(written in the form of letters addressed to a God I'm not sure exists)
Let's talk about Father. I am neither thankful to you for him nor am I resentful toward you for him. He is not a bad father, no, they come much worse than him, but he is neither a great father nor a great man nor a good role model.
You brought me to him before he was truly ready, I believe.
Once again, I ask you: do you remember when I was little? As always, I answer for you: Probably not.
I remember the times when money was tight and we lived in that cement-brick house that needed a new paint job so badly and the way we really should have had bars protecting our windows. The balding yard and scraggly weeds that poked up. (Do you remember how I used to play in the weeds? Play-pretending that they were a magnificent field of wheat and corn that I, the fairy-princess-farmer, had cultivated with my own hand? Or the way I used to scramble over the wire-fence into the neighbor's yard, where the weeds bloomed pretty white flowers, when their dogs were safely locked inside, and make bouquets?).
Back then, Mommy and Daddy were still what could have been considered "newly-weds" (I'm an 'illegitimate', conceived-out-of-wedlock child). I can't remember if the reason they didn't argue back then was because Father worked two jobs and Mother worked nights at the police station and money was too tight for them to think about anything but, "Where will money for groceries come from? What about our bills? The mortgage?" or if they didn't argue back then because they were still early enough into their marriage that they wanted nothing but to make the other happy.
I don't know, but I almost miss those days, when Mommy used to give me crooked haircuts in the cramped bathroom down the hall because we couldn't afford the five dollar place downtown or when Daddy used to swing me up onto his shoulders because life back then was just that simple and pleasurable. I almost kind-of miss those days, because that was back when Daddy didn't yell.
It wasn't until Daddy finally finished college and could speak passable English that he got a job working for the University, something to do with computers and making programs for the doctors and nurses at the county hospital. (My parents met in China, where Mother was Father's English teacher. They married in China, possess only six photos of the wedding, and she went back to America alone after the school year ended. He arrived the following Christmas as her "present"... a charming story, really). It wasn't until Mommy got a job in the insurance companies doing Workers Compensation Claims, that Daddy started yelling.
By then my sister had been born. Mother tells me, sometimes, how she had screamed at the doctors during labor that "I have money, I have insurance, this time! It shouldn't hurt!" Apparently they didn't give her enough pain meds. We had enough money to buy a new house, a nice, pretty, two-story one in a nice upper-middle-class neighborhood where there weren't gunshots or sirens or starving mommy cats and their babies. Funny how I recall being so disappointed when I found out the ice-cream truck didn't go through that neighborhood.
(I haven't seen an ice-cream truck since I was six).
When we moved into that new house... that was about when Daddy started yelling. I remember being very frightened. The feeling of such bitter fear is a bit muddled now by time, but I do remember it. I remember getting up at night, past my bedtime, to go to the bathroom and hearing Mommy and Daddy in their room, yelling. Well, Daddy yelling, Mommy trying to reason, though sometimes she would lose it too. I remember standing at the top of the stairs and listening to them argue.
I remember flinching whenever Daddy would slam his fist on a wall a door a dresser a counter a cabinet.
I remember how it never once occurred to me to be relieved that he never once hit Mommy.
Most of the times he yelled and hit things or broke dishes or slammed doors are a blur to me. I just recall the afraid part, and know that those were the reasons why. There are, however, two instances which stand out to me, not much, but more so than the rest (forgive me, my memory has a way of smearing itself into one big blur, and it's hard to pick things out).
I remember standing in the kitchen, I can't recall why I was there, and I heard voices in the garage. I stood closer to the door, pressed my ear to it. I remember that it was cold, because it was just metal painted over with white, and that my heart felt like it had dropped out of my chest. There was yelling, from both ends, Daddy and Mommy. Then I heard something slam against the hood of the car (we still have that car, God, incase you care to know. Please keep its engine running long enough for me to drive it). The sound was loud, hollow; stinging, like a chunk of shrapnel had just been imbedded in my chest where my dropped heart had left a hole. I remember being so scared I backed away from the door and ran upstairs to my room, crying.
That was the only time I wasn't entirely sure something other than his fist and an inanimate, replaceable object hadn't been given a good thrashing.
It was around this time, also, that I stopped calling him Daddy. Did you notice, God, when I started saying "Dad" instead of "Daddy"? I didn't, but maybe you did.
The second time that stands out is the time when punched a hole in the wall of our nice, pretty, blue two-story house. I don't even recall them yelling, because I think I was downstairs either doing the dishes, doing my homework, or watching TV. Maybe I was outside playing, but I don't think that was the case. Either way, when I went upstairs and passed by their room, Dad was sitting on their bed, his knuckles bleeding.
"What happened?" I asked, stepping in.
"Oh, nothing, honey," Mom answered with a smile, coming back from their bathroom and giving Dad a damp rag to clean up with, "Your daddy just got angry, is all."
"Oh, okay," I said, turning to leave.
It was then that I saw the hole in the wall, about a foot away from the door frame. Gaping, jagged, empty. I don't remember seeing the insulation, but there must have been insulation visible as well. There was a large crack near the floor, where he must have kicked it, too. It was very very frightening to see the brute strength of my father. Maybe your dad can punch through a wall, too, but I was somewhere around eight at that time. Back then powerful, to me, meant being able to sling my skinny little eight-year-old self onto his shoulders. Terrifying was being able to create maddening holes in the walls I called my home.
I almost fondly look back at these times and call them the "Anger-Management" years.
Did you know that my parents went to a marriage counselor? Did you know Father took Anger Management counseling sessions? I didn't. I remember sitting in an office, filling out some questions that I thought were all very strange, about beating and touching, but I never made the connection between the office, the questions, and my parents' marriage when I was a kid.
These are the years when I began lying very very fluently, to avoid this thing my parents called "punishment".
Surely you remember what "punishment" meant, don't you, God? With Mother, it was usually as simple as "No TV for a month" or "You're grounded for a week, meaning you can't leave your room except for school and meals".
With Father, it was a whole different experience, though, wasn't it?
Nearly every kid gets spanked when they grow up. But isn't spanking supposed to be done with the hand? I laugh at how many creative things my father came up with.
Most kids have to either stand still, or lay across their parent's lap.
I had to stand bent over the bed (I was short enough that it worked. Heavens, I'm probably still short enough that it could work, though he's done away with that type of punishment now).
I remember Mother's huge brush with the widely spaced bristles. I remember Father's belts, with the shiny metal clasps. I remember a tennis racquet, once, maybe twice, and even a high-heeled shoe.
The worst was the brush, I think. It was so old and used that the little rubber caps on the bristles were mostly gone, leaving the sharp, untrimmed plastic teeth uncovered. It was a bit like getting hit with a lot of needles. The belt was pretty bad too, because he always held it a bit like a whip and used the metal end. The tennis racquet was probably the one I wished he would use more often, because it was big and wide and he couldn't get as much momentum going with that one. We won't go into the shoe.
I don't hate you for his form of "punishment", God, because I understand that he comes from China, where beating your own kid with a bamboo rod is perfectly normal, and he comes from the time just before that practice was beginning to be frowned upon, and from a family that was too poor to be affected by the changes in the upper classes who were exposed to the slow Westernization of China (he tells me he remembers being so hungry that he ate grass, and of another time he was so hungry he ate grasshoppers, and of yet another time when there was no grass for him or the grasshoppers, so there really was nothing). I don't begrudge you, because I understand, and because I was never so severely hurt that I couldn't walk afterwards, but damn it all, if I wasn't terrified of it.
Especially after the time I saw he was capable of punching clear through a wall. Then, I was terrified that he would do the same to me as he had done to the wall.
(It was a full month before my parents got around to plastering the spot back together again).
We lived in that house for quite a while. Father discovered he like karaoke, he discovered a community of Asian people and finally made friends. Mother lost her job once, went back to college to become a nurse or something of the sort, like my Aunt, but eventually was offered a position, the same one as before, at her old company, and she went back.
During those eight months when Mother had no job, however, the money became a bit tight. Not because Father's job didn't pay well, but because our living style cost more then. Our house was bigger, our yard needed watering and fertilizing and care. We kept the thermostat lower, we had two TVs. We had two children running around, leaving lights and fans on all the time. There were four mouths, not three, and the youngest ones didn't understand the concept of "not wasting food".
During those eight months, the money was tight again, and maybe Mother and Father remembered when their marriage was younger and they didn't argue. Maybe they were just too busy doing different things- Father making the money, Mother learning new things- for them to argue any more.
I remember how Mother and Father worried that I would be upset that Mother had lost her job.
I was actually quite happy, because things in the house were much much quieter then, than they had been in years.
When Mother came back into her job, things stayed relatively quiet. I think you know that they didn't stop arguing, but Father learned to control his temper (the only other time he's punched a hole in a wall was the time he pulled too far into the garage and hit my bike which the handle bars of went through the wall) and Mother finally learned how to compromise some of her American beliefs to accommodate his Chinese ones.
It also helped that I had finally mastered the art of lying by then, so I didn't get caught and punished nearly as often.
I don't think my sister has ever once been spanked with anything but a hand, and I don't think she was ever spanked after she turned five (she doesn't remember being spanked for being bad). She grew up in a time where my family had enough money to afford a TV, so she grew up close to her little tele-set, and that was how they punished her. No TV for doing this, no TV for doing that, etc.
Anyways, my father is neither someone I thank you for nor someone I resent you for. He's merely in my life, an influence on my person and my decisions. At least you, God, did not make him an unchangeable person. He's almost agreeable to hang out with, now, and I haven't heard him yell in at least four months (that might have something to do with the fact that both Mother and Christine have been away for two weeks now, though).
I will tell you about the things he has done that I hate you for, later, however. For now, I am finished discussing my father.
Mm, yup, I used to hide under my desk to avoid spankings. Which I guess was a really bad place to hide, since it was easy to see me there... oh well. I wasn't the most brilliant of children.
Anyways, like I said at the end, he's gotten a lot better now. Much more mellow. Actually, he lets me get away with more than Mother does, usually. It's been very interesting to see them changing roles.
Um, let's see, I don't think there's anything else I need to say... oh wait, yes, there is.
Don't call any Abuse Centers or whatever they're called. I wasn't abused. Or, at least, I don't consider it abuse. I mean, it was just getting spanked. Lots of kids get spanked, even if I was getting spanked with some painful crap. Just... don't get me or my father in trouble for telling you about this.
You know... none of my friends know I ever came from a poor family (they all think I'm filthy rich, but I'm not... my family is just very stingy about how much we spend- this summer was the first time in two and a half years that I've gone clothes shopping, aside from one shirt I got at Wal Mart a bit over a year ago.). I guess I used to be embarrassed about it. Still am, a bit, even though it really shouldn't be something to be embarrassed about. I should be proud that my family made it out of poverty...
Eh, I'm strange.
Nothing to say about my stories except that the inspirations keep coming, but the motivation to actually get the writing done is lacking. I apologize if nothing worth your time to read gets posted for a while. (Because no, I don't consider these letters worth your time to read, heh).
That's all I gotto say, I guess. Over and out.