Sunday, April 20, 2014

Our Courtship Story: Fork in the Road

Continued from Kidneys, Needles, and Y2K.

Oak Brook, June 1999

I spent the rest of that day in the Legal Department. I guess Michael spent the rest of the day at his house, packing. At five o'clock, I rode my bike--always an adventure in a long navy dress skirt!--back to Brook Manor and fixed myself dinner. I probably talked to Chris and Michael, but I can't remember. What I do remember is being in my new bedroom organizing and unpacking my things when I got a phone call on the house phone late that night. It was my parents.

Dad was driving down to get me in the morning, they said. I was confused. Michael had been fired; I understood that. But he had a car. Why was Dad--? Bill Gothard had called them. Just a few minutes earlier, apparently. His office stood just yards from my window, but he had said nothing to me. Bill wanted me gone, too, they said, not just Michael. It was after eleven in Michigan. Dad would leave early and arrive by noon; the Suburban could easily haul our bicycles and all my luggage. Stunned, I stopped unpacking.

And so my first night to sleep in my own room was also my last. I lay there in the quiet and came up with enough of a plan to settle my racing thoughts. Mom had recently announced that she was pregnant with a twelfth child. With six kids under ten years old, she would clearly need help. God knew I was so emotionally invested in the Institute I could easily be what we called a "lifer"--the kind of girl who would only "leave in a white dress or a black box". So God must have arranged to get me fired so I would be free to invest in my family. I would be the heroine of the story!

I had been around long enough to know that staff members sometimes disappeared overnight. They were just...gone. No explanation was ever offered. You could come down to breakfast and they had simply vanished. I didn't want to be one of those. When I woke in the morning, I did not dress in the despised navy and white. I was no longer in Gothard's employ, so he was no longer my authority. I put on my favorite homemade red sunflower print jumper, with mustard-colored buttons. I would be noticed when I went to the Production Center to gather my personal effects, and there would be no mistake about my employment status!

I did not attend that morning's staff meeting, no longer considering myself staff. When I entered the Legal Department in my cheery picnic frock, someone told me Gothard was looking for me. Feeling angry and betrayed, I evaded the man for a while but eventually found myself seated beside him on a sofa in the building's front lobby, beneath the framed painting of his parents. He peered into my eyes, which I found disagreeably intimate, and told me my parents wanted me to come home. There wasn't much to say to that, so our conversation was brief. I thought he wanted to take my hand, but I kept my distance. Someone was lying to me, that much was clear.

It was nearly noon when Dad arrived at Brook Manor. Chris, who had met my parents on a weekend visit home with Michael, was hanging around to say goodbye and Dad invited him to join us for lunch at a nearby restaurant. I could feel my role reverting as soon as we opened the menus: I immediately eliminated all the choices containing pork. When Chris casually ordered an egg scramble with ham, on Dad's check, I gasped inwardly, shocked and envious. (I would have been reminded of the scene in Chariots of Fire when Sybil orders a pork dish on a dinner date with Harold Abrahams, except that scene had always been edited out when Dad showed us the film.) My first autonomous act after being dropped off at Headquarters had been to order pork, and now I instinctively surrendered that freedom as I slid back under my father’s “umbrella”.

After lunch we loaded the vehicles. In the flurry of collecting my belongings, I forgot my crockpot but remembered my grapefruit knife and was daring enough to give Chris a photo (of me? us?) to remember our times together. Our goodbyes, in the Staff Center-Brook Manor parking lot when Dad was ready to go, were brief. For the first time since November, we shook hands. This time we knew we would see each other again. Lisa was getting married in the fall and she had asked all of us from the old "CLink" to have a part in the wedding.

For the rest of day, I sat in the car, feeling more stunned as time and distance grew between me and IBLP Headquarters. We stopped at an Arby’s where the familiar decor stirred numerous memories. This time, Chris wasn’t there to order fries he couldn’t eat. Back in the passenger seat, I pensively sipped my Jamocha shake. I remember feeling shaken, weary but agitated. Of the previous twenty months, only three at most had been spent at my parents’ home. I was one of a minority of IBLP staff who found training center life to be less restrictive in many ways than living at home.

Yesterday I was sitting at a desk doing a job I had fantasized about for years. Now I was a 23-year-old woman being taken to a place I really didn’t want to return to. No one had asked what I wanted; it never occurred to me that I had any options. Thrown out of my house overnight, without a job, a car, or a plan, I was again dependent on my father. I had a checking account and plenty of skills, but little knowledge or experience or confidence that I could survive in a world of adults.

Watching mile markers slide past the window now, I braced myself for the inevitable adjustment. The pants folded in my suitcase would have to stay in my bedroom or under long skirts. The pajamas would have to be hidden under a robe. I would no longer be in charge of my own meals or schedule. Instead of working in an office for a regular minimum-wage paycheck, I would likely be helping to raise children, sew dresses and bloomers, garden, clean the house, and feed the family. City life had agreed with me; returning to the stench and flies of the farm would be trying. But if that’s where God wanted me, I would make it. I would show him how faithful I could be.

Continued at Breaking Away.

1 comment:

  1. Can't wait to read more. I hope you are printing these out for your kids to read someday.