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Excerpt from Chapter 5: More on the 1970s

April 1, 2012

For me, the 70s marked my time as a child. I had three siblings but only one of them had the same father as I did and that was my older brother of two years, named Smitty. He suffered from a severe case of Down syndrome. My sisters were both from different men. Jocelyn was my older half-sister by 11 years. She was from a previous marriage if you ask my mom’s side of the story. My dad said she came from a “high school football game romp” if my mother or Jocelyn were in earshot. Angel was the baby of the bunch, four years younger than I was, and conceived by my father’s friend while my parents were briefly separated. Needless to say, their friendship ended after my parent’s reunification. We kids never, ever spoke that man’s name, of the separation, or even the fact that we weren’t fully blood related to Angel, and neither did my parents. You knew not to bring it up.

I never really knew much about my father. All I knew was that I feared him tremendously. My oldest sister said he was a loser who liked to drink, womanize, cheat on, and hit women. She didn’t need to mention he liked to hit children. I knew that firsthand. My dad lost his top and started yelling and getting physical with the smallest of kids for just being kids. While my mother tried her best to make things cheery for us, my dad was always looking for a way to point out how much of an inconvenience and predictable disappointment we were to him, or the world in general.

My mother was the classic abusive husband enabler. His comfort came first. I know she was just trying to avoid ruffling his feathers so that she could go on pretending everything was fine and dandy, but it certainly didn’t win my respect. I yearned for their care but all they could give me was a participating role in their abusive and dysfunctional relationship at best. From an early age, I avoided my mother and father as much as I possibly could. I didn’t even feel like I had a mom and dad. My friends’ parents seemed to be more invested in me than they were.

There are many instances of my dad’s violent behavior to reflect upon. However, this particular evening sits in my memory bank like it happened yesterday. I’m about five years old and my mom’s treating Smitty and me to a glass of chocolate milk for doing well on our spelling tests at school. Smitty is so proud of himself that he’s rambling on and on about how he can spell anything and then he gives an incorrect spelling (correct in his mind) of whatever word he’s chosen. “I can spell milk. M, I, K, milk! I can spell chocolate. C, O…” I can feel my dad boiling behind his Wall Street Journal or whatever prick publication he’s reading while Smitty celebrates.

As par for the course, instead of helping my mom, all my dad does is sit there and gripe about how one of us is going to spill the milk and my mom should be using cups, not glasses, and we should have to sit outside on the porch and drink our milk (even though it’s dark and cold outside). Again, his every concern is focused around what we’ll do to disappoint him and the inconvenience our disappointing actions will put on him.

My dad’s negativity makes me so nervous that, sure enough, I spill my chocolate milk all over the table. When I try to stop the brown-smeared glass from rolling off the table, it shoots out of my hands like a wet bar of soap and shatters on the floor into a zillion shards. The sound of the glass smashing on the kitchen tile sends my dad into action like a fire alarm has gone off. In one sudden move, my dad springs from his recliner, throws his newspaper out of his way, and zeroes in on me; the kid who spilled the milk and broke the glass.

He grabs one of my arms and yanks it up so high it feels like it’s going to pop right off. He starts spanking me with his free hand but I’m wiggling all around to avoid the blows. This only makes it worse for me as he misses my ass and instead lands blows to my upper legs and back. My mother is screaming and crying and Smitty’s doing the same but yelling, “No hitting! No hitting! You don’t hit friends! You don’t hit friends!” as he learned from his special school. What I can’t see is that Smitty has wrapped his arms around one of my dad’s legs to try to stop my dad’s furious wrath. In his rage of pounding on me, my dad lays a solid blow to my back and it knocks the wind out of me. The next thing I know, I’m on the floor, gasping for air, and I feel like I’m about to die. That’s when I briefly lose consciousness.

Once my dad has knocked me to the floor, he turns around and backhands Smitty. When I come to, Smitty’s lying in a pile of broken glass and a puddle of milk swirled in chocolate syrup and blood. Across Smitty’s face, you can see the bruised and reddened outline of a large hand that burst his upper lip open and smashed his nose hard enough to make it bleed profusely.

Innocent Smitty. I’ll be the first to admit that Smitty had driven me crazy many times but I knew he couldn’t help it. I yelled at him once for breaking a toy I had and he ran off crying. I still feel bad about that. Then, to have my dad not only beat me, but knock Smitty out cold for trying to stop his sadistic version of parenting, well, I simply had no respect for him at all after that. From that night, every single day, I wished that he would die. I hated him more than I have ever hated anyone on earth.

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