The Thanks Series #2: Cult Orphans

This post is being published today (not Sunday) because there was some needed tweaking happening on my website. All is well (as you can see), so here’s the post.

1. Xavier Timothy Feldman. I called him Tim as we grew up together in the Foundation (cult), but he goes by Xavier or X now. He’s in the army now as well. X was pretty much my best friend growing up. We played strategy games together all the time– he pretty much schooled me every time, and he introduced me to D&D and, well, fantasy books. I kid you not; X got me started on fantasy and scifi. For that alone, I must thank him, because that has been a huge and very positive part of my life.

But also, X was always a generous friend. Laid-back, kind, and giving of himself and his resources. I never appreciated his friendship enough, and never said ‘thank you’ to him as far as I can remember. So he was a good friend– and I don’t know if I was the same to him, but I doubt it.

X and I were apartment-mates for a while in Kanab. He ended up opening the door for the missionaries to start visiting us. Sure, I didn’t accept what they had to say at the time, but they set out a path that I was directed to on a very important and fateful evening. In fact, X is always included in the story I tell about that evening. I got home that night and was startled to see him hunched over (he is very tall) the Book of Mormon. Due directly to our ensuing conversation, I went outside and learned with certainty that God lives.

X, thank you. You were part of my life when I most needed a friend like you. I got burned out on being destroyed in Axis & Allies, but I learned humility and to keep trying. I am sorry I couldn’t make it to your wedding. Money and distance are reasons, but they’re not an excuse for my not staying in closer touch. That day we got baptized– Dec. 26th, 1994, shines brightly in my memory, and you are there too. Thank you for giving me an escape. And the 5000 lines? I’ll never forget them.

2. Mark Ebbs. Dude. You were also my best friend, and sometimes hated enemy. The enemy mostly because you were so good at slipping out of getting in trouble- and you took a lot of joy in seeing the rest of us in trouble. You showed me fearlessness and got me out and exploring. We did all kinds of things, some of them criminal, some of them just odd, and most of them boundary-pushing for me.

You taught me to drive a stick shift. You survived my first attempt at driving that Toyota on the highway just outside of Faith Canyon– although that was a close one. Your focus on doing whatever you felt inclined to do at the moment provided me with moments where I could examine what I felt was right and wrong. Those were valuable times. You were also a generous friend and were free with your time and goodness. Thanks for your support when the Scottish Chick showed up in Faith Canyon and things went south so fast.

One day I will thank you for one of the more difficult fires I’ve had to go through in my personal refinement process. I’m not ready to do that yet. I will be able to be thankful for my struggles, though, one day.

For now, thank you for being by my side in the Foundation. I love you and have a lot of respect for you.

3. Asta Battista. Why did you always seem so mature? You and I ended up going to a lot of the same schools and living in many of the same branches of the Foundation. Why do I single you out to thank you? Because as I grew up a little, you and Vanessa and I became closer friends than I imagined we could. When you and I were in our middle teens, we spent many Sunday mornings having a breakfast picnic near a pond populated by aggressive swans. You, Vanessa, and I had conversations that I still remember. I don’t remember the words, but I remember the feeling of being able to unload and feel close to someone.

So thank you for the Mission soundtrack. Thank you for memories of scaring off swans by swinging a blanket in noisy circles. Thank you for Sunday mornings on bicycles and for standing out in my memory as a firmly planted stone that I could grab onto if I needed to. Thank you for your continuing friendship and your matter-of-fact way of dealing with the world. I love your ability to find happiness in every moment.

4. Vanessa Smith. Thank you for much of what I thank Asta for. But thank you also for pushing the envelope when we were younger. I still think your Sinead hairdo was better on you than on Ms. O’Connor. Thank you for, from a very young age, being determined to chart your own path through life. Your talent with and love of the guitar and music has always astounded me.

I admit to having a fleeting crush on you when we were in Dallas. That lasted a very short time, because you were basically my sister– and yeah, that’d just be weird. I want to specifically thank you for needing my friendship and help. I loved being able to be there for you when you were worried or needed some encouragement or calming words. I hope I was a good friend to you.

Today, I thank you for all the good times in our childhood and for the courage and integrity you live your life with now.

5. Keith (Adam) Coale. Thank you for showing me that I can grow up and forgive. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to let bygones fade and allow real mutual friendship and respect to grow. You teased me– and plenty of others– relentlessly. I know today why that happened, more or less, and that is an important opportunity for me to understand humanity and see people as more than just my single impression of them.

I want to thank you sincerely for giving me so much crap. It was undeserved and it made me very upset. I hated you for a long time, but you were also a very good guy and were free with your support and friendship when I needed it as the Foundation was dissolving. You also helped me deal with the Scottish Chick in a mature way.

And I have to thank you for exposing me to so much varied music. Your disregard for the idiotic rules of the Dallas branch was an inspiration to me as well.

6. David Maloney. You seemed to have perfected, like Matthias, the ability to let things slide off you, even as you went about life on your terms. I perceived that from a young teenager’s perspective and really respected it. I remember several days wherein you led me and one or two others my age in pulling endless weeds from the lake near the Lake House at Angel Canyon. Your attitude and underlying good humor and kindness made a strong impression.

I respect how you’ve lived your life. I thank you for showing me that there are plenty of paths out there and nothing really ought to stop us from living life how we determine. I thank you for being a friend to Daniel and would love to sit with you some time to hear what you remember of him.

7. Bart Battista. You and your twin, Asa, became my closest friends as the older boys moved on from Dallas to the different branches of the Foundation. I loved being able to go up to your room in the attic and watch movies and essentially be away from the Foundation for a while. I know we were friends because of physical proximity at the house on Dickason, but I felt a genuine liking for you two.

Bart, specifically, you have been a friend even after the Foundation. Spending time with you in Japan was a blast. It was deeply satisfying to spend the time we did, knowing that we had a shared experience from our childhood, but had both moved forward and had found our own paths. I’m still sorry about your car and our home’s evil driveway.

But you sing some good Sinatra.

8. Asa Battista. I haven’t been able to see much of you since the Foundation, but I have the same feelings of friendship and camaraderie with you as I do with Bart. I have to say that you and he were very influential in my mastering the physical. We lifted weights endlessly together and loved martial arts and those times are very important to me. We ranted at length, and I think that if we’d had the power to call down lightning on the Dallas branch, there wouldn’t have been much left of that place.

That shared experience was an important part of my teenage years. Thank you, Asa.

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That’s all for today. Have you thought about people from your childhood and noticed how your shared experiences have influenced you? Can you trace your love of a certain music genre or band to an experience with a friend? Have you thanked that friend?

About jaredgarrett

Jared Garrett is the author of Beat, a YA scifi thriller, and its forthcoming sequel, both published by Future House Publishing. A new series, debuting in January 2016 and also published by Future House, kicks off with Lakhoni, a fast-paced rescue adventure in a world reminiscent of Aztec culture, to be released in January 2016. He self-published Beyond the Cabin, a novelization of his childhood in a cult, in December 2014. Both Beat and Beyond the Cabin were Whitney Award nominees, and his story Song of the Wind, received honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest. In addition to writing, he's spent fifteen years in adult education and is an accomplished public speaker and workshop leader.
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