Are we ready to start?
Okay. Well, first I want to start by saying, your mom is easily seduced by things. And one time when we were married, we got this thing in the mail that said, you have won a grandfather's clock if you go look at this timeshare thing. And so, I always threw things like that away, but Nelli got it out of the waste thing, and she says, “Look, we should go here. We won a grandfather's clock”. And I said, “Nelli, it’s a fraud! That’s just how they get you there; you don't really win a grandfather's clock.” She goes, “Look, they…they have to give us a grandfather's clock.” So we went to this timeshare thing and it was in Sturbridge Village, and they were all like, high-powered salespeople trying to make you buy these things so you can have a vacation retreat whenever you want. And I'm like, oh my god, this is awful. And I'm looking around at all these people, and they all look miserable, and finally, at the end, Nelli says, “We should do this!” So she was like that. She was easily duped by, you know, high-pressure sales talk.
So, anyway. The story is that Nelli got involved with this thing called dowsing and did you know what dowsing was all about?
Like the pendulum swinging over things?
She got involved through Linda Greene, right? Or before?
Through Mary Kett. Mary Kett was a friend of hers, a macrobiotic friend who she made a connection with. And I didn’t think too much of it. People get into weird things, and Nelli was always having psychics come over and telling her about past lives and things like that. It's all craziness to me, but it doesn't hurt anything, so when she got involved in this dowsing, I didn't think too much of it. I… I just thought it was just a phase she was going through. But, she would do it for hours, just staring at the pendulum and waving the pendulum over all these things. And then she would take all these numbers, and she would put them in these Stars of David, and somehow that was destroying the evil energies of the universe. Or, if we went and bought food and it had a barcode, the barcode was some sort of evil energy that she had to eliminate before she could eat the food. You know, it was weird stuff like that. I thought, okay, it’s weird, it doesn't hurt anything.
So she got really into this to the extent where it became like, very, very, very important, and she decided she wanted to go to Oklahoma. And, I was against it. I said, “No, you can’t go to Oklahoma. The kids are going to be going to school!” And she goes: “Look, I only want to stay five days.” And finally, I gave in. “Okay, if this is important to you, you know, five days is alright.” So she took off. And I noticed she took all of the kids' clothing with her, and I thought, “that’s odd; why would you need all the kids' clothing for five days?”
She took us, the kids, with her?
Yeah, she took you and Leila with her, ‘cause I had to work, and normally she was a stay-at-home mom. So, after five days I didn't get a phone call. I'm like, what's going on, you know? I'm feeling kind of weird. I mean, what's happening? So, I call up directory assistance and found a number in Guthrie, Oklahoma, where you guys were, and I called up, and I said, “Nelli, what's happening? I haven't heard from you. It’s been five days. What's happening? I… I don't know what's going on!” Finally, she called me back, and she goes “I'm not staying for five days.” I go, “What are you talking about?” She goes, “I’m staying for a month.” I said, “But the kids are in school!” She goes, “This is very important to me, Jon. I need to stay for a month,” and I'm like… I didn’t know what to do, you know? I’m scared. I'm like, what's going on here? And so I thought, okay, a month. I'll give you a month, and you can figure this thing out if it’s important to you.
And so I'm waiting and waiting, and a month goes by and no phone calls. Finally, I’m like, frantic. I’m like, I don’t know what’s going on, you know, the schools are already started. I had to pay money for this, you know, and I… So I called her and I said… Oh! Finally, she calls me, I think I call her and just get an answering machine, and finally, she calls me. She goes, “I’m not coming back.” I said, “What are you talking about?” She goes, “Jon, this is really, really important to me, and I’m not coming back.” And I’m like, what? It was so weird! I said, “Look, Nelli,” I said. “It’s okay to find yourself and discover yourself, but the kids should be here. They should be home.” And she goes, “No, the kids should be with me. I’m their mom.” I said, “Well, Nelli, that's not right, you know? I'm… I mean, if you're going to be that way, I'm going to have to get the kids.” And she hung up on me.
And so, after she hung up, I didn’t know what to do. So I talked to—there's a client that we worked with who was a lawyer, and I said, you know, “What am I going to do? This is my situation, and she's acting really weird. I'm scared.” So, she goes, “Well, let's try to scare her with some legalese,” you know? So the lawyer wrote a letter that said, if you don't send the kids home, we’re going to have to take this legal action, blah blah blah blah blah blah, just to maybe scare her, so into sending you guys home. But even before that letter got sent, the cops came to my door with a subpoena that I was being sued for separation and child support. So I was like, really, really shocked. And I realized I'm going to have to take drastic measures here. So I got a hold of a lawyer, you know, and I had to go through the whole legal system to try to get custody of you kids. And so then, my court date was in Guthrie, Oklahoma—where you were—about the separation and child support. So I had to get tickets, and I had to fly out to Oklahoma, and luckily my sister Claire went with me, ‘cause I was in really…a bad shape. So, my lawyer here in Boston had contacted a lawyer—a really good lawyer—in Oklahoma. So he was representing me, and so when I got to Oklahoma, we…we contacted the police department, and they took… They took both you and Leila to some sort of facility, and I don't know what it was. It wasn't a home; it was a big police facility, and…and held you there for a couple days. I don't know if you remember that or not.
I don’t remember that…
Yeah. So then the whole trial proceeding went on, and it went on for two days, and I had all these teachings of Linda Greene that I was representing and Nelli had a really bad lawyer ‘cause I think the lawyer she got was only for sending the subpoena for child support and separation. So, it was awful, you know? I… I couldn't sleep, my sister and I were staying in a hotel room, you know? It was just really, really bad. And then, in court, it’s like back and forth. And I was accused of molesting you kids, you know. Nelli accused me of that. I think out of desperation because she realized that she may lose you.
And it went on, and on, and on, and finally, the judge said that I have custody of the kids. It was a path that I was scared of because I didn't know what to do, you know? It's like all of a sudden, I was a single parent. So, my sister and I got plane tickets to fly back to Boston. Oh, and luckily before I had come, I had taken our joint checking account and changed it to just my name, ‘cause I thought, you know, that if she transfers money out of that, she could wipe me out. So I got you kids, and we went home, got home, and the minute I got home, I saw that the house had been broken into, and our car was gone.
Yeah, and what had happened was that Nelli and another member had gotten a red-eye flight and beat me home. And when she went to the bank to try to empty out the bank account, she couldn't do that, but she took the car instead and whatever she could find in the house. So it was doubly shocking to me, you know and…and I called the police, and at first I was going to have her arrested for theft— The car belonged to both of us, you know? And she had no right to take the car. But I couldn't do that. So finally I thought, okay, you know, let her have the car, I got the kids. This is so crazy. I'm not going to put her in jail at this point, you know?
So, then I had to figure out what to do with you guys, you know? Leila was at the Waldorf School, and I couldn't afford that, so I had to cancel that and put her into public school in Somerville, and I had to put you in daycare. It was like I had to come home and figure out what to do because I was working. So you went into daycare, and Leila went into public school, and we didn't hear anything from your mom. And, Leila would say, “Maybe mom's dead.” And I go, “Leila, don't talk like that, your mom's coming back. We don't know when but she's coming back.” I think you were… You were upset, but you were just a boy, you know? You were mad at things, you know, you were angry, but…but after a while, you were having a good time at this daycare. You…you were with kids your age and you were having fun and playing and you were doing artwork and so I was adjusting.
And you know it was like it…it was hard on me, but I like… Okay, you know, I would get up early and drop you guys off at preschool. Leila had preschool daycare, and you had Caleb's Corner. So I’d go to work, and then I’d come home at 3:30, and I would pick up you kids, and we would go do the food thing, and we had treat days where we went to Burger King and Papa Gino’s, or whatever it was. And then we started getting letters from your mom, and they were addressed from Spain. And I knew she wasn’t in Spain, and I happened to have some numbers of the former people that used to live in Guthrie, Oklahoma, and the Samaritan. And one of the guys says, “Yeah, that's my ex-wife. You know they're sending letters to my ex-wife and then she’s sending them from Spain. It's…it’s like a big ruse.”
Just so you couldn’t find her?
Yeah. At…at one point, they sent some clothing, and it was all polyester. It was all American clothing that supposedly sent from Spain. And I go, there's no way Nelli would ever send stuff like that. She was all, like, natural cotton and stuff like that. And so that went on for a while. I’d get letters, and I'd write letters back, but I would—probably you found some of them in that stuff—I wouldn't write them in envelopes, I’d write them as, like postcards, so they had to be read. I don't know whether they were read or not, you know. I was just so upset and angry. It was like a way for me to cope with these weird letters we were getting. And so, you know, I…I waited. I thought, okay, I'm going to wait for a year, and I thought maybe she's going to come to her senses and come back, you know? I would send pictures of you kids to her, and they would come back to me. Someone said that I should do that in order to—
Break her out?
—Yeah, break her out of the mode. Nothing happened, nothing happened and finally, she said… Finally, I think I got a phone call from her, and she said that she's with somebody else now. And it really upset me because I'd been waiting for so long, and I thought, okay, I'm going to have to file for divorce now. ‘Cause I… My goal was to be with the ashram. They had already moved to Portland, to…to here, and I was still in Boston, and even though I liked being in Boston, even though I liked all the people there and all the people I was working with, it’s like I…it’s almost like I couldn't live in that house anymore. It…it was like, too many memories. So I filed for divorce. No...didn’t hear from her, and life went on and finally I… I just wanted to make sure that you went through kindergarten before we moved here. And so you finished kindergarten and…and then I sold the house, and we packed up. Oh, and you know about Juanito dying, right?
On April Fool's Day?
Yeah, you know, Greg had come by, and he was talking with me, and Juanito was running around, and usually, I keep tabs on him, but he started chasing another dog, and then a car came by and killed him. You know, but I think it was grace because imagine us trying to travel with a dog. It was like he had to give up his life to make our life easier. And losing Juanito was almost like losing a child for me.
So then, I had all of Nelli’s artwork. Part of me wanted to throw it away and part of me, I couldn't do that to her. So I talked to Saad, her friend who lives in Cincinnati, and we made a deal, you know? I loaded up all her artwork, and after we sold the house and loaded you kids up and we packed up the truck and tarped it down, and we drove all the way to Cincinnati. Do you remember that?
Mmm mmm (no)
No? So we drove to Cincinnati, where Saad lives, and I gave him all of Nelli’s pottery and all her artwork. I couldn't get rid of it. I felt like that would really not be a good thing to do to somebody. ‘Cause I knew she was…I knew she was lost. I knew she’d been seduced and then... Actually, we went to my mom first, and then we went to see Saad, and then I gave him the truck and… and all the artwork, and then he dropped us off at the airport in Cincinnati, and we flew all the way out here to this house. And so life went on and then just… I think that we were here for two years, and finally, I got a phone call from your mom saying that she had come back to Boston and that she wanted to know where you guys were. And I said we're living in Portland, Oregon. So, your mom moved to Portland, Oregon, and she brought some presents with her, and one was a panda bear for you, I think.
And so, I finally talked to Nelli. And she says, “I want to come back and be a mom for these kids.” I said, “I don't mind you coming back,” I said, “but you can't do dowsing.” I said, “that’s like a drug.” And she was upset with me that I had said that to her. She says, “I’m not doing dowsing anymore.” I said okay, and...and everyone, you know, all my friends said don't let her come back. I mean, after what she did, don’t let her come back. And I couldn't do that, you know? I couldn't…couldn’t keep your mom from you.
And she came back, you know. I was trying to feel this thing out. And she’d come back as a devout Christian, which I was surprised ‘cause she never was that. I mean, both of us were raised Catholic, and I think she was probably more Christian than I was, you know. I rejected it from early on. And I thought that's odd. Well, I thought well…maybe that's her way of coping, you know? It’s better than getting involved in...in the dowsing thing. But then, you know, her whole purpose was to convert both you and Leila to Orthodox Christian. And I had a hard time with it, you know, I wrestled with it because one of the… One of the things that I didn't like was that you weren’t allowed to be called your own name, that, you know, somehow your name wasn’t Christian, and that you had to be called Romanos. And I said, “Nelli, I didn’t like that.” She goes, “Well, that’s a rule in our church.” And I go, “I'm sorry, I don't like that. You know we named him Rami, that's his name, and that's what we're going to call him.” And I didn’t like the fasting, you know, and I'm okay, you know if the kids… They have to decide for themselves. I could either fight this, or I could just let it go and leave it up to God. And it looks like you broke away from it, and Leila embraced it very strongly. And so after that, you know, it's like things were fairly smooth. Certainly, Nelli was very helpful in helping me raise the kids. It gave me a little more freedom and made, you know, it made my life…in a little bit more easy, and I guess that's the end of the story. Unless you have any questions?
Yeah, uh, well did you ever… talk about it?
She didn't want to talk about it. You know, when she first came back, she was upset with somehow that I was this ogre who had taken her children away from her. That I stormed in there and I had this lawyer, and she had a really stupid lawyer, and I took the children away. And I'm like, what could I do? You know? I said… It’s like all of a sudden, I was presented with options, and I had to choose one. And the one option that I had to choose was the scariest of all, you know?
It's funny, you know. When I… When I first joined the ashram, everyone thought we were a cult. And one of the guys was kidnapped by his parents, and we had to… We found out that he was being deprogrammed by this really incredible deprogrammer named Ted Patrick, or something like that. So, my…my teacher and I went to California to try to find him, ‘cause he’d happened to get a phone call out, and we were able to find out where he was. And so we had to even go to court to try to get him, and we…we didn’t succeed. Finally, he pretended that he was deprogrammed, so they let him out. And then, he came back.
Is he still a member?
Yeah, yeah, he’s still a member after forty years. But I mean, it’s like anything. If you do anything different, people are afraid.