Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Leaving Abnormal

I always knew there was something different, something wrong with my family. As far back as I can remember, I knew. Even as a child in first or second grade, I remember watching how other parents and their children interacted. Relatives, friends, neighbors; their families were warm and engaging. Other parents smiled and laughed and hugged their children. They helped them dress in the morning, made them breakfast, tucked them in at night. My parents were the opposite. They were remote and self-centered and preferred to yell, slap, spank, ridicule and belittle.

That's not to say that other kids didn't get in trouble. Of course they did. The difference was their fathers' lips didn't quiver from repressed rage when he reprimanded them. Over rambunctious childhood antics weren't something other fathers became enraged over. No, that was my father.

Pushing my father over the edge from mere annoyance to anger and finally rage was easy to do. Often times, we wouldn't even see it coming. In a split second, out of no where, it was there, sucking the air out of the room, making it impossible to catch your breath. And once it erupted, there was no going back, no escape.

In my early years, I was just a scared kid. I was afraid to cross my father in any way. I tried to be careful, tried to read him, tried to avoid his wrath. It was no easy task. He was like an injured cat. At the slightest touch or provocation, even inadvertently, he would strike out.

By the time I reached my teens, the ravages of puberty transformed my fear and anxiety into resentment and defiance. I became intimately acquainted with the 3-inch thick "John Brown" belt my father used as a disciplinary tool, but it never deterred me. My anger was bigger than the pain of a beating.

I think I was a junior in high school, around 16 or 17 years old. I don't remember what started it. I'm sure I stuck up for myself and sassed my father about something or other. It escalated quickly and in nothing flat his body was trembling, his knuckles were white and his voice quivered. He grabbed me hard by the arm and spun my body sideways and attempted to hit my rear end with the flat of his hand. But, as I struggled to get out of his grasp, the wallops mostly landed on the back of my legs or hips. "I'm getting the belt," he warned and left the family room headed toward his bedroom. I tried to steel myself during the minute he was gone.

He came back with the belt folded in half with the buckle and opposite end in his right hand. When I refused to bend over and accept my punishment willingly as he demanded, he grabbed my arm once again, threw me face down over the arm of a chair and held me in position with his left hand on my back and swung the belt over and over again. It felt like it lasted a long time. Finally, my mother stepped forward. "Earl, don't you think that's enough?"

He didn't respond, but always being one who must have the last word...or the last stroke... after two or three more stinging blows, he stopped, released his hand from my back and ordered me to my room. I obliged.

In my room, with the door closed, I wiped the tears from my face with my shirt. I backed up to the mirror over my vanity table. Bright red welts and a hand print from the "pre-beating" defaced the backs of my thighs below the hem of the shorts I was wearing. I pulled my shorts and panties down to assess the full extent of the beating. Not one centimeter of white, untouched skin was visible on the backs of my thighs and buttocks. I gently ran my hand over the welts, feeling the raised edges where the belt hit my skin. It stung like hell to the touch. I pulled my shorts all the way off, took my shirt and bra off, slipped into a nightgown and turned the light off. I crawled into my bed on my knees and settled down under the blanket on my side and quickly fell asleep.

The next morning, before I dressed for school, I again examined my backside. The redness and welts were replaced with blue, grey and red bruising. My skirt would cover it, but not my gym shorts, not to mention my complete nudity when I showered after gym class.

I gathered my books and folders and headed out the door to school. For the entire 20 minute walk to school, I was consumed with gym class, my last class of the day. How on earth was I going to keep this a secret?

{to be continued...}


altadenahiker said...

It never goes away, does it? Nor should it, and here's the reason: The person in power was preying on someone who was trapped and couldn't fight back. I can't think of anything lower. And here I'm particularly talking about the single-digit years.

Another thing: I think forgiveness is vastly over rated.

Terri said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you about forgiveness.