that Jeri and his wife had used. It was next to the bathroom and the kitchen. I painted and wall papered and brought down all the furniture and the bed that had the only new mattress we had ever bought. A brother brought him from the hospital, the only brother John had really respected. He was two years older than John, a widower, independent and very zealous for Jehovah. He was one of the elders at the last committee meeting.
On March 15. 1985, John committed legal suicide. He insisted on surgery for his gallbladder, which the surgeon had not been keen on performing. He wanted him to stay on medication that would keep him fairly comfortable and prolong his life. John was a bleeder. The gall bladder fell apart in the surgery. The surgeon didn't realize how really bad it was. John hemorrhaged. The surgery was late at night. Jeri was the first to get there. The hospital lawyer requested a handwritten letter re: no transfusion. They said if any one disagreed, they would give blood. John, Dorian, and Jeri respected his wishes. Peter was suffering from congestive heart failure. He couldn't come.
When I had taken John to St. John's Hospital for the surgery, I got lost. I knew he was in pain. The ride was so long. But when I saw him in his bed, in the room with two other men, I did not kiss him goodbye. John, Dorian and Jeri stayed with me through the end. Jeri held his hand. John died. He was cremated. The service was at Copiague Kingdom Hall. His four sons, including Peter were there. Peter's ankles were swollen, he could hardly walk. Margaret, his two daughters, were there. One of his sisters came with her husband and a dear friend from Astoria. A sister from Astoria drove them. An elderly, dear sister from Copiague Congregation, stopped by the house just before we left for the hall, with a homemade cake for the family. Jeri said it was an extremely dry and hollow talk for a funeral service.
I was left with a debt of $11,000 in credit card bills. All John had was the Musicians Local life insurance policy. It was for $1000. That and the $255 Social Security death benefit. I eventually sold the piano, which had been restored, for $3000. The story does not end here. Peter was seriously ill. I used all my vacation, sick and personal time to travel to Brooklyn to help him. Margaret had previous episodes of illness. She was the queen of heaven. She was going to marry a Bethelite. We all were condemned to die.
Peter did not want to institutionalize her. He had seen her at Creedmoor. He spent thousands of dollars taking her to an orthomolecular psychiatrist. When I went, the slashes on his arms were still very fresh. He would not call the police. I found her chained to the floor in her own urine. She refused to eat, accused Peter of poisoning her. I got in the shower with her to bathe her skeleton body. Peter sat at the kitchen table, going over business accounts, sipping beer through a straw in a glass, making phone calls. Two brothers came to help take her to a specialist.
After Margaret was hospitalized, I took the girls shopping and got back late. Peter was crying frantically. He had called the Police Department. He thought the children were in an accident. He cried for Margaret, for the children, not for me. "How could I go to the hospital and tell her, her children were dead?!?"
Peter eventually had open heart surgery, aortic stenosis, at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, performed by Dr. Estioco. without transfusion. John, Jeri and I waited. Peter had spent many years taking care of Margaret who was mentally ill for a long time. When I asked him how he was able to do it, he said, " I locked myself in the closet and cried." Margaret was at home with the girls and I stayed while he was in the hospital. The first thing he asked for were his glasses.
He was still in recovery. His voice was rasping from the tube in his throat during surgery. He asked for his little black phone book, urgently. Peter had been a superintendent over 5 small buildings in Brooklyn Heights. He did what he could do, physically and subcontracted the work he couldn't do. He cared for his family, Margaret's exorbitant medical bills. He carried on business via the phone until he was able to go home from the hospital. Eventually, the buildings were sold and Peter had no place to live. Bethel brothers drove the truck and moved them here to Copiague.
I had enjoyed the freedom of living alone. I didn't try to make their stay comfortable. They had three rooms and shared the bathroom and kitchen. Peter filed an application for public housing. Margaret would sit for hours at the kitchen table, watching "Grandma." I spent about six sessions in therapy before I could tell them to get out.
I had seen Margaret come down the stairs one night, when she was "called again, to be queen of heaven." She had gone off her medication again. When they finally left for Riverhead, I breathed half a sign of relief. Peter drove the car with Margaret and the girls. Alcohol was heavy on his breath.
The following years were hectic. When Margaret wanted to escape, she stopped her medication. Peter was in and out of the hospital for medical problems. He had worked as a car salesman, in real estate, and got his stock brokers license. Both girls left home and went to college. They had not associated with Jehovah's Witnesses for a long time. Peter was disfellowshipped for DWI. Margaret moved to Florida to live with her mother and father (JW). She divorced Peter and resigned herself to medication. Peter tried to commit suicide while he was in the hospital. He has been in and out of rehabilitation He has broken his arm, fractured his ribs, broken his ankle, on which he has been operated. The screws were loose, he developed an infection, the surgery was repeated. He was sent to a nursing home for the elderly, to recuperate. (They screamed all night). He is now on out patient psychiatric care. His ankle is improved, although quite stiff. He is able to walk slowly and steadily. I mentioned him several times to the brothers.
He had attended Amityville Congregation while he lived with me. I contacted the brothers in Riverhead, his home congregation. He was never visited in the hospital. He attends AA meetings. He is a recovering alcoholic. He has not asked for reinstatement.
My son, John, will be 50 in December 1998. He left the Air Force before his tour of duty was over. His wife had frequent miscarriages. He has two children. His wife divorced him years ago and is remarried. He never became an architect. He went to the Art Students League for painting and sculpture. He has been in and out of alcohol rehabilitation a number of times. He is now studying Computer Graphics. John never had a childhood.
Peter was 46 in January 1998. He was the one most zealous for the "Truth" He was not accepted at Bethel because of a physical heart problem. He pioneered, married, had two children, appointed as elder, gave hour talks; brilliant and popular. He had open heart surgery without transfusion. He was disfellowshipped for DWI. He is a recovering alcoholic. His wife, schizophrenic, divorced him. He has not asked for reinstatement. Peter never had a childhood.
Dorian will be 43 in June 1998. He was the most severely punished by his theocratic father. He changed his name, became a Muslim, married a girl from Guyana. They have three children. Dorian never had a childhood.
Jeri. now 41, of all, has had to try to maintain a semblance of normalcy in this chaotic exploding maze. He was very badly injured on his job and has been on therapy and medication for years. His wife abandoned him and their three children, the youngest , now 6, to follow her mother and father's footsteps in alcoholism. He never had a childhood. He does not recognize "The Truth" as presented by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. Of all my sons, he has done the most for me, the one who cares, but that's another story.
I have written so many letters. They should be in the files or in the archives of the WTBTS. No longer am I in the position in which I was, when I had previously addressed the Congregation for assistance. The problem was never corrected. No longer am I in servitude to an abusive head. For that account, Jehovah has set me free.
John's inflated ego had no resiliency. Like a balloon blown beyond its capacity, it burst; spewing its segments around. Perhaps they still quiver today, like a leaf in the wind, tossed in a spot of sand, waiting for Jehovah's chemistry to disintegrate them; to return them to the elements... finally to a gesture I had made, when my son, John, and I dispersed his fathers ashes in the restless waves of Dunes Beach and set him free. I am free... to question, to read, to think, to remember.
II - I am free... to question, to read, to think, to remember.
When the gray haired man knocked on my door for the first time, about 46 years ago, I thought about Puppa, my love. Puppa, who, when I was seven years old, put a double barrel shotgun in his mouth. The gray haired man spoke softly about a paradise, about a God who would make all things new and wipe away every tear from your eyes, and make all things new. I thought about Puppa and the childhood I had lost.
I can listen to the Watchtower tapes when my back hurts and I'm lying down. They don't tell you everything. The books in my library tell much more. I was going to give them away, but I'm glad I didn't. It begins with the Studies in the Scriptures, the whole set. The latest is "The Bible, God's Word or Man's? It isn't a new book. The first printing of 1989 sold 3,000,000 copies. In 1998, the total printing in all languages, 21,555,000 copies. Has the book been revised? Is there something new? The book is currently being studied at the Congregation Book Study of Jehovah's Witnesses. It was studied in 1991 or 1992. My old book is heavily marked in the margins with notations I had added. As I searched through other books, I recognized others, Others I had studied more than once.
I saw the repetitions, revisions of doctrinal thought, and sometimes a reversal to a previous thought. To illustrate the length of my research, I will list only three, simpler ones. The references are all in the Watchtower publications.
Doctrinal Changes:Will Sodomites be resurrected?
WT June 1, 1952 p. 338 NO
WT August 1, 1965 p. 479 YES
WT June 1, 1988 NO
Live Forever book early ed. p.179 YES
Live Forever book later ed p. 179 NO
Insight On The Scriptures, vol. 2 p. 985 YES
Revelation Its Grand Climax At Hand p.273 NO
Superior Authorities (Higher Powers) Romans 13
Vol 1 Studies in the Scriptures (1886) identified as p. 266 Human governments
Truth Shall Make you Free (1943) p. 312. Jehovah and Jesus
1975 Yearbook p. 238 governmental authorities
WT May 15 1976 p.304 Supreme authority
WT May 15, 1980 p.4 Political authorities
Baptism: Two questions asked at the time of baptism
WT May 15, 1970 p.309
(1) Have you recognized yourself as a sinner and needing salvation from Jehovah God? And have you acknowledged that this salvation proceeds from him and through his ransomer, Christ Jesus?
(2) On the basis of this faith in God and in his provision for redemption have you dedicated yourself unreservedly to Jehovah God to do his will henceforth as that will is revealed to you through Christ Jesus and through God's Word as his holy spirit makes plain ? Those who answer "yes" audibly to these two questions so that the other persons present may witness their affirmation of dedication - may appropriately be baptized.:
WT May 1, 1973 p.280
(1) Have you repented of your sins and turned around, recognizing yourself before Jehovah God as a condemned sinner who needs salvation, and have you acknowledged to him that this salvation proceeds from him, the Father, through his Son, Jesus Christ?
(2) On the basis of this faith in God and in his provision for salvation, have you dedicated yourself unreservedly to God to do his will henceforth as he reveals it to you through his son, Jesus Christ and through the Bible under the enlightening power of the holy spirit?
WT June 1, 1985 p. 30
(1) On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?
(2) Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah's Witnesses in association with God's spirit directed organization? Having answered yes to these questions, candidates are in a right heart condition to undergo Christian baptism.
To continue with other doctrinal issues... the faithful slave, chronology, time of the end, "this generation," would require much reading on your part.
II: Financing the Watchtower Society
Time is money. Twenty nickels make a dollar. Forty years of Watchtowers are beyond my uncalculating human brain. Prices change. The first Watchtower magazine I accepted cost me five cents. Through the years the cost of magazines and books increased. Understandably, the upkeep of the Kingdom Hall was necessary. Letters were read to the Congregation when there was need for additional funds... for renovations, expansions. Money was contributed for the needs of the visiting circuit overseer and his wife, if he had one. As the worldwide preaching expanded, more funds were needed for building Kingdom Halls, Branches, more printing facilities were needed.
There was a call for aid for brothers who lived in areas where catastrophes had occurred I remember contributing boxes of freshly laundered clothing suitable for wear in the Kingdom Hall; attire suitable for going out in service. Even in desolation, a Witness had to be clean.
Years later, the method was changed in the door to door work. Literature was offered "free," but donations were encouraged to support the worldwide educational work. When a publisher accepted magazines at the literature counter, money was placed in a box for the literature obtained. When a donation was obtained at the door, that too was placed in the box. So the Society was being reimbursed twice. If a householder expressed a desire for a subscription but lacked the funds, the publisher absorbed the cost, as further support of the Kingdom work. It amounted to a lot of funds for the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.
When I gave my first five cents to the gray haired man, I was reaching into my food budget. The brother was shy to ask or accept , but there was a cost of printing. When a Bethel brother stopped by in East Manhattan after a Sunday meeting I had not attended, I made him eggs, toast end coffee. My income was consumed with bottles and baby food, four young mouths waiting, but I shared. I thought the brother had missed his breakfast having come all the way from Bethel to our Hall. I never failed to put something in the box at the Kingdom Hall. It wasn't much, but it was all I could give. Everything in the apartment was a hand-me-down. It was a cold flat of three rooms on the top floor.
I had a sister-friend who was a superintendent and much of what I acquired came through her. I mopped hall floors on Saturdays, cleaned the rooms before the painters came. The boys were encouraged to put a coin in the box... they didn't even have an allowance. I made lunches and dinners for the circuit servant and his wife and hardly missed giving them a financial token toward their gas or incidental expenses. In the years following, the Society asked for money, long term loans, many of which were not expecting repayment.
My sons and I cleaned the Yankee stadium at no cost to the Society. The subway fare was only five cents at the time, but four fares had to be paid, both ways. Forty cents was a lot to me in those days. Through the years, each child had his own magazine, a book when I could afford one When I consider what it has cost me to be associated as a Jehovah's Witness, it amounts to thousands and thousands of dollars.
I still paint the old furniture and buy most of my clothes in yard sales or thrift shops. In recent years, I have allowed myself a treat of going to The Lemon Tree for a permanent, senior citizen coupon, twice a year. I have also allowed myself the pleasure of a collection of birds, ceramic, plastic or wood. The majority were found at garage sale from ten cents to a dollar. Twice I "treated " myself and paid $13 for a ceramic grouping of birds, and a real antique Roadrunner for $26. We never celebrated holidays or birthdays, so there weren't any presents, except for the $800 typewriter John bought for me as an anniversary present for the next 15 years.
I don't know one "rich" Jehovah's Witness. The Society denounces the churches of Christendom and harbors on the point of the financial holdings of those establishments. The plates are passed along the pews. Yet, isn't the Society doing the same thing? There are boxes in the Kingdom Hall, for literature, for Hall expenses, for world wide educational work, for out of the ordinary expenses like renewing the blacktop in the lot, landscaping material. There is a box at each congregation book study home. The landholdings or real estate owned by the Society are not common knowledge. The financial status of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is not public knowledge. There is no employment problem because the Bethelites who work in the factories or at the Farm are not paid employees. They volunteer their time and receive room and board and a small pittance for personal items. The Jehovah's Witness who goes door to door is not paid. Not only do they volunteer their time, they turn in reports of the time they spend. The Society keeps tabs on how many free hours are spent in the preaching by publishers.
Time is money, and the nickels add up. Mothers pushing baby carriages, children under school age presenting tracts, as preparation for the time they become publishers. Practice becomes a habit. Elderly sisters and brothers try to keep their quota of hours and magazine placements. We have an elderly sister in our congregation whose swollen feet are squeezed into the little shoes she wears. She has a heart problem but is regular in the door-to-door service, waiting for the joy of the new earth that is just around the corner, when hearts will beat strongly and feet won't hurt anymore.
There are youngsters who have been discouraged by their parents from pursuing a higher education. They should get part time jobs and serve in the ministry. Their income tax would be less from their secular employment. Besides, they would be spending time serving Jehovah, free. Time is money. Nickels add up.
Older brothers maintain their family responsibilities, work, and spend time preaching; reach out zealously for the position of unpaid ministerial servants. Their wives are outstanding home managers. They have time to pioneer.
In our congregation there are a sister and brother who have five children. That's 7 Watchtower magazines, 7 songbooks, 7 books for each book used in the Kingdom ministry School, 7 Bibles, 7 books for the Congregation book study if each has his or her own copy . When a book is restudied , a new book reissued, chances are the old books will not be used. New ones will be bought. That's a lot more nickels in the box. If each one goes out and counts time in service, places one magazine tit's worth two), that's a lot more nickels that go into the box.
I was surprised by an unexpected visit of a brother and his wife, from Amityville Central Congregation. I was not in the mood for visitors, especially unexpected ones. I was reluctant to invite them in; the house was in total disarray. Courtesy reflects Christian love, even in a dirty house.
I had known the sister much longer than her husband. She is a devoted, sensitive, soft spoken, young woman. During her husband's dissertation, she was submissively attentive. For nearly an hour, she said few words, allowed her head to do the talking. I wondered why she had married him? Was he so relentless in his pursuit she just gave up? I was not charismatically captivated as she may have been. I was bored. I hope and pray she will not find herself under the same dominating headship in which I allowed myself to be.
They expressed concern for my absence from some of the meetings. The brother had been informed of a remark I had just made to a sister about my lack of enthusiasm of studying "The Bible God's Word or Man's." It had been studied in 1991 or 1992. I still have my old book; the margins are filled with notations I had made. (Oh, but there are always new ones coming in and they haven't studied the books yet.)
I am 75 years old. In 1990 I fell, suffered multiple injuries, including my back and ankle. I have a herniated disc, bulging discs, and a degenerating ankle. I have long suffered from arthritis and have hypertension. I have been to therapy, I go to a chiropractor twice a week for adjustments and electro-stimulation. I am under the care of an orthopedist, neurologist and a pain management specialist. I have long been on pain medication.
The brother encouraged me to go to the bookstudy, even though I had studied the book before. I told him that, in pain, I would not absorb much of the material I told him I could lie down and listen to the Watchtower tapes when my back hurt. I also told him they didn't tell everything. I have a complete library and I had found inconsistencies, changes in doctrine. He asked me what they were. I told him I wouldn't tell him but for homework, he could go home and he and his wife could look up the two questions asked at baptism. He spent some time on the necessity of attending meetings. When I interrupted him, he wouldn't let me talk. A second time, I interrupted. He had used the expression "mind-set" several times. I asked him how he became familiar with the term. He was evasive again, back again to encouraging meeting at the Hall. He said it would be beneficial for others to see me in my condition attending. (It didn't matter I had left the house in disarray, and in pain.) Again, I told him, with medication, I would not be fully responsive to the message. At home, I had the Watchtower tapes. If my back hurt, I could lie down, He reminded me of the sister who came in a wheelchair, from a nursing home.
Then he asked me "What would happen if you missed a meeting, and the announcement was made that the work was banned?" I told him it had happened before. He continued the conversation (if that's what it was). His wife hadn't said more than ten words. He was watching his watch, he was counting time, I told him I had to end the visit, my back hurt and I had to lie down.
As they were leaving, they could see the mess. Boxes, books, dishes unwashed, in the sink. If I had known he was coming, I would have made an attempt to organize things. A paint can was visible in the kitchen. He asked what was green. I told him I had sprayed two lawn chair cushions. The grass needed cutting, the garden overgrown. But it was a country garden, pleasant to the eyes of neighbors or visitors stopping unexpectedly.
When I had been in Babylon Congregation I had gone with sisters to clean house for an incapacitated sister; another time, a brother who was elderly and ailing. It didn't matter if we couldn't put time on a service report.
In the years I have lived in Copiague, I remember once, about fifteen years ago, two young sisters with their five year old brother came armed with shovels to clear a path in the snow from my door to the street. They did not count time. It was free, and filled with Christian love.
In Amityville Central Congregation I gave a sister a large bag of clothing. She insisted on cleaning my kitchen. Since she could have used those hours earning money she needed, I paid her for her time. She was willing to do it free. She would not count the time on her Service report. The brothers who did ask, "Do you need help?" were the ones I knew were already occupied with their families and spending time in service. I would not presume upon their time. (This brother who visited, did not offer help... his time was spent in making calls, as many others have....)
All "shepherding" calls I have received ( since my husband died) were always finalized with the thought that my problems would be overcome if I went out in the door to door service. When I accompanied a group in the door to door work, I went because, according to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, it was expected of me... not because Jehovah had actually poured out his spirit on me that I should "preach the good news to the poor."
I reviewed again the questions I had answered in 1965 when I was baptized.
(The Watchtower of May 15, 1970 p 309 has them.)
(1) Have you recognized yourself as a sinner and needing salvation from Jehovah God? And have you acknowledged that this salvation proceeds from him and through his ransomer, Christ Jesus? (2) On the basis of this faith in God and in his provision for redemption, have you dedicated yourself unreservedly to Jehovah God, to do his Will henceforth as that will is revealed to you through Christ Jesus and through God's Word as his holy spirit makes it plain? Those who answer "yes" audibly to these two questions so that other persons present may witness their affirmation of dedication may appropriately be baptized.
I looked again at the Watchtower 1985 (June 1,1985 p. 30)
(1) On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?
(2) Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah's Witnesses in association: with God's spirit-directed organization?
Having answered yes to these questions, candidates are in a right heart condition to undergo Christian baptism.
I had not answered that second question... it was a promise I never made.
The Watchtower of July 1970, page 404 reads (paragraph 13)
Christians must appreciate these facts. Their dedication is not to an organization nor to a work. Neither is it to a human or a government; it is only to the Creator himself, to Jehovah God, through Jesus Christ.
I have prayerfully considered the vow I made. Jesus said "My yoke is light." I am casting off the burden I have been under for so many years while under the scrutiny of the man made organization, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. In full faculty I am stating that I am disassociating from that organization. I no longer want to be recognized as a Jehovah's Witness because it does not fill the expectations I was led to believe.
(1) I do not want my family to contacted or coerced in any way.
(2) At my death I do not wish to be remembered as a Jehovah's Witness.
(3) There is no need for prayers or further attempt to reverse my decision.
When the Congregation makes an announcement of my Disassociation, careful thought should be given before referring to me as an apostate. No court in the land would judge me so. I have proved myself true to the oath I gave when I was baptized. My promise was to Jehovah God through his Son, Christ Jesus, not to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.
Having been in contact with you for many years, I know many of you have served Jehovah with integrity. I thank you for any personal kindness you have offered.
June 4, 1998
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