Running From the Mormons
They had me pinned to the bed, discussing where the sacred ointment was hidden so Earl could use his priesthood powers to bless the evil spirits out of me.
It was Monday night, the once a week time-slot designated by the Mormon Church as family night.
My friends’ families used the night to go bowling together or get some ice cream. Our time was always spent in the living room, listening to some church lesson Mom or Earl prepared from the Family Home Evening lesson book.
The evening’s topic was obeying and respecting your parents and Earl, the jobless motorcycle mechanic who had wormed his way into Mom’s life, had taken over. He held court on the juice-stained green couch the church had donated to us, quoting from the large lesson book spread open across his stubby thighs.
“Thou Shall Obey Thy Father and Mother,” he read, glancing around at all of us for effect.
I had become an expert at zoning out. I usually tried to revert into my daydream mode – the one where the Osmonds figured out they were missing a kid and had come to rescue me. But on this particular evening, I was too distracted to conjure up new family fantasies so I found a speck on the wall just above Earl’s head and focused my attention there. It was amazing how many different shapes a speck could take on if you stared at it long enough.
After a few minutes, Earl’s drone stopped and I heard Mom’s voice breaking in.
“Ingrid, are you listening to me? I said we are going to start Father/Daughter talks!”
Her words felt like needles pricking my skin.
“Earl has decided to implement one-on-one talks with all of you kids,” she continued. “I think it’s a great idea. We need to start changing things around here.”
I looked at her in disgust, fighting the urge to walk over and slug her.
Earl stayed seated by her side on the green couch, not speaking, just nodding his head in agreement. Every time he moved his head downward in a nodding motion, I could see flecks of dandruff caught in his greasy matt of black hair.
“We’re going to do these on a weekly basis,” Mom continued. “Ingrid, we’ve decided to start with you.”
Of course they would start with me. I glanced over at Connie and Heidi, who didn’t even try to hide their relief. I wanted to punch them both to wipe the smirks off their faces. My brothers snuggled next to Mom, free of the nightmare that awaited my sisters and me.
“Come on, Ingrid. Let’s go.”
I tried to get myself back into my zone-out state as I followed Mom and Earl into their bedroom, but my heart was pounding too hard to relax. Just the thought of being in such a close proximity of Earl made me want to throw up. Mom’s bedroom was tiny and between the double bed and the dresser, there was only about two feet of moving room.
I took a seat on Mom’s bed and glared at her and Earl. They both leaned up against the dresser in front of me.
“First of all, I would like you to address me as `Father’,” Earl started out. “Father is a respectable name and I deserve it.”
It was the same demand he had been making since he had married Mom the year before. I felt a switch flip in my head.
“You are not my DAD!” I snarled. “You’re Mom’s husband. That’s all!”
Earl turned to Mom. “Tell her to stop talking to me that way!” he barked.
Mom grabbed my arm. I tried to shake her off but she was digging in hard with her fingers.
“Ingrid! Stop it right now!”
“Just get away from me! Both of you!”
I thrashed around, trying to break free from her grasp. Then Earl grabbed me, pushed me backward and helped Mom pin me to their bed.
“Ingrid, listen to me,” Mom said, her voice suddenly filled with concern. “I think you have Satan inside of you. Earl’s going to give you a blessing.”
They had me pinned to the bed, discussing where the sacred ointment was hidden so Earl could use his priesthood powers to bless the evil spirits out of me. Their voices became a muffled jumble around me. My head was pounding and I could hear a single word repeating itself in my mind: Escape.
Earl relaxed his hold. It was all I needed. I kicked him in the stomach, wrestled free from Mom and ran from the room. I reached the front door, slammed it behind me and started running.
This is an excerpt from my forthcoming memoir, HIPPIE BOY. It's a story about a feisty teenage girl who escapes her abusive Mormon stepfather by joining her dad on the road as a tool-selling vagabond -- until his arrest forces her to take charge of her life.