(Continuation of Heartbroken and Delirious)
During family functions like this, where there were a lot of people around, I usually stuck to my dad’s side. He was the guy who sat in the corner talking to the one person he really enjoyed having a conversation with. The one I could always go over and sit by and hang out with when I got overwhelmed by all the talking. A comforting place for when I just wanted some quiet, alone time for a bit. My mom was the social one, always talking to everyone before she left, at least to say “Hi,” and help out when she could. On this day, my dad was no where to be found; other than in our conversations. In a matter of hours, he and our relationship was now a memory.
My father was a strong man, both emotionally and physically. He was a brawny, Belgian man who was built with square shoulders and a broad face. One of my favorite games to play with him was, “Punch me in the stomach as hard as you can.” Even when his stomach got a little rotund as he aged, he could still flex it so it withstood any of my punches like a brick wall. No matter how hard I or a friend of mine socked it, it never deflated; even the slightest. My dad was our strength, our cement, our rock. I realize this game symbolized the powerful force he was for me.
There were certain stories of my father’s childhood that I made him tell me over and over again. I now realize I should have had a paper and pen in hand, because I still question how accurately I remember all the details. Luckily, my mother has helped me fill in some of the blanks. My father was born on October 16, 1944, and he was the eldest of six children. He was a survivor, like many, of alcoholic parents and endured physical and verbal abuse growing up. My father remembered times when their hallway would be smeared in blood from the whipping and punches he and his brother got from their father. My grandfather administered the punishments; while my grandmother, many times, instigated it.
It was a regular occurrence for my grandmother to ask my father and his younger brother, David, to tell her “What they did,” promising she would not tell their father. It was a ploy to get them to divulge confessions that she could then use against them; knowing it would absolutely result in my grandfather beating them. Eventually, he caught on to her tactics and would not confide in her any longer. Until then, he endured the abuse and was terrified for what he had to watch his younger brother go through; the guilt and shame of being the eldest.
One thing I will never forget is my dad telling me his father had a tactic of putting him or his brother against a wall and punching their head against it, over and over, until their skull stopped hitting his fist. From time to time, when I was little, my dad would grab his leather belt, fold it in half, and for fun; snap it together, joking that he might have to use it on me if I misbehaved. Unfortunately, for him, this was something his father did growing up to alert that a razor strap whipping was in store for him or one of his siblings. He had a variety of torture tactics, and my dad recounted them all, never forgetting these gruesome memories. Luckily, my father could be open and honest about all of these abuses he endured as a child and developed a sense of humor about it. The most important thing was that he grew to despise what he had endured growing up and swore to never physically harm any of his children, as his father and mother had, and he never did. He broke the cycle of abuse!