My parents were not physically abusive with us children until we began to question, until we had minds of our own and wanted some liberty. They were abusive in other ways, but I don’t recall being beaten until I was eight or nine. My parents could not cope with losing control of their kids and it’s only natural for kids to try to become their own person, with their own ideas. My mother and father didn’t know how to parent. They did not know how to love or nurture.
I remember that I was seven, and I was asleep in bed that night. My mother came and shook me awake and told me to get up. She did no explaining, except, “Come on and go get in the car.” I was barefoot and in my nightgown, but I went to get in the car. It was summer, and it was almost dark, so it was not completely dark when we drove down our road toward Capac Road.
Despite it being summer, I shook in the backseat of our old car. I leaned forward, grasping the edge of the cloth bench seat back between my parents. It was as if I was having a nightmare, not a real waking moment. I didn’t know why we were traveling toward town at night. I was scared, and I felt cold. I made not a sound, except the sound of my breathing.
“There he is,” I heard one of them say. Walking on the side of the road was my brother, S2, who had a bag with some clothes in it. He was running away. He was trying, anyway. My father stopped the car, and both he and my mother got out, and grabbed my brother, forcing him into the back seat with me. I huddled as close to the other side of the car as I could, saying not a word.
S2, who was almost 17, wanted a car, any kind of vehicle, so he could date the girl he was in love with, and so he could get a job. My father, as he was so good at, had flatly refused. My mother had backed him up. S2 was still pleading for them to let him go. They told him to “shut up.” He had been trying to walk the 14 miles or so to his girlfriend’s house, south of Capac, hoping her family would take him in.
We went back home. All the while they were arguing, I was shaking there in the back seat all the way home. My mother ordered me back to bed as soon as we got back in the house. I went, without comment, and crawled back in bed, still shaking.
They told my brother, if he knew what was good for him, he would get in bed, too. He did, but the fight had not ended. My father went into S2’s bedroom, the tiny 7′ by 9′ room off the living room where my brother was in his broken down twin bed. They continued to argue. I heard the sound of metal being twisted apart. I knew the sound. It was the metal pipes from our vacuum cleaner being unscrewed from each other.
My brother screamed. “No, Dad! Don’t do that, Dad! You will be sorry for that tomorrow.” I heard my father laugh. He had a particular laugh that simultaneously conveyed, “You are nothing; I am enjoying this; I don’t give a d**n.” It wasn’t the only time I ever heard that laugh, but I think that night was the first time I remember hearing it. It cut me to the core.
Then I heard the sound of him hitting my brother with that pipe, over and over. S2 was in bed, in a prone position, defenseless. My father kept hitting S2, until he was satisfied he had won the argument. I heard my brother begging him to stop. He did not strike back, or he might have been killed.
Where was my mother? She was not telling my father to stop. She was right there, watching, possibly even helping to restrain my brother as she did me when I was older. I have an idea that she sat on his legs, making him unable to move, just as she restrained me by holding my arms when I was older and was being beaten.
I pulled the blankets up, forced the pillow over my head, and covered my ears with it. I wanted the sound to go away. I wanted it to stop. I silently cried into the sheets, and I eventually cried myself to sleep. This was not his only beating, but it is the one I best recall.
The next morning, no one spoke of this. My father was in bed because his weekend was over, and he had to go back to work at the factory that afternoon. My mother never spoke of it, and so far as I know, neither did my brother. Eventually, he got a vehicle, an old pickup, not worth much money. I believe he paid for it mostly by himself, but my parents may have paid for it, and he paid them back by working.
S2 was a chief tormentor of mine from childhood into adulthood. Have I forgiven him for it? I try. I do have immense sympathy for him, and I do love him, despite his obvious hatred for me, no matter what he has done to me. He had the same lousy childhood that the rest of us had in the house, a house no building code would ever allow to be built today. He was beaten. He had his soul broken. He was emotionally abused until he would never be completely whole. Nothing can ever make up for that. Not ever.