Thursday, May 17, 2018

Trying to break through the chains...

"Lost and alone on some forgotten highway
Traveled by many, remembered by few
Lookin' for something that I can believe in
Lookin' for something that I'd like to do with my life
There's nothin' behind me and nothin' that ties me to
Something that might have been true yesterday
Tomorrow is open, right now it seems to be more than enough
To just be here today, and I don't know
What the future is holdin' in store
I don't know where I'm goin' I'm not sure where I've been
There's a spirit that guides me, a light that shines for me
My life is worth livin', I don't need to see the end
Sweet, sweet surrender, live, live without care....."

I am going to go back a bit in time and tell you how I tried to break through the chains of mind control.  After my graduation from 'high school' in June 1976, I stayed in Coeur d'Alene.  I could live at the Villa Maria until I figured out what I was going to do.  Since I was a graduate, I was allowed to go places by myself now.  I don't remember much about the month or so after graduation, but I do remember that I was frustrated and lost and had absolutely no idea what I was going to do.
So, one day, I wrote a letter to my sister, Sue, back in Endicott, N.Y.  To say that I asked her if I could come stay with her would most likely be an understatement.  I am pretty sure that I begged.  I had no money, so I was depending on her to provide me the means of getting there.  I had written the letter in secret.  Only one friend knew that I had reached out.  The Villa Maria did not have a telephone, so I gave my sister the phone number of this friend.  (Isn't it convenient that there was no phone for the girls at the boarding house to call home and beg to get out of there?  Any phone calls that were made were made from the little book store where they sold all their schuckardt publications, etc.  And, every phone call was monitored.)   Within a week, I believe, I heard back from my sister.  She had made the reservations and sent me the ticket.  I was going to New York!
Oh my gosh!  It was so exciting to be flying across the country.  But, remember, I was still in the full garb of the cult.  I remember being SO proud of myself for navigating my way through O'Hare airport.  And, for all the years that I had been warned about the evils of the outside world, I wasn't afraid. 

People were nice.  They smiled.  I smiled back.  It felt so good.
From Chicago, we flew to Binghamton, N.Y..... I think.  I remember the fellow sitting next to me asked me where I was from.  When I told him Montana, he said, "Oh, your dad must be a sheep farmer."  What?  I was just glad that he didn't ask me about my outfit!
I loved, loved, loved being at my sister's house.  It was a beautiful little neighborhood, with lots of young families.  Sue & Doug had 3 little boys and there was always activity of one sort or another.  The boys kept me entertained with their hilarious personalities.  I believe her son, Matt, was 3 or 4 at the time.  One time in the car, he asked his mom:  "Mom, how do you spell relief?"  I was expecting to hear the Rolaids commercial, and then little Matt said, "G-A-S!"  (Uproarious laughter followed.)  I was living in such a different world.  I was away from all the eyes watching to make sure I didn't step out of line.  I took off the clothes I came in and wore my sister's pants.  I wish that I could say I was fearless doing this, but that would be a lie.  Even though I dressed like the rest of society now, part of me hoped and prayed that I wouldn't die in those clothes.  For surely, if I did, God would send me straight to hell.
I have wonderful memories from that time.  My sister and her husband were so kind to me.  Sue took me to Philadelphia to visit her inlaws and to see the sites.  They took me to dinner at a fabulous restaurant downtown.  We ate on the 26th floor.  I felt like I was on top of the world.
One evening, Doug broke out his motorcycle and took me on a ride in the incredibly beautiful hills of  upstate New York.  I recall that it felt surreal.  I wanted to embrace this new way of life, the wind blowing in my face, the sun setting over the gorgeous rolling hills.  But, there was that part of me that kept nagging that this was not right.  The turmoil in my soul was immense.  I tried to ignore it.  Before we headed back home, Doug stopped somewhere and bought me a drink.  Looking back now, I laugh.  I wonder what we talked about.  He had always been my favorite brother in law of the two I had.  I had absolutely no idea what to order.  So, Doug ordered me a Singapore Sling.  I'm pretty sure I haven't had one since.  I might just have to give that a shot again after all these years.
And, this is where it gets difficult to write.  Tears begin to fall.  Soft sobs become a little more than soft.  I remember exactly where I was standing when the phone rang in Sue's house.  It was my Dad! He told Sue that he had gone to the Thompson's house to use their phone so that Mom wouldn't know he was calling.  He wanted to talk to me.  Sue handed me the phone.  I don't remember much of the conversation.  What I do remember is this:  "Sis, you take as much time as you need back there.  There's no need to rush back."  I listened and I agreed.  After hanging up, I really believed that I could do that.  I even thought that I could learn to live back there.  There would be so many opportunities.  I knew that Sue & Doug would help me any way they could.  I was on the verge.  (I honestly cannot remember if I got any correspondence from my mom while I was in Endicott.  It is hard to imagine that she would have passed up the opportunity to warn me of the dangers to my soul.)
I was so close to deciding to stay.  It felt a little rebellious, and that felt good! 
From Billy Joel's  'Goodnight, My Angel':
"Goodnight my angel, now it's time to dream
And dream how wonderful your life will be
Someday your child may cry, and if you sing this lullaby
Then in your heart there will always be a part of me
Someday we'll all be gone
But lullabies go on and on
They never die
That's how you and I will be."
 My Dad was never overly sentimental or verbose.  But, I can imagine those words coming through to his little girl in New York that day.
And, then, the phone at Sue's house rang again, a different day.  Remember the friend who had persuaded me to enter the convent in the first place?  It was her mother.  A full-fledged believer of all things schuckardt, she was on a mission.  I have no doubt that numerous minds got together and decided that she should be the one to call me.  I really liked this woman and valued her advice. Again, I don't remember the exact conversation, just the theme.  And it was this:  You absolutely cannot stay back there.  You have to get back out here, or you WILL lose your soul in that environment.  In THAT moment, a switch flipped.  I went straight into mind-control-mode.  I had an urgency.  I had to get back to Coeur d'Alene.  My poor sister.  She just did not understand.  How could she?  I was completely unreasonable.  I had to go!  She reminded me of Dad's call.  She assured me she would be there for me. There were some angry words.  There were a lot of tears.  In the end, she drove me to catch a flight to California.  There, I would join my friend, Lucy and her family, and then return to Idaho. 
I have no words to express the guilt I felt for years for asking for help from Sue, then turning around and going back.  I understand it now.  I know that is how destructive cults work.  She had exposed me to the real world.  It wasn't as scary as I had been told.  She loved me more than I knew.  But,in the end, her love and support were no match for the hold of the cult and the tremendous fear of losing my soul. 
Sue had every John Denver album there was, and I really loved his music and the words resonated with what I wanted but was afraid to pursue.  I will close with just a few from his song, It's Up To You:  "
You can do whatever you want to do
Wherever you want to go it's up to you
And wouldn't it be fine
Following your heart, playing your own part."
Yes, it would have been fine.  It would have been fine.


  1. -wow- What can anyone else - especially those who never had to "live" that - say, Francie?

  2. From my sister, Sue:
    I don't need to tell you, but I will, that you're very precious to me. We absolutely loved, loved having you with us. I remember in 1967, when the horror (as I saw it) was just beginning, that Doug and I told you that if you EVER needed us, we would take you in. I was so gratified that you called when you needed me. I only wish I could have been more understanding (I say "more", but the truth is I didn't understand at all), but I didn't comprehend how powerful was the cult's hold on you. It was with great sadness that I let you go.
    Remember when I used to come home from Penn, and when you’d meet me at the train station we’d all be laughing and crying and jumping around hugging each other? Those days were just gone; you and Aggie were still so happy to see me, but it seemed like the joy had just been sucked out of the place. I didn’t even want to bring the kids to Montana anymore, dreading what might happen. I was even afraid that my kids might be spirited off to C d’A, or that if one of them fell ill on Mom’s watch she might just “baptize” him and not get medical care.
    So, in the years since schuckhard’s destruction had been set in motion (1967-1976), I had suffered my own trek through disillusionment, anger, sadness, confusion, and loneliness. That’s a long time, and it wasn’t over yet – that would take many, many more years. I just could not get over what had happened in my childhood family. Mom falling victim to the wiles of this charlatan, Dad and Rudy alone on the farm, my precious little sisters trapped in the snares of this strange “church”, the frightening letters I was getting from Janet, my deep estrangement from everyone (of my own doing; it was my only defense), not to mention the angst that this had thrown PeeWee into as her young family was torn apart.
    Talk about being “lost and alone” – yes, I had Doug and my three darling little boys, and I loved our home and neighborhood, and I had so many good friends, but that piece of my heart that had held my childhood family so dear had become so heavy with sadness. So it was with wonder and gratitude that I welcomed you into my home, and, as I said, with great sadness that I saw you leave.
    I know that I can never peacefully come to terms with the devastation that schuckhardt visited upon our family – I can only accept that it did happen. I still feel lost and alone from time to time, though.
    And along the way I lost the faith.

  3. Sweet Francie, while I can't feel "your" pain, I can definitely relate! I am grateful for you releasing all this stuff through this medium. You are inspiring others to move through difficulties and on with their lives too! I remember going back to CA and wearing a "short skirt" (just below the knee) and being terrified I'd encounter a nun in the grocery store or such! Your sister Sue is a sweetheart too...being so strong and supportive in spite of all the insanity! Keep your head high. You've come a long way Baby! Much Love ~

  4. Tears are flowing through my heart and down my cheeks. I love you so much Frister.