Changes In Behavior:
Living With The Folks Overseas
When I was little, we gotten beaten a lot. I won’t go into everything – the moral crushing words, the ego scathing attacks. Beatings usually consisted of us going into our bedroom – or just one of us – waiting for a half hour or so, which is why I have the phrase “Waiting is painful, too.” I credit those waits for allowing me to prepare myself for what was to come – waiting on those footsteps to approach, the closed door opening, my father coming in. Tapping his belt on the palm of his hand. Gently explaining what we had done wrong. And then the punishment.
My brother says he could hear me scream and scream from his bedroom room with both doors shut and two walls. I don’t know for certain. You reach a certain phase when you are getting beaten where you just sort of blank out. I would sit there waiting . . . waiting . . . fading away inside of myself, hardening; preparing for what was to come. I hated crying; I couldn’t stand it, especially among myself. Or Selves, if that’s the way you want to put it.
Then the old man would have us stand and bend over, grabbing our ankles. Of course our pants would be pulled down – or our shorts – though later I learned (rather quickly I imagine!) to take them off. They just would trip you when you started dancing, and that would be seen as an attempt to escape – falling on the floor – which would be punished even more harshly.
I learned early on to face the bed, too. That first shot would often launch you – and the best launch was onto something with a soft surface. It was best to have all your toys picked up, or at least nudged out of the way so you wouldn’t end up dancing on them, too.
My dad had a favorite question to ask (I think). “Have you learned your lesson yet?” And no matter what the answer was, it was wrong. A yes or no would earn you more of a beating. I think he just asked it to see if you lied or not. Or not, most likely. Maybe. I don’t know.
I do know that I was stupid sometimes. I would not cry. And my dad liked crying children – he loved to hear you scream; see ‘the dance’. Sometimes he would take you by the hand and whirl you around – you are running in circles, the belt or something else pursuing you – going ’round and ’round his towering legs with tears streaming down your face as you ran. Those kinds of things hurt; sometimes the blows kinda went wild. It was unusual to get hit about the hips and shoulders; or on the arms.
We always ate on a regular schedule – the Army one. Breakfast (if not served before leaving for school and whatnot) was served at eight. Lunch at twelve. Supper (or dinner, if you prefer) at five-thirty pm. Meals were usually fairly simple, and at school I ate with the lunch crowd – getting my tray and food from the school. Later on I would start brown-bagging it, but this was early on. And days were fairly quite easy.
The morning would begin in the ‘hood – I get up, get dressed (usually just a pair of shorts and underwear) and go out into the kitchen. There my mom would often be cooking breakfast (eggs, toast, bacon, milk – orange juice or some other kind of juice if she would afford them – the frozen kind; made from concentrate). Then if not to school, then outside. We’d spend the entire day outside from morning to noon – and then we’d hear that big old triangle ring, and we’d come home for some bologna sandwiches, peanut butter & jellies – something like that – and milk to drink. I remember we used to get milk in those long cartons the PX sold – dark green with white lettering, and a heavy wax coating on them. They were very valuable to me, those cartons! With them I could make boats and toys to play with, either in the tub or out of it. Those heavy waxed cartons would last a long while – several floatings in the tub – until after about a week later the edges would get soft and fuzzy and we’d have to throw them away. Many a G.I. Joe took a ride in those boats – all naked (just like me) in the tub, swimming his way to freedom when the boat sunk.
But things changed when we got overseas. It was like the physical abuse suddenly just stopped. I seem to recall my mom telling us: “You’re too old for anymore whippings. From now on we’re gonna be punishing you different. With restriction and such. Taking away your privileges.” I wish it had been like that. The truth is – they still continued to beat us from time to time – with as much frenzy and hatred as before – and they would impose these new rules on us. But overall the beatings diminished. LOL, I guess the moral of the crew improved or something. But the fact is: we were getting beaten with a lot less frequency than before, when we were young children.
However, the restrictions started to get a lot longer and more frequent. That’s not to say we made bad grades – we didn’t. We generally managed to keep it between a C and an A. However, those few times we made an F or a D were bad. (I made my first F in 5th grade, failing math because I had gotten caught up and lost in the system. Somewhere between North Carolina and the ‘hood decimals got lost. Or rather, the ability to change them from one thing to another (say fractions or percents) got skipped over. I can only assume that in North Carolina the military school was behind while in Georgia the civilian school (I am talking about Windsor Springs Elementary here) was ahead. As a result there was a gap in my education that the teach failed to detect – or correct – or she just didn’t have enough time to do it. Promising students weren’t granted any special considerations and favors back then; not like today with their “Magnet Schools” and schools for accelerated children. So I was just left to thrash along on my own – without any success at the thing. My father’s explanations were confusing, and my moms? She always sent me to my dad.
A ‘D’ or an ‘F’ would mean restriction to your room. How long depended on ‘you’. However, while we were overseas there was so much to do – my parents were constantly touring and we were moving around – that restrictions were usually of a shorter duration – may a few weeks or more, but sometimes just a couple of days (depending upon our behavior during the restriction time). Asking to be ‘let off’ or ‘get out’ would buy you a week or more, so you had to be careful about asking. You had to catch them in a good mood. And even then you’d better come bearing some proof you were doing better – a string of A’s, I presume. I rarely got off restriction early, however. Often we would come back from some ‘vacation’ touring over there only to find I was still on restriction, still confined to my room.
The belt fell out of favor except for with my dad – my mom preferred a wooden spoon. She had a wide bladed one with a thick handle that she used to beat us with – and you stood, just stood there taking it. Fighting back, it was understood, was forbidden. My brother tried ONE time. After that he never tried again. Reaching behind him he grabbed the belt from her hand – and when she got the gun he realized: that was the wrong thing to do. So she beat him with the belt in one hand, gun in the other until he was singing his tune and dancing, too. I think he was about fifteen, sixteen years old at the time. He never challenged her again.
As for me? Always the stoic person, I might have complained from time to time – did my crying when I’d get beaten – but I just sort of lumped it up; ‘forgot’ about it – rubbed my ass and went on. I had learned crying did no good. Indeed, depending on who was beating you, it could actually be bad. My dad would give up beating on you once he’d gotten his thrill. My mom, on the other hand, would be encouraged by your crying and whining to beat you some more – for crying and whining! – and then you would be sent to your room to finish it off. My dad? It always started in the room to begin with, so we left it there. (The pain & anguish I assume. “We” left ‘something’ – or someone – there to ‘take it’, deal with it, be done with it, et all.)
I assume that’s where my ‘high pain tolerance’ came from – all those beatings and all that waiting. Because that waiting gets you ready for the pain. You learn to control it – how to ‘turn it one’ (that pain tolerance), and ‘turn it off’. There’s a difference in sensation when I – and ‘we’ – do that. It’s like someone else is sucking up the pain for us. Little Mikie, I assume – since he was one of the ones built to do that. As a result ‘he’ has a lot of pain built up on the inside. On the other hand – ‘he’ is one of the sweetest human child(ren) I’ve ever met. There’s a little bit of artificiality to him there, too – which is what led me to suspect ‘he’ was a creation of Little Michael, the ‘real’ boy inside – the one who made all the decisions about who was to ‘come out’ at what time; who was to ‘do’ what, when and how – a whole lot of other things.
Anyway . . . just another story about how things ‘changed’ when we went overseas. How the discipline changed. I don’t know if that’s because we had new neighbors all around, or they were afraid of thin doors (what the neighbors may hear). I don’t know for certain it was our age at all. I certainly suspect it had more to do with other people being around – living so close to them, jowl to jowl, cheek to cheek so to speak – that they didn’t want anybody staring at them when they went to the commissary or PX, or simply stepped out the door. Noise levels were to be kept down in the apartments – in the houses it didn’t matter. So I reckon I’ll never know. Perhaps it was a combination – the parents realizing their children had gotten a little old for their ‘beatings’ – coupled with the instinctive knowledge they may be heard.
After all, you don’t want your neighbors to know you’ve been beating your kid. None of them.
Secrets have been told.
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