The Thanks Series #7: Nice Cult Adults

Many of the people who joined the Foundation, or the Process, or whatever manifestation the cult was in at the time, were really very good people. They will always be individually responsible for whatever crap they wrought, but I feel like I ought to point out the people who were genuinely good people. These folks tended to behave like human beings, in spite of the ridiculously negative environment we lived in for much of the time.

This is not a comprehensive list of the nice cult adults, so you can expect another some other time.

1. Jonathan (Streett) Coale. Jonathan was a pillar in the Dallas branch. I imagine he wasn’t much good at funding (soliciting money in public places), so he ended up being the main custodian of Dixie, which is what we called the big house on Dickason where the boys lived.

To be as clear as possible, I ought to say that girls and boys lived in the same houses for much of our early childhood. In Dallas, things started out like that: older boys and girls lived in the house on Dickason, Dixie, and younger boys and girls lived in the houses on Swiss (we called those houses, oddly enough, ‘Swiss’). When I first lived in Dallas (when I was around 7-8 or 9) I shared rooms with other kids in the houses on Swiss. Later, after a near two-year stint in Colorado, I started out in a house on Swiss. Within a year or so, I was moved to Dixie, while there were still plenty of girls there. Six boys shared a medium-sized room on the ground floor. Three bunkbeds enabled some tight crowding! I don’t recall how much later the gender division happened. I was sad when it did, because I felt like Robin shielded me from the teasing that came from some of the older boys.

Jonathan was always, as far as I know, the custodian of Dixie and the people who lived there. He had a nice room on the ground floor and had an ancient German Shepherd named, I think, Mullah. Odd name? Just remember that Lucia had a black cat named Waffen.

Anyway, Jonathan was a silver-haired, strict gentleman with a sometimes surprisingly foul and wonderful sense of humor. I remember noticing the ridge on his nose on which his heavy-looking glasses rested. I imagine that he must have done a lot more for us boys than I ever noticed. We always had clothes, shoes and relatively fresh food. We had multiple rotas and shifts and chores which kept that house in good shape and kept us fed. With 11 or so boys, what Jonathan did logistically is remarkable. But what is most important is that Dixie felt like a haven to me, and maybe even the other boys. It felt like our territory and that we were mostly in control of our time spent there.

He was very hands-off. I and the other boys roamed far and wide in the area of Turtle Creek Boulevard and Lemon Avenue. We went to Half Price Books, Eckard, Tom Thumb and later Safeway, and the library. We transformed the garage into an exercise room, with weights and punching bags. We used the parking area for basketball and the parking lot over the fence for extreme four-square.

Through it all, I knew I could depend on Jonathan to be an adult and strict. But I also felt that he sincerely cared about us, particularly as years went by. He taught me some French and failed at teaching me Algebra, but I remember him fondly, despite the other garbage that went on in Dallas.

Finally, I don’t know how creative the grades he sent along on my Faith School transcript were, but they helped me graduate #2 at Kanab High School. I would love to get back in touch with him, but I can’t find him on Facebook.

2. Bridget Lester. Bridget had a huge influence on me. She took over teaching my grade at some point; I don’t remember when exactly, and was a remarkable teacher. She took her job seriously and I actually have very positive memories of classes spent creating skits based on historical events and other fun times. Looking back, I never appreciated her nearly enough, and I must hereby thank her for her genuine concern and her investment in our educational success.

She’s also the only one who followed through on what values were preached by the Foundation. She found me reading Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel when I was about fifteen or sixteen and told me that she didn’t think it was appropriate for me. No other person paid any kind of attention to what I read, so this interaction sticks with me. Granted, I completely ignored her advice and read the entire series.

I was fifteen and had my mind exactly where you would expect it to be.

3. Bethany. Bethany (Patricia) cut my hair regularly. She did it for many years, and during those haircuts, we would chat about all kinds of things. Today, I have the impression that she saw those moments as valuable teaching time, and I have to appreciate her concern for me during my teen years. She tried to influence my music choices and was great at listening. She was still an adult, so I wouldn’t open up to her about the things that really bothered me. But these interactions will always be remembered.

Plus, I think it was with her that I participated in a fun April Fool’s prank in Quakertown. I typically helped her in the kitchen and we made dinner, but put out a bunch of empty pots and dishes for April Fool’s. It was a fun joke.

4. Joanna. I think there were two Joannas through the years, and both of them were sweet ladies, but the one I want to mention was the very short, roundish one. It’s hard to write about her, because I really don’t know why she was so good to me. I was not a friendly young lad and I could be quite a jerk. But I also gave good shoulder rubs and was always happy to do so. She was very appreciative of those.

In any case, Joanna seemed to have a soft spot for me. I don’t know why. I’d love to find out some day. I do know that she followed me out of Daniel’s memorial service and asked if I was doing okay. I was standing at the back door of the building where we had our religious events in Dallas, staring through the glass at the messy back of the lot. She approached and asked if I was okay. I said yes.

She was very human and very close to a mother in those minutes. She knew exactly what I needed and she reached out and held me tightly to her. I actually get a little moist-eyed when I think of the love I felt from her in that moment. The wall I’d been building in my heart to hold back my angry grief ripped open and I cried pretty hard on her shoulder. I thank Joanna for her shoulder, for the love I felt from her. I thank her for always having time to talk and share a kind word.

5. Nicole. Nicole is Ananda and Alicia’s mother. They are two of my dearest friends from the Foundation, not only because they have both found the faith that I found when I was 18. I always thought that Nicole was just one of the other adults. But looking back, I easily respect her fierce protection of her daughters. She always had her daughters’ best interests at heart and she obviously did a lot to make sure they were as happy as possible in the miasmic negativity that permeated the Dallas branch.

I picked a fight with her once in the family room/dining area of the main house on Chattington in north Dallas (late in the life of the Dallas branch, probably in 1991). She asked me not to spend time alone with Ananda and Alicia, which she was right to do. I was 17 and her daughters were young. I got a kick out of playing with them, though, and my intentions were innocent. But Nicole was right.

I faced up to Nicole, stayed calm, and pulled every button pushing trick I had out of my hat. I got to her and she got very steamed at me. I still see this as a defining moment in my life– helping me see that I can stay in control of my emotions and thus in control of situations. But I was also being a punk. So I thank Nicole for her maternal example and apologize for my being a punk.

Also, Ananda and Alicia are strong, intelligent, hard-working, clear-headed women with lovely families and a powerful faith. Good job, Nicole.

6. Evan/Corwin. Corwin was a tall, lanky Canadian man who was happy, fun, slightly irreverent and who wore his heart on his sleeve. He was a man’s man and Lucia didn’t like that. We boys loved his humor, strength and friendliness. Lucia made him change his name to Evan, and I think it was because she wanted him to be less manly.

Evan, as he then became, was still hilarious. He was fearless and would goof off in skits in ridiculous ways. But he didn’t belong in the Foundation and I am not surprised he ended up leaving. I thank him for being himself inasmuch as he could.

7. John Vermullen. John Vermullen told me I had a good singing voice. He lived with us in the new house on El Santo in North Dallas. He was into music and wound up teaching us older kids choir music. I learned to sing from him, at least somewhat. He was so passionate about music, and so talented. He ended up being an assistant caretaker of the boys.

I remember once when we were going through a drive through for cones or something, John apparently found the drive through girl cute. He flirted with her like crazy, even singing a song to her. I think he didn’t quite realize what he’d done with his life by joining the Foundation. I thank John for showing me how NOT to flirt, but also for being a breath of fresh air and for bringing a bit of the world into our lives.

8. Hope. For most of my life, Hope was an eccentric British hippie who had countless dogs and lived in a trailer near the cats’ area of Best Friends. One of her dogs hated me quite profoundly and took every opportunity to try and bite me. But somewhere around the time that the Dallas branch foundered, Hope had begun working at the thrift shop in Kanab, called Best Friends Thrift Store, that Michael Mountain had opened. When I showed up in Kanab, she took me in, for no reason that I can come up with.

Apparently Michael had made quite an impression on a group of young people and they hung out at the thrift store fairly often. When Hope took over, they still hung out there, and they also became my friends when I arrived. Hope eventually let me work at the store, and I essentially ended up managing the place for nearly a year.

Hope was a riot. She was always making off-the-wall comments and was so permissive that I couldn’t believe she’d spent so many years in the Foundation.

I don’t know what happened to her. I have heard she was drummed out of the group and that she ended up in New Orleans, but I don’t know if that’s true. I think she came to my graduation before all of that happened, though. I thank her for easing my transition into the world and giving me a place to use as an anchor for friendships and good times.

Actually, my first kiss happened in the Best Friends Store. I also played lots of D&D in the back of that store and did a lot of boxing training in the basement.

My mother had converted the store to a very nice cafe by the time I returned from Brazil, but that’s another story.

9. Jana. Jana is X, or Timothy’s, mother. Nothing could move her from her course of being a mother to anyone she came in contact with. Her smiles and concern were never feigned. I always felt totally real when I was talking to her. For a lot of years, I questioned her sincerity, but when I got control of my cynicism, I realized that she, at her core, is sweet and thoughtful and loving and good. Her hugs were generous and her confidence in me was always appreciated.

I mourn with her the loss of her husband several years ago.

10. Damon. Damon is X, or Timothy’s, father. Yep, he has great parents and that shows through in his genuine goodness. Damon seemed so completely out of place in the Foundation. He listened to amazing music; I still thank him for turning me onto Warren Zevon. He threw knives as a hobby. He had his own little world in his trailer. He was stern and kind and funny. He had the single. best. dog. that ever lived. Amra, a huge and magical Alaskan Malamute. Amra means lion, and this dog was nearly the size of one.

Damon was a real person, a man, a sincere individual. I thank him for being an example of staying true to oneself.

And that’s my list for this set.

Now I have a question. The next set in this series is going to be a lot harder to write. I don’t want to write it out of bitterness, but it is called: They Did Me Wrong. I want to thank people for the rotten things they did that helped me learn some important life lessons. I don’t think I’ll be writing bitterly, but I am not sure if I ought to include names.

For example, I once got pretty seriously beat up. I learned an important lesson from that experience which has become a good thing, but I don’t know if I ought to say who did it. What do you think? Your input, please?

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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