Monday, May 14, 2012

Sundays at the Walton’s…From the Beginning

I’ve mentioned before that Peter’s father, John, was the pastor of a large Church. Pastors of large churches tend to reach celebrity status in the communities where they are located. By default we had become celebrities, scandal and all; and utterly poor, isolated, overwhelmed, trying to fake that we were not. We were “required” to attend Sunday church and lunch at the Walton’s, at the very least, every week. The whole day was a show. I still didn’t matter, and was told directly and indirectly that I had tarnished the family name. It was incredibly tense to even be in John and Elaine’s presence (I’ll elaborate more later; they were relentless in their distain of me).
My daughter mattered. She was beautiful and she became the center of attention. Generally, when I went to pick her up after church she wasn’t in the nursery. Peter’s mother often picked her up to pass her around in the foyer of the church. I wouldn’t know where she was and would be looking desperately for her. We would stay until most everyone left and then head over to the Walton’s house. When no one was around she was passed to me, crying and upset over all of her handling. A family or two from the church would sometimes be invited for lunch. Peter’s mother, Elaine, would’ve started the meal the day before and would work for hours after returning home from church.
John would come in, in an obvious euphoric state from the attention. He would ask Elaine how his sermon was, expecting only accolades, and if she offered even a slight criticism, you could see the rage pass across his face. Peter would tell me continually over the years that his father was more intimate from “the mound (the pulpit)” then ever alone. He felt closest to him then and he shared him always. Because of this and his father’s constant traveling, and philandering, I wondered if he possibly had an attachment disorder that prevented intimacy.
When the meal was served (the ladies expected to help while the men talked in the other room,) the pontifications began. There were three sons, all impeccably dressed, and their voices reigned above all else. I don’t recall Peter’s dad looking at his mother with anything other than disgust. If she spoke, sometimes about characters in the romance novels she was reading, she was quickly dismissed. She embarrassed them. It was painfully obvious all of the male Walton’s were disgusted with the “matriarch” of the family. Now I realize, after repeatedly watching distain for women move across the faces of all the Walton men, that I was observing misogyny.
If you scroll to the bottom of my last blog you will see a figure of a cycle. This was the exact cycle I witnessed at the Walton’s house with John and Elaine. The only difference was there might be one level of escalation and then utter submission. She submitted over and over again and endured nearly continual verbal abuse. Her response, as opposed to increased emotional escalation in my case, manifested itself in physical ailments. She was severely depressed and full of arthritis. She had several surgeries (I believe 5 in the 25 years I knew her) and seemed overall unhealthy.  I noticed that John would comment mostly on her physical lack of health and gave her some positive attention when she was ill. She did not exercise or do anything for herself, with the exception of excessive spending, but hardly buying a thing for herself. She was constantly in pain, taking pain medications, and would have migraines for days at a time.  
I always felt compassion for Elaine believing her to be in a rough spot. She had given up her education to support John and had basically given her life and health for him and her three sons. She was certainly stuck in this relationship and still is.
About 40% of a pastor’s job is to counsel families within the church community. John’s position was no exception. After lunch began discussions of church parishioners and the most private details of their lives. I remember hearing about a woman who had had an abortion before getting married and had yet to tell her new husband, but I knew. I heard the story of how the CEO of a major corporation had confided in his pastor that his son had molested his sister for their entire youth. The daughter was divorcing because of sexual problems and the husband threatening to expose the family secret. The local physician had been having an affair with his secretary for decades and his wife had just found out. He and his mistress had attempted suicide…I felt uncomfortable around these people on Sundays. I should not have known their secrets; they did not want me to know. Not only was confidence broken, but their misfortunes critiqued and analyzed. These people were less than the Walton’s and so was I. I learned, in time, that I too was being discussed, critiqued and analyzed. You see I was not a part of the inner Walton circle and never would be. I was frustrated for most of my marriage with the stern judgments and hypocrisies from the Walton’s, all guised in religiosity. This was the most religious family I had ever or have ever encountered.
My 18 year old daughter, who lives with Elaine, in Peter’s apartment, just down the road from me, spent Mother’s Day with Elaine. I did not hear from either of my daughters; they are now part of the Walton cult. My heart is broken. My next post….My exorcisms…. initiated by Peter, encouraged by the Waltons.

2 comments:

  1. I can't imagine how difficult the passing off this Mothers Day must have been for you. My heart aches for you.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for your comment. Positive feedback and helping those that have experienced the same tragedies are what keeps me going.