Life, Life Lessons, Mental Health, Psychology, Relationships
Life Lesson #1: Child Abuse is Never Okay!
“Don’t make me hit you!”
This story is about an incident that happened to me while I was growing up back in the 1950s.
Back then, parents weren’t as accommodating or patient as they are today. It was more like “Spare the rod, spoil the child” parenting.
Now, at first glance, many readers might tend to pass on reading this, thinking it is a story strictly about child abuse. They believe the stark headline tips them off. Not true of course, but if that’s your first impression, you “gotta” do you and I understand! If you want the full picture, you will have to read just a bit longer until I get completely through the entire story.
Abuse comes in a wide variety of actions, none of which are EVER acceptable.
The kitchen table stood between me and my father, a buffer against the wrath he wanted to display. I had seen that look several times before, and he was seriously intent on catching me. In the heat of an argument, Dad would seem composed, but his eyes always glistened with his anger. Today was no different!
There had been a time once before, when I was a 10-year-old, that he and Mom had cornered me as I came out of the bathroom. There was no escape. I was holding a bag of candy in my hand and I tried to quickly conceal it. I had, uh, “borrowed” fifty cents from the spare change drawer in their bedroom, without asking, to pay for the candy. Evidently, my parents saw it differently, because Dad queried me:
“Son, where did you get that bag of candy?” he asked.
“From the grocery store,” I replied. It was true, but it was a delay tactic.
“Uh Huh… How did you pay for it?” he asked again.
Busted! Now I was in for it!
“Umm, I borrowed fifty cents from the spare change drawer,” I said.
I figured it was better to man up to my mistake than lie about it. I had hoped they might make me do the dishes or pick weeds outside as my punishment, but that was not to be. I was about to learn a lesson the hard way.
Dad slid his belt from his trousers, grabbed my arm, and started whipping my ass vigorously. Finally, after about 15 lashes with his belt and what seemed like an eternity, Mom grabbed his arm and told him to stop, which, thankfully, he did.
He had literally beaten me until I couldn’t sit down. I had always heard that expression, but thought it was false. Dad proved it was real!
I was crying hard, trying to catch my breath between sobs while cowering in a corner, unable to gaze at him for fear he might start again. In the heat of that moment, I hated my father and my mother.
As he approached me now, seven years later, he again caught me in the kitchen. However, this time I had a kitchen table I could maneuver around. I wasn’t cornered! I would parry his steps toward me by simultaneously stepping back and away from him, step for step, much like a game of “Cat and Mouse”. He quickly tired of this dance, so he shouted “Stand still so I can hit you!”
My survival instinct told me to run as fast as I could. So, I told him “you didn’t raise any dummies” and, being athletically inclined, I bolted out the kitchen door faster than a jackrabbit rustled from the bushes!
I hurdled the chain-link fence in our backyard handily, my feet landing in the alley behind our house. I kept running, putting as much distance between me and him as I could in case he was chasing after me. Luckily, he wasn’t.
I hid out in a friend’s basement for the next three weeks, skipping school each day and not going to work at my school co-op job. Normally, I would get out of school at lunchtime each day so I could work at a local hotel, printing up their daily menus. Each day’s menu differed from the prior day. That was what had started this argument with Dad.
I got paid a decent wage for a teenage senior. Dad knew this and had asked me to loan him $20 so he could play poker with his friends. Normally, this wasn’t a big deal, and I would have gladly given it to him if I had it.
But, as luck would have it, my work boss had treated me to some off-time, and we drove out to Churchill Downs to bet on the horses. I lost my entire paycheck that day! So, I simply didn’t have any money to lend and, when I told him why, it set him off.
Staying out of high school for 3 weeks nearly cost me my chance to graduate. I had to take remedial classes and get tested in front of the principal before they would let me graduate.
Obviously, this was the least of my problems. I still had to find a way to go back home without being manhandled again. I was sure my parents were worried sick about me because they had no clue where I was.
I didn’t call until the end of the third week. I felt I had to negotiate my way back into the house. I wanted to go home, but I would not take any more hits. I had taken my first and last share of abuse when I was 10, and now I needed assurance of safety and a more loving environment.
Life Lesson #2 was ready to greet me when I finally arrived home.
Thank you for reading this!
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