I wrote this letter to the young Francie last summer:
Dear F, little Francie,
Wow! Where to begin? I knew you so, so many years ago. What was it, like 1962? I remember that that was a very hard time for you, because your big sister, who had been more like your mommy, left you and went way far away to college in Pennsylvania. You didn't even know where that was - except that it was way, way far away. You really missed her, didn't you? That's probably when you felt kind of abandoned, right? Now, it was just you and your Mom at home while your Daddy went to work and everyone else went to school. That wasn't a fun time for you, I know. You tried to survive on your own, to stay out of your Mom's way, because she was so harsh with you. Do you remember any fun things you did with her when everyone else was gone? You were her last baby, and she told everyone that she was sad she couldn't have more babies. I kind of thought she'd make the best of those times, since you were the end of the line. But, you know, maybe she was one very frustrated woman. Your family was pretty poor. So, maybe she worried about how she was going to feed all of you. And, then there were her own demons she had never exorcised, and I think maybe she just didn't want to have to deal with them. I get that a bit. It is hard for me to have to deal with things from my past. I'd rather sit and drink a bottle of wine than sit and try to make sense of things that happened to me..IF sense can be made of them EVER. Frustration with things that happened in one's past is no excuse to take it out on a small child. It is sad to me that you suffered because your Mom didn't know what to do with such a lively, energetic, happy go lucky little girl. I'm sorry for the abuse. The face dunking in water... the whippings with a stick.... the soap in your mouth... she couldn't handle you being so happy. It wasn't your fault. You couldn't help yourself! You were born happy. How could you not be? Daddy finally had his "dark haired baby", and there you were. And the love you always had for your Dad was born then, too.
When you were 4 and Sue left for college, could you ever have imagined how your life would change in just 5 years? Wow! I can hardly believe it. Who could have guessed that your whole world would capsize when francis schuckardt was introduced in your young little, carefree, happy go lucky life? Suddenly, your life changed dramatically. I'm sorry. Suddenly, you didn't just have to fear your mother. You had to fear God. You had to fear the devil. You had to fear displeasing Jesus' mother.
You had to fear the world, because they were all a bunch of evil doers hell-bent on grabbing your very soul and dragging you into hell. You were scared, weren't you? I'm sorry. I am so glad you got to find out later - how much later - how much your heavenly Father loves and loves and loves and loves you.
So, this new life - it was hard, wasn't it? Probably the hardest thing for you was how it tore you from your Daddy, right? I'm sorry. It makes me sad just thinking of how much you must have missed him. Guess what, Francie? He missed YOU, too. His life was gutted - his "sis", as he called you, was gone. Your mom took Daddy's little girl and did her damnedest to break your spirit. She had lots of help, too. Can you even imagine what life would have been like if Janet had never joined francis? No, you probably can't. I'm sorry. When Janet left in the summer of 1967, it was just the beginning. Your spirit was about to be crushed - well, they sure tried, anyway. I don't believe they succeeded, Francie. I believe it always stayed alive - though hidden, and that makes me happy, because you were born with a beautiful spirit. You had so much love and joy to share with the world. I'm sorry that you were made to squelch that for so many, many years. It was all so, so wrong. I know that when it all began, you really hated it. You had to dress so strangely - I know you were so embarrassed and didn't want anyone to see you. That must have been hard for you. And, as if that wasn't enough, you had to fear the eternal fires of hell IF you were actually ashamed to be seen in that crazy garb. Geez! You couldn't catch a break, could you? I'm sorry. It is no wonder that, as you grew up, you became so concerned - maybe a little too much - with what people thought of you. It's ok. I think that's how most people would have reacted, too.
I won't bring up all the things you went through in all those years in the schuckardt cult.
I want to tell you to hang in there, little girl. It might look so hopeless right now. It might look hopeless for many, many, many, many years. I won't even tell you how many, because I don't want you to lose hope. I don't want your amazing spirit to die. I want you to keep it alive deep inside, ok?
Someday, you are going to enjoy a wonderful life, Francie. It will all begin while you are still a victim of the cult - BUT - again, your spirit will persist and you will come out on top. You always do. I am so proud of you. I'm proud that you never gave up your beautiful self. For years, you had to hide it, but, because you are so strong, and yes, so stubborn, you will be a survivor. I want to say that you'll be better because of it, but I really, really wish you had never had to experience the nastiness you did.
Just hang in there, you little doll! An amazing life awaits you.
I have always loved you. I am proud of you. You are a gift.
Your older self,
(& Bernie, Matt, Kevin, Nate, Kara, Sully, Cassidy, Teresa, & so many, many friends - who all love you